Being Mindful ~
Most people tend to do things on auto-pilot while their mind is elsewhere. You may find yourself loading the dishwasher while thinking about how your last meeting at work went. Or, driving to the grocery store while worrying about all the other things you still have left to do that day.
Mindfulness practice is becoming more and more popular (and relevant) with each passing year. Numerous studies have proven (and continue to prove) the benefits of being more present. I know you're busy, you have a lot on your mind, and the idea of practicing mindfulness, even for one minute, might feel impossible. I want you to know it's NOT impossible and you CAN do it. Living mindfully requires commitment, and like most everything else, the more you practice it the easier it becomes. AND, the busier you are, the more you will benefit from being more mindful.
What does "being mindful" mean?
To be mindful means to be deliberately aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, in order to create a feeling of calm. It means you're present with what is without judgment. You notice your thoughts and feelings without labelling them as good or bad. Rather, just allowing them to be.
All you need is a few mindful minutes a day (I suggest starting with one minute if a few minutes feels overwhelming) to effectively reduce your stress and lower your blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety levels. When mindfulness is practiced, even for just a few minutes a day, you can effectively increase your attention, focus, and clarity in thinking. You'll also become more calm, more self-aware, and improve your sleep. (For more tips on improving your sleep click here.) These are just some of the many benefits that you experience by practicing mindfulness daily. (Click here to learn more.)
5 Ways to Practice Being Mindful
There are countless ways you can practice being mindful throughout the day. Here's a few suggestions to help you get started!
Mindful Eating ~
Eat one meal a day mindfully. This means sitting down, without the distractions of your phone, TV, or computer, to thoughtfully and intentionally enjoy your meal. Pay attention to the colors of the food on your plate. Notice what the cutlery feels like in your hands. Chew with intention, noticing all the flavors of your food as well as the texture of your food as it's being made smaller with each bite. You may choose to close your eyes while chewing to further enhance your mindful eating experience. BONUS: Mindful eating will also help your body properly digest what your eating. For healthy recipes, click here.
Daily Mindfulness Walk ~
Commit to going for a walk each day with the intention of being mindful. You don't have to walk far, a mindful walk around the block can offer huge benefits! As your walking, pay attention to how your feet feel on the ground beneath you. Notice how your legs move with each step. Breathe in deeply taking note of all the scents in the air. Listen closely to the sounds around you. Notice the colors of the trees, the grass, the flowers.... Be mindful of your body and of your surroundings without judgement.
Mindful Conversations ~
The tendency, when listening to others, is to think about what to say next or think about how you can relate to the what someone else is talking about. The next time you're in conversation with someone, commit to making it a mindful conversation. This means remaining focused on the person you're conversing with. If you're face to face, make it a point to look them in the eye. If you're on the phone, resist the temptation to do something else while listening to them talk. Listen intentionally. When your mind starts to wander, gently bring your awareness back to the person talking to you AND to what they're telling you.
Mindful Showering ~
Being in the shower on auto-pilot is very easy to do and yet your shower is one of best places to practice being mindful. When you're focused, you can have a wonderful shower experience. The next time you're in the shower feel the water as it falls onto your hair and body. Pay attention to the scent of your soap and how it feels as it glides over your wet skin. Allow a moment to inhale the scent of your shampoo before lathering it in your hair. Close your eyes and feel your fingertips massaging your scalp. Each of your senses can be immersed in mindfulness during a shower, creating a relaxing and enjoyable experience.
Body Scan Meditation ~
Practicing a daily body scan meditation is not only a fantastic way to practice mindfulness, it's also a proven way to help you become more familiar with, and connected to, your body. Keep in mind, the point of a body scan meditation is to simply notice; to notice the sensations in your body, your mood, thoughts and feelings, without judging them or trying to change them. As you move through the meditation don't worry if your mind wanders. If you notice that you've lost focus, gently bring your awareness back to your body.
Begin by sitting up comfortably tall. Meaning, not sitting so straight that your body becomes like a stiff board and not sitting so relaxed that you're slouching. It can be helpful to imagine a string at the top of your head that ever so gently pulls you up.
Place your feet flat on the floor and allow your hands to rest comfortably on your thighs, either palms facing up or palms down on your lap. Refrain from crossing your legs, ankles, or arms. Keep your body open.
Close your eyes and allow the deepest breath you can, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
Then allow your body to breathe its own natural rhythm noticing how it feels to breathe. Notice breath entering through your nostrils and then being exhaled, either through your mouth or through your nose, whichever feels most natural to you. Continue to follow you breath without judgment or trying to change it.
Next, bring your focus to the top of your head. Slowly move down to your forehead noticing any tension or sensation in this area. Remember, you're not trying to change anything, you're just noticing what is. Continue to move slowly down becoming more and more aware of each part of your face as you so. Focus on the area around your eyes, move down to your cheekbones, your jaw, your lips and your tongue.
Bring your awareness now to your neck and throat. Move down to your shoulders and your shoulder blades. Continue moving down your back focusing on each part of it as you do. As thoughts arise, which they will, simply notice the thought and then gently bring your attention back to your body.
Focus now on your arms and move down each one allowing a moment to bring your attention to all the parts of your arms as you do. Your elbows, forearms and wrists. As you move your awareness past your wrists and into each hand, notice all the tiny bones, the flesh on your palms. Become aware of each finger.
Move your attention now to your collarbone and the entire front of your body. Your chest, ribs, stomach, internal organs, your hips and buttocks. Again you're just noticing. Bringing attention and awareness to each body part without judgment, without criticism, and without needing to change anything.
Focus now on your thighs, perhaps the notice the weight of your hands resting on the top of each thigh. Move down to your knees, your calf muscles, each ankle, and the tops of your feet. Notice each one of your toes and then move your awareness to the soles of your feet firmly planted on the ground beneath you and feel how it supports you.
Now allow a moment to feel your body as a whole from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Allow a deep breath in and a long exhale out.
Slowly begin to wiggle your fingers, wiggle your toes, and ever so gently bat your eyelashes open, as you bring your awareness back into the space around you.
Give yourself a few moments to reflect on how you feel. Are there any parts of your body that feel uncomfortable? Do you feel more relaxed? Did you release any tension built up in your body? Keep in mind, there's no right or wrong, you're just simply noticing. When you feel complete with your reflection, allow another deep breath.
You have just completed a body scan meditation.
This is a wonderful meditation to do either first thing in the morning or right before you go to bed at night. As you may have noticed, it only requires a few minutes of your time but the benefits are huge! Practicing this body scan meditation daily helps to cultivate concentration and will help you become more mindful as you move through each day, while also promoting relaxation.
Final Tips ~
Remember when practicing mindfulness, the point is to be in the moment without judgement. Notice what is without labeling it or making up a story in your mind about it. When your mind wanders, and it will, gently bring your awareness back to the present moment. Again, without judging or criticizing yourself for thinking about something else.
There are so many opportunities throughout the day to practice being mindful. Don't feel limited to the suggestions I've offered here. You can be mindful while folding laundry, playing a board game, sending a text message, brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, gardening, or grocery shopping. Your day is filled with tasks that you can do with deliberate focus and awareness. Start by committing to doing one thing mindfully each day. By learning to live more mindfully, you will more effectively manage daily stressors, become more self-aware, and in time, help transform your life.
So tell me, where in your life are you going to commit to being mindful? Leave a comment and let me know. I'd love to hear from you!
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Looking for more tips to help you live well? Check out Your Live Well Journey - The Podcast, every episode offers ways to help you improve your self-care.
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