Even if you know that the mindful moments are where the real magic happens, it can be a struggle to carve out the time to create them in everyday life. The good news is there’s more than one way to become more mindful, says Annika Rose.
Fitting a regular mindfulness meditation practice in among the hustle and bustle of everyday life can be a challenge. But the desire to bring more mindfulness into your life doesn’t mean you have to sit still and count your breath for hours.
It’s about finding a way that suits you and your lifestyle, whether that’s 10 seconds, 10 minutes or a few hours a day. The choice is yours and it all adds up.
Even if you do dedicate time to a mindfulness meditation practice, it’s important to take the experience off the cushion or chair and out into the world. Adopting this approach will eventually lead you to live more mindfully.
What this means is that you don’t actually need more time, but rather the motivation to integrate mindfulness into the many moments that make up your day.
What are the benefits of being mindful?
The more regularly you adopt daily mindful rituals, the more training your brain receives to focus on the present. Mindfulness is a skill that can be learned, so the more moments you practise, the more you’ll naturally develop this ability. Over time, it will take less effort to do, so it’s not that mindfulness is challenging in itself – it’s remembering to do it that’s often the trickiest part.
There are many ways you can create more mindful moments and seamlessly integrate them into your current schedule. Whether you’re getting the kids ready for school, sipping a latte, dashing between meetings or driving home after a long day of work, there’s always a way that you can focus and bring yourself back into the present.
Read on to find practical tips and easy techniques to bring mindfulness into your waking hours, from dawn until dusk, so you can be more mindful throughout the day, no matter what your schedule holds.
5 everyday mindfulness exercises
1. Use your senses at breakfast time
Your senses are your window to the world, yet they remain in a state of suppression when your attention wanders elsewhere. Have you ever noticed how you don’t take in as many cues – you don’t hear, see or sense much of anything – when you’re deeply lost in the world of thought? You couldn’t tell if the coffee was good or the cereal was soggy, because you were staring out of the window, distantly daydreaming about a mini- break to Paris.
Breakfast is a great time to connect with your senses and start your day with a mindful moment or two. Tune into the sounds of the radio and the crunching of toast, the warmth of the coffee cup and the aroma of the beans, the flavours and textures of the toast and the tiny crumb trail it leaves along the kitchen counter. Try turning your attention off autopilot and guide it directly to where are you are at present. What can you hear? Taste? Smell? See? Touch?
Pay attention and notice the richness of the full experience. Awakening your senses will help you to immediately experience the beauty of the present moment, in all its morning glory.
2. Make your coffee break a moment of awe
For some, the mid-morning break is prime time for grabbing a coffee. Others prefer to spend those minutes scrolling through the latest stream of social media. But what if this time was reserved for noticing the world from a fresh perspective, by inducing a momentary sense of awe? While awe is most commonly associated with occasions such as standing atop a mountain and appreciating the view, you don’t necessarily need to leave the urban jungle.
Small moments of awe can be cultivated day to day, whatever you’re doing and wherever you are, and they’ll bring you right back into the present.
Simply look for the beauty in the ordinary. On your way to get a coffee, take more notice of your surroundings. Look out for green spaces and nature. Look up at the skyline – the patterns of the clouds, the colours in the sky. Look for the breeze floating gently through leaves and scarves.
Intentionally subscribe to sources of inspiration and beauty so that when you’re scrolling on your smartphone you’re regularly soothed by the tranquility of a coastal scene, impressed by the talent of an artist or designer, or inspired by the colours of a stunning sunset.
Awe will help you to put things into a healthier perspective, so following morning tea you can return to your desk more renewed, after you’ve consciously connected to the wonders of life.
3. Set a reminder in the afternoon to bring you back into the present
In many different traditions, bells are used as reminders to gently bring you back into the present. While the intermittent pings, pops and buzzes of a phone can be highly distracting, setting up a simple reminder bell (or any other kind of alert or sound) on your phone is a smart and effective way to interrupt yourself mid-flow, whatever you’re doing, and bring your attention back into the present moment. Think of it as the right kind of digital distraction.
Your phone will have plenty of sound options, but there are also mindfulness bell apps available, designed to chime randomly or at scheduled intervals throughout the day. Mindfulness Bell (iPhone) and MindBell (Android), for instance, ring a traditional Tibetan singing bowl. Many times when we work with our computers we’re completely lost in our work, and we forget to be in touch with ourselves.
At the peak of the afternoon slump it only takes a moment to mentally drift off and before you know it, you’ve been aimlessly flicking through papers, snacking on sugary foods or reading entire documents without actually taking in a word.
Setting a recurring daily alarm during the afternoon is the best tactic to beat the post-lunch lull in energy and focus, and keep you right on track. When the bell chimes simply pause, take a few deep breaths to release the tension in your body, then calmly notice what’s going on around you. Take in the sights, the sounds, the thoughts, the sensations.
What’s going on for you internally and externally? In that moment, you have one job – to become more aware. Then you can use that awareness to mindfully carry on with your day.
4. Find an anchor on your commute home
The commute home can be dull, especially after a long day at your desk. But it doesn’t necessarily need to be a boring experience. You can use this time to practise the art of presence using fun ‘anchors’.
In meditation practice, anchors such as the breath and the body are used to return your attention to where it needs to be. The most commonly used one is the breath, given its constant presence. The idea is to use an anchor to overcome the distractions of the mind.
As opposed to getting lost in thoughts about the past or the concerns of the future, focusing on the anchor guides you back when your mind wanders off. It’s a simple yet effective concept used by novice and seasoned meditators alike.
Try using certain things you see or hear on your way home as cues to bring you back into a more mindful state. You might want to pick a visual anchor: every time you see a specific colour or item of clothing; at every red traffic light; at a specific location you pass or stop at every day. Or you may prefer audible cues: when you hear the indicator clicking; the bell on the bus; the doors closing on the train.
Find the anchors that best suit you and your journey home and your commute can become a more mindful experience, helping you to let go of any stresses from your working day, leaving you ready to enjoy your evening.
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5. Go slow before bed
By the end of the day, your body and mind naturally start to unwind and go slower. Mindfulness centres on paying attention to the moment and before bed can be a good time to practise presence as you slow things down and settle in for the night. The trick here is to do less, with more intention.
Let the techniques of the day naturally and subconsciously feed into your bedtime routine as you mindfully move through the remaining moments. Soak in the bath and use your senses. Brush your teeth with bodily awareness. Use reminders in your home to bring you back to the moment. Practise presence as you kiss your loved ones goodnight. Keep calm and head to bed.
Photos by Christian Gertenbach, Brooke Lark, rawpixel, Ellyot, Dan Bøțan, David Mao and Darius Bashar on Unsplash