How to practice mindfulness in your everyday life
Have you ever had that moment when you’re driving and realise you’ve been on autopilot for the last 15 minutes – and you wonder how you made it in one piece? Or when your partner is telling you about their day and you completely zone out halfway through the story? It happens to the best of us. In a society where we’re constantly juggling a million different things (and surgically attached to our phones), it’s no wonder we’re all so distracted. While it’s human nature for our thoughts to wander, this usually means that we’re either stuck in the past or future. The problem with this is that it often results in us missing out on all the good things happening in the present! Luckily, there is a way to train your brain to stay in the ‘right now’ – it’s called mindfulness.
What is mindfulness?
Chances are, when you hear ‘mindfulness’, an image of a very zen-looking person meditating comes to mind. While meditation is one way to practice mindfulness, it’s actually much broader than that. Essentially, mindfulness is the art of living consciously. As mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn puts it, it’s "Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” So, rather than obsessing over some awkward thing you said to a co-worker or stressing about dinner, it’s about taking each moment as it comes. Mindfulness has been a part of Eastern philosophies like Buddhism and Taoism for centuries. However, it’s recently been embraced by Western psychology as a way to reduce stress and anxiety and improve overall happiness and wellbeing. The good thing is, mindfulness isn’t something you either have or you don’t. Just like learning an instrument or language, it’s something you can train yourself to do. Here are easy some ways you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life so that eventually, it becomes second nature.
1. Practice it during mundane activities
Next time you’re brushing your teeth, washing your hair or doing your makeup, focus intently on the task at hand. Think about the sensation you can feel, what you can see and what you can hear. It may sound boring (and a little bit silly), but it’s a great way to practice maintaining your focus and staying in the present.
2. Savour your meals
You’ve probably heard before that munching mindlessly in front of the TV or desk isn’t great for your waistline. Well, it turns out it’s actually not great for your mind, either! We’re extremely lucky to have access to amazing food in this beautiful country, so we should savour it. Next time you’re eating, turn off all distractions, sit down at the table and actually focus on your food (the taste, the texture, the scent). Not only will you probably enjoy it a lot more, it’s a fantastic way to practice mindfulness.
3. Do a ‘body scan’
If you can fit daily meditation sessions into your schedule, great! But even when you can’t, you can still practice mindfulness by doing regular ‘body scans’ throughout the day. For a few moments, stop doing whatever you’re doing and ‘check in’ with the physical sensations in your body. Start with the face and notice any tension in the eyes, forehead and jaw. Then, continue down to the shoulders and neck, back, hands, lower body and right down to the toes. This simple exercise doesn’t take long, but it goes a long way in improving your overall mindfulness.