Did you know that mindfulness comes in all different shapes and sizes, not just the clichéd image of a monk sitting under a tree like this chanting “om”? My mindfulness practice comes in the form of meditation and yoga, however, your mindfulness practice could be completely something different. Perhaps it's the simple act of going for a surf or a swim, painting, taking photos, dancing, singing, playing catch with your dog; whatever activity brings you into the present moment.
In its simplest terms, mindfulness means to pay attention. Not regretting what you said or did yesterday or worrying about tomorrow, but simply allowing yourself to be here, in this moment, without judgement. Switching from mindlessness to mindfulness can easily be achieved by tapping into the five senses; sound, smell, sight, touch and taste.
If you're stuck for ideas as to how can you become mindful in everyday life, here are a few easy changes you can make to your day:
When you sit down to eat a meal, put aside any external stimulation (phones, TV, laptops etc). Take a moment to notice the colours, textures, aromas and appearance of your meal. Eat your meal slowly and be sure to taste all of the different flavours present. A simple way to slow down is to put your cutlery down between each mouthful. By paying attention to what you’re eating, you'll also have a greater ability to recognise when you've eaten enough.
The key to mindful communication is simple; pay attention! Put your phone or device away, listen without thinking of what you’re going to say in response and notice the other person's tone and body language. Don’t judge the person you’re in conversation with; be open to appreciating their perspective. When responding, make sure to speak with kindness and compassion. Foster the other person's strengths rather than highlighting their vulnerabilities.
The key to taking a mindful walk is to leave your phone at home. Once outside, start to tap into your senses; notice the sounds around you, feel the temperature of the air against your skin, appreciate the light and shadows, notice the different colours in the sky and on the leaves of the trees. Walk slowly and purposefully; don’t rush! Allow yourself to soak in all of the beauty that surrounds you with a sense of childlike curiosity.
Before you start driving, take 3-5 minutes in your car to sit silently and practice meditation or mindful breathing. It's important to provide yourself with ample time to get to your destination; this will help you to slow down and drive calmly. If you're in a rush and feel tense, soften your shoulders, jaw and face and release the grip of your hands on the steering wheel. At each red light, stop sign or crossing, take a few deep breaths into your belly. Wish other drivers well, and refrain from cutting people off, swearing, beeping or other aggressive driving behaviours. And lastly, resist even a “glance” at your phone.
Mindfulness at Home
You can turn your mundane everyday tasks into an opportunity to practice mindfulness, simply by paying attention to what you're doing. For example, you might like to take a meditative shower by tuning into your senses; experience the warm water washing over you and take in the scent of your shampoo or body wash. You can use cleaning as an opportunity to practice acceptance and gratitude by washing the dishes slowly; focusing solely on the process rather than just getting the task done. You might give yourself permission to get creative and curious in the kitchen by switching off the TV and being aware of each step of the process as you follow a new recipe.
Mindfulness at Work
Start your workday with a mindful cup of tea or coffee; taking in the aromas, taste of the beverage and warmth of the cup in your hands. Throughout the day, commit to single-tasking instead of multi-tasking, working through one project at a time. If possible, set a time at the beginning and end of each day to check your inbox, taking your time to mindfully respond to each email (being aware of how your tone might come across to the receiver). If you’re making phone calls, in a meeting with your team or clients, make sure you give them 100% of your focus. If you're feeling particularly stressed or agitated, remember to pause for a moment and take three mindful breaths. The simple act of breathing deeply into your belly will activate your parasympathetic nervous system.