Like many of the things that we know are “good for us” finding time to practise mindfulness can sometimes feel like a chore. It tends to get thrown on the same pile as exercising, doing your washing, eating greens and drinking enough water.
But what if there was a way to bring mindfulness into your daily routine without the hassle of adding in anything extra?
For many years I tried forcing myself to sit through formal mindfulness practice. I would set an alarm, drag myself out of bed and begin a guided mindfulness exercise. Usually I’d last a few days and then “fall off the wagon” again. After going back and forth like this mindfulness started to feel more like a drain than a healthy new habit that was enhancing my life! So I decided to start experimenting with another way to practice mindfulness, informal and spontaneous practice, what I like to call “mini mindful moments”. And I have never looked back.
Now I do simple mindfulness exercises often enough that it’s become a habit and an effective way of taking care of myself. And the best part is, most of the time I now actually enjoy doing it and can feel the benefits, sometimes almost instantly.
Here are some of the ways that I weave mindfulness into my own life. See what makes sense for you and give it a try, maybe even today.
I like to think of savouring like a cross between mindfulness and gratitude. Savouring is simply honing in on the positive moments that arise during your day. It’s shining a light on them, soaking them up and swishing them around. It’s just like the over-analysis some of us do with our negative thoughts, but instead flipped around so that your attention is zeroed in on the positive moments.
You don’t need to focus in on anything too special. Just everyday things that bring a little spark to your life or a smile to your face.
Some of the things that I’ve savoured recently are:
- The smell of basil as I was tearing it for a salad
- The warm feeling that washed over me as I sank into my hot bath
- Soaking up the good vibes from my friend’s puppy as I patted him
- That sense of adventure I feel when I’m on a plane that’s taking off
- Cuddles with my niece and nephew
- Finding a new café that I love
Savouring is one of my favourite self-care activities because I can do it anywhere, anytime. Importantly, it also reminds me to tune into what feels good around me, rather than focusing in on what isn’t working or what I wish was different.
Take three deep breaths
This is one of my favourite ways to slow things down, pause and come back to the present moment. Think of your breath as an anchor for connecting you to the here and now.
When I do this I simply focus on sending my breath deep down into the bottom of my stomach. I pause at the top of my in breath and then slowly exhale, making sure I let go of every last bit of air. If the situation allows I like to let out a loud sigh as I breath out (try it, it feels amazing!). I do this three times.
I love this exercise because my breath is always available to me and it’s the simplest form of mindfulness that exists.
Practice mindfulness with tasks you don’t enjoy
This one might sound a little odd at first. Think of a straight forward task that you don’t enjoy doing. The dishes, washing your clothes, packing lunches, taking the bins out. Generally these are things that need to be done even if we don’t really want to do them, so we eventually have to find a way to get them ticked off.
If you’re anything like me, when you do jobs like these you want to get them done as quickly as possible and there can sometimes be a lot of internal (or out loud!) whinging that happens while you do. Mindfulness provides a nifty alternative to focusing on how much you don’t want to do what you’re doing. In essence, you’re using the present moment to distract yourself from something that sucks!
Here are a few pointers for tackling these tasks mindfully:
- Your mind will naturally wander to thoughts, worries and images from the past and the future. It might also wander to complaints about what it is that you have to do or worries about not having enough time to get it done. Practise bringing yourself back into the here-and-now by using your five senses. So as you do the task focus in on what you can see, feel, hear, smell and even taste. By focusing in on your five senses instead of the wandering thoughts in your mind, you’re training your brain to stay in the present moment
- If your mind wanders off to feeling frustrated or bored by the task you’re doing, you can also practice bringing yourself back into the present moment using your breath. Notice each individual “in” breath and each individual “out” breath. To get the hang of this it can help to say to yourself in your head “breathing in” and “breathing out”
Practice mindfulness of tasks that you do each day
Same principles as above, but the beauty of this one is once you’ve done it enough you’ll likely start to notice yourself automatically being mindful as soon as you start doing the task. So the task effectively becomes a prompt or a gentle reminder to transition into mindful mode. Tasks to try this with are each time you brush your teeth, kiss your kids goodnight, have a shower, go to the toilet, boil the kettle or walk your dog.
Try mindful chatting
Mindfulness is about being in the present moment in a non-judgemental, curious and open way. What lovely qualities to bring to chatting with someone! Being fully present as they speak and really listening in without criticism, without changing topics or perhaps even with speaking about yourself. Just sitting with someone and sharing a moment of connection together can be such a gift, for both people.
Mindfulness on the go
This one sounds like some kind of gimmicky product – Mindfulness on the Go! Really though it’s just another chance for me to build mindfulness into my normal routine.
I’ve experimented with all kinds of mindfulness on the go – walking to and from the tram stop or my carpark, waiting in line, while on hold to a telephone company (everyone’s favourite way to spend time!), while sitting at the traffic lights, waiting to meet someone or when I’m exercising. All of these moments are moments when I might normally reach for my phone or something else to distract myself. Of course, I still do this sometimes, but I’ve broken the habit of reaching for my phone each and every time. Instead I see these little pockets of time as a chance to strengthen my mindfulness muscle and give myself a moment of peace and nothingness. I’m all for creating more moments of nothingness in my life, even if they are just fleeting!
Experiment with finding ways to make mindfulness work for you
Mindfulness can sometimes sound like a complicated and involved process, but the more I weave mindfulness into my life, the more I realise it’s actually quite simple. Instead of approaching mindfulness as another task I need to pack into my day, I’ve found a way to bring mindful qualities into my already existing routine. Mini mindful moments allow me to slow down, step back and connect with myself and the world around me, each of which are important pillars for my mental health and wellbeing.
Think of the suggestions in this blog like a mindfulness menu. Just like ordering from a food menu, what you feel like each day might change. Sometimes you might want a few serves of mindfulness and other days you might just be up for a light snack. Experiment with what works for you and remember that mindfulness doesn’t need to be complicated or time consuming to be effective.
To learn more about mindfulness, you might also like to read one of our other posts which unpacks mindfulness myths and misunderstandings.
If you’re interested in exploring mindfulness therapy and working with a professional to develop your own mindfulness routine, get in touch with our friendly Support Team who will be happy to book you in with one of our experienced and warm psychologists.
This stunning image is by David Zawila from Unsplash.