6 Easy Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness

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Stop and think –

How much do you actually concentrate on WHAT you’re doing, WHEN you’re doing it……aka…..

MINDFULNESS!

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

Washing dishes

~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

Exercise

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 incorporate mindfulness into your daily life!

Click Here for a Mindfulness Meditation Script

14 comments

  1. Hi Andrea!

    I like the way you mix the everyday task with a mindfulness awareness.
    I practice Ashtanga yoga and let me tell you that my first weeks was difficult to be mindfulness. It was painful, had to concentrate on proper motion and correct posture.

    I do practice slackline and you need to be calm and concentrate on the moment to be able to walk on the line because if Im thinking about something else, it’s very hard to stay focus and just cross the line, right!

    Thanks for your article
    Mathieu

    1. Hi Mathieu! Thanks! It really does help to practice mindfulness at many different times during the day in addition to your regular “meditation” practice – which Ashtanga is a really strenuous example of! Although I had to look up what slacklining is, now I know what you mean about having to be completely focused on what you’re doing! Namaste!

  2. Reading things like this actually gets me excited to partake in mundane activities so I can put my mindfulness to the test! It is so hard to stay present sometimes, but I appreciate this tips. Thanks!

  3. Andrea,

    One day I will try yoga! I know it will only benefit me physically and spiritually. When I went through a rough period of my life breaking away from addictions in my mid-twenties, I was introduced to meditation. Now, I did not practice it for more than nine months but the practice incorporated with a change of thinking resulted in my acceptance of spirituality (i.e., nothing to do with religion). My spirituality has carried me through so many life changes since then some twenty plus years. As I look back and have lived through even more tragic life experiences than addiction, I know it is my spirituality that has helped me through some extraordinary tragic circumstances. What I find interesting about your steps to mindfulness is how I try to do the same. We all need to take time to ourselves and be mindful of the present and absorb the vibes, smells and feel of life around us in the moment. The more you do it … the better you will feel and you will become more cognizant of the effects … and, want to do it more throughout your day. Now, I do work out regularly and I have always found (to answer your question) that I work out the emotional stress in about the first quarter of my workout and then move into a mental zone of clarity. Thanks for spreading the word!

    1. Hi Jim! I’m glad to hear that you were able to break away from your addictions and carry the spirituality that you learned with you. It does really help in those life situations that present themselves. I love that you already practice mindfulness – in your life and workouts – and have found benefits from it!

  4. Hi Andrea!

    I loved reading this article – my goal is to try one of your 6 mindfulness tips each day for the next 6 days, thanks for the ideas! And the children’s book about the monkey and the panda you mentioned sounds so cute… it might just be wrapped up under the tree for my 2 year old on Christmas morning 🙂 Thanks for supplying the link to it… now I don’t have to search for it and hope I find the right version!!

  5. Hi Andrea, Nice well written article. I need to remind myself to stop and smell the roses now and gain. Thanks for the reminder and the tips!

  6. Awesome post! I have read books on meditation and practiced quite a bit. They speak of being mindful and present at the moment. This is really difficult sometimes and finding time for yourself is tough with everyday life. Some great tips!

    1. Hi Patrick, Thank you for your comment! Yes, it is sometimes difficult to remember to be present, especially in stressful situations. But practicing when you are not stressed can definitely help you when the tough situations come up.

  7. Thanks Andrea for sharing your great article on practicing mindfulness and I hope you are able to reach a lot of people, because I can attest it is a great way to re-center yourself by bringing a calmness without any thoughts of what already happened, or what will happen in the future. My favorite is to take a walk in the woods, find a shade tree, kick my shoes off and let my bare feet feel the earth and leaves under my feet grounding me, then I sit leaning up against the tree trunk, and watch all the movements, sounds, and smells in nature…..and there are literally thousands of those, all going on at the same time, filling all your senses!

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