“Mindfulness” is a term you may have heard in relation to the practices of meditation and yoga. In fact, mindfulness is a form of meditation, but it’s probably the simplest and easiest kind to do – so much so that you can incorporate it into just about every part of your day. That’s because mindfulness is simply bringing your full attention to whatever is happening in the present moment.
Consider how often you’re doing a task or activity, and paying no attention to it whatsoever because your mind is focused on a dozen other tasks you have to do, or that conversation you had with a friend yesterday, or that argument you had with your spouse – or all of the above, all at once.
It’s exhausting when you stop to consider just how much work your brain is doing and how many things it’s trying to focus on in any given moment. Mindfulness gives your brain a much-needed break from whirling thoughts and pressing worries by forcing it to simply notice what’s happening in the present moment – even just for a minute or two.
When you consciously focus your attention on just one thing, all the other noise fades to the background for a little while. Research has shown that there are physical benefits to practicing mindfulness regularly, including an improved immune system, lower blood pressure, and better sleep. But it can also help reduce stress and anxiety, and improve concentration and focus.1
Simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into everyday life
The best part about mindfulness is that it’s so easy to fit into your life – even if it’s hectic and jam-packed with obligations and commitments. You can, if you choose, seek out mindfulness mediation classes, but you can also do a little research on your own and develop a practice that works with your schedule and your lifestyle. Consider the following ideas when creating your mindfulness practice:
- Walking meditation. This is about as simple as it gets! All you do is concentrate on each step you’re taking as you walk. It could be a leisurely afternoon stroll or a brisk walk through the hallway from one meeting into another – it doesn’t matter, as long as you’re focusing your attention on the act of walking. Just notice each step: the sound your footfall makes, the pressure on each part of your foot as it rolls through a step, and the feel of the surface you’re walking on. If your mind wanders – and it will, that’s okay – just gently bring it back to the present moment and the walking sensations. For more information on walking meditation visit Greater Good in Action.
- Body scan. Exactly as the name implies, this simple mindfulness exercise involves focusing on each part of your body from top to bottom. You’re not meant to judge what you feel – maybe your heart is racing because you’re anxious, your back hurts from sitting in one position too long, or you have a pounding headache – you’re just meant to notice those sensations. You’re not trying to change how you feel, you’re simply allowing yourself to notice the sensations you’re feeling in your body. For more information on how to do a body scan, including ones that take as little as three minutes to complete, visit Mindful.
- Mindful breathing is, as the name implies, simply focusing your attention on your breath as you breathe in and breathe out. If you want to take it one step further, there are breathing exercises that can help with immediate stress relief. Check out this three-minute guided breathing meditation.
If you’re sensing that the theme seems to be “noticing,” you’re right! That’s really all there is to mindfulness – simply bringing your focus and attention to the present moment for a few minutes every day to calm and center your mind.
Once you know that’s really all there is to it, you can incorporate mindfulness into your day in all sorts of ways. Maybe while you’re chopping vegetables for dinner, knitting or crocheting in the evening, drying your hair in the morning, or drinking a cup of coffee midway through the day. Force yourself to notice the sensations you experience when you’re doing those everyday activities.
It’s easy to use mundane tasks as an opportunity to think about a thousand other things, but at least once a day try not to do that. Instead, turn those everyday tasks into an opportunity to quiet your mind and give it a much-needed break from the whirlwind around you.
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