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Stop and think –
How much do you actually concentrate on WHAT you’re doing, WHEN you’re doing it……aka…..
There’s a cute children’s book called Mindful Monkey, Happy Panda by Lauren Alderfer. In this book, the monkey asks the panda what he does to be peaceful and happy all the time. His answer is: “I walk, I work, I read, I eat, I play, and I rest.”
The monkey notices that he does all those things also, but isn’t as happy as the panda. The wise panda asks WHAT the monkey thinks about WHEN he’s doing those things.
Of course, he thinks about playing when he’s eating, resting when he’s playing, chores when he’s walking, etc. The monkey asks, “Isn’t that what everyone’s mind does?”
(I admit, I totally agreed with the monkey on this one before starting yoga….)
The panda tells the monkey how he thinks about what he’s doing while doing it. When he’s working, he’s just working. When he’s eating, he’s just eating.
If I were an animal, who didn’t have a family, laundry, bills or a computer, then mindfulness would probably be really easy to practice. Going to a yoga class also makes it simple to practice when you literally have someone reminding you to breathe!
But in reality, most days I don’t exactly remember eating breakfast as I’m trying to hurry my 2 kids out of the house to catch the bus. And if they’re home from school for the day, sometimes I just plain old forget to eat!
I’m trying to incorporate more mindfulness into my day, though, because of all the great benefits it has. Mindfulness moves you into the “relaxation response” since you’re not worried about yesterday or tomorrow – just what you are doing at that time, whether it’s sitting and meditating, or a moving meditation.
PositivePsychologyProgram.com has a great and really comprehensive post entitled 23 amazing health benefits of mindfulness for [your] body and brain.
It talks about how going into the “relaxation response” from practicing mindfulness decreases stress, increases brain function – especially in the areas of emotional regulation and self-awareness, increases immune function, and lowers anxiety.
Most gurus suggest sitting quietly in a meditation and focusing on your breath. Maybe you’ve heard the quote, “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes a day. Unless you’re too busy, then you should sit for an hour.”
Luckily, that’s not the only way to be mindful! I like to use the method where you focus on each of the 5 senses pertaining to what you’re doing. Here is a list of 6 EASY ways that I have found to be mindful during my day. I hope they can work for you, or give you some ideas of how you can be mindful in different activities.
Brushing your teeth
~See the color of the toothpaste on your brush
~Smell the scent and then notice if it tastes like it smells (sometimes they don’t!)
~Listen for the sound of the bristles (bonus points if you can hear them over a child trying to talk to you through the bathroom door!)
~Feel the difference of the brush on your gums vs. your teeth
~When you’re done, run your tongue along your teeth and hopefully they feel smooth and clean
Eating a snack or meal
~Look at the packaging – either the natural wrapper of a fruit or veggie or the plastic wrapper of a packaged food – and notice the colors
~Notice the weight, the size, the texture, the shape
~Smell the food
~Take a small bite and hold it in your mouth as you taste for sweet or salty or grainy or meaty
~What sounds do you hear as you chew – is it crunchy or soft
~Ask yourself how your stomach feels after you finish eating it – still hungry or full
At a red light in a car
~Feel the steering wheel in your hands
~Maybe feel the vibration of the car as it idles
~Look at the color of the sky or clouds, the trees, the colors of the other cars around you
~Switch off the radio and listen for the sound of your car
~Maybe you smell something or taste something….
Take a 1 minute time out for yourself
~Close your eyes and notice if you see darkness or a color
~Observe your breath moving in through your nose – and then going out of your nose
~Compare the temperature on your inbreath vs. your outbreath
~Feel the movement in your chest as you breath in and out
~Notice the temperature of the room on your skin
~Notice the texture of the soap as you pour it into your sink
~Watch as it starts to bubble – marvel at the iridescence of the bubbles
~Smell the scent of the soap as it bubbles
~Feel the temperature of the water on your skin or coming through your gloves
~Instead of looking at all the dishes and being overwhelmed, just focus on one at a time
Any exercise can also be a way to incorporate mindfulness. When I swam competitively when I was younger, I used the time to worry about things. Now, I swim regularly in addition to practicing yoga and I noticed that my workouts seemed much more effective and I felt better after focusing on my stroke vs. all the emotional thoughts running through my mind. Let me know if you have found the same to be true when you workout!
Again, these are ways that I have found to be helpful in my life to incorporating mindfulness throughout my whole day. Although I do set aside time for a meditation every day, I feel like this is so helpful in keeping me centered and in the present moment during the whole day instead of just one time.
I invite you to share a comment and let me know some of the ways that you practice mindfulness in your daily life!