It is challenging to practice mindfulness in a noisy, chaotic and distracting world. Being present, aware and mindful is not generally something that happens automatically. We have to be intentional about mindfulness. Here is a handful of practices to help you develop more mindful habits.
1. Begin the Day Without Technology or Gadgets
This may not be something you can do every day. But it’s an excellent way to wake up mindfully from time to time. Pick a day when you don’t need to wake up at a particular time, perhaps one of your days off. Then, the night before, when you’re ready for bed, purposely remove any gadgets from your bedroom ― your alarm clock, cell phone, pedometer, watch, laptop, tablet, and so on.
Complete all of your nightly tasks and get into bed. If the weather permits, open up a window in the bedroom so that the sounds of nature can enter into your resting time. Allow yourself to fall asleep and awaken in the morning without any technological devices, gadgets or other interferences. As the sun brightens in the morning and fills your room, your body will be gently notified of daybreak. This will be the beginning of a very mindful morning.
2. Shower Mindfully
It’s easy to view showering as a utilitarian activity necessary to stay clean and odor-free. You can, however, use your daily shower as a mindful practice.
Make an effort to use all of your senses as you clean yourself. In the shower, use your sense of touch to feel the way your body reacts to the temperature change as the water hits your skin. Start at your head and mentally scan each portion of your body as the water washes over you.
Using your sense of sight, look around and notice the water droplets that have formed on the shower walls and the moisture that has built up around you. Look at your skin and hair. Try to appreciate the appearance of your body positively.
Listen to the sounds of the water rushing out of the showerhead and falling to the shower floor. Taste the clean water on your lips as you wash your face. Enjoy the scent of your soap and shampoo as you use each product.
As you finish your shower and turn off the water, stand for a moment and take a few deep breaths in the humid air. When you dry yourself, pay attention to the way the towel feels against your skin.
Often, we eat without really thinking about the food we put in our bodies. We’ll notice if something tastes good or bad. However, many times our minds are consumed with other thoughts while we fuel ourselves. Make your meals opportunities to be mindful. In eating, there is a multitude of ways to practice mindfulness.
One way to be more in tune with the foods we eat is to dwell on the source. As you enjoy the visual impact of your meal, consider the farmer who planted seeds for fruits and vegetables to grow and the harvesters who came and collected it. If you’re eating meat, view all of the work that went into raising and caring for the animals that have been used to make your meal. Take into account the hands that have prepared your actual meal as well and thank them if it’s possible.
As you consume your meal, think about the initial flavors that hit your palate first. Feel the texture of each element of the dish and take in the aroma of your meal. Eat slowly and try to taste and savor each morsel of food. Consider the way each item you’ve eaten makes your body feel and keep track of your level of fullness.
4. Clean Up Consciously
Sometimes, I turn on a podcast or music so that I can listen while I clean. However, I know that I’m not truly mindful of the task at hand when I clean this way. I’ve also noticed that I often forget where I’ve put things when I clean with a podcast in the background. When I clean more mindfully, I rarely forget where I’ve arranged and stored items.
When you’re folding clothes, focus on the rhythm of your breath. Feel the fabric as you fold and appreciate the texture of your clothing. As you wash dishes, let yourself enjoy the warmth of the soapy water on your hands and the softness of the bubbles. When you’re organizing your books, bills and collective piles of things left behind, do your best to appreciate the items and handle them with care.
Melissa Eisler, the creator of Mindful Minutes, wrote, “Whether cleaning or decluttering, the main message here is to look for the beauty and wonder ― in each and every step, each and every item and each and every moment. Instead of focusing on the leftover Thai food that you’re having trouble scraping off of your plate or the lack of time you have to tackle the task of sweeping, focus on the pleasant scent of the lavender dish soap or the warm temperature of the water.”
5. Go Outside
It’s amazing just how the simple act of walking outdoors can bring us more awareness and heighten the senses. Take a mindfulness stroll through your office parking lot, your neighborhood or a wooded area. Notice the feeling of the outside air on your skin. Is it windy or still? Listen for the sounds around you and breathe deeply, taking in the fragrance of nature.
While you’re out, be sure to touch something on the Earth or in nature. Feel the bark of a tree or the jagged edge of a stone. If your environment allows, remove your shoes and experience the sensation of your bare feet against the ground.
6. Create Art
Even if art isn’t typically your thing, it can be a fantastic, mindful activity. Just take a plain piece of paper and a pencil or pen and draw something you see ― a chair, piece of fruit, the view out of your window. Consider drawing a picture of yourself from a photograph.
You can also use other forms of art for mindfulness. Create a collage with pictures from magazines. Focus on your inside feelings and represent them on paper. Use clay to sculpt something that represents you.
Begin writing. Write about your feelings, your day, the room in which you’re sitting ― anything at all. Just put pen to paper and start writing. You’ll see that writing can help you identify certain feelings you didn’t even know you were having.
You might want to start a mindfulness journal. Consider writing after you’ve taken a mindful walk or participated in another mindful activity. You could also pick something very small to write about, such as the wind blowing through the trees or a group of ants fighting over a crumb of food.
It may help you to set a timer for 10 minutes and commit to writing for that entire period or beyond. At the end of your session, your mind will feel lighter, and you’ll be more in touch with your inner self. Reading back what you’ve composed is also an enlightening and mindful practice.
8. Put Your Phone Away for Three Hours
How often are we wholly engaged in a beneficial or productive activity when a chirp or blip from the phone demands our attention right now? When we have a phone sitting a few inches away, we are always partially attentive to it. This means we can only be partially attentive to the people and circumstances around us.
Put your phone away for three hours. Consider putting it in a drawer, powered off completely and out of sight. Then, engage with someone in person. Try to avoid any screens and technology for the full three hours if you can. Instead, focus on being in the moment, not just partially attentive.
9. Consider a Fast
Most often, when we think of fasting, we think of giving up food for a period of time. However, fasting can be done in different forms. A close friend of mine normally gives up social media for the 40 days of Lent each year. Recently, some associates of mine gave up buying anything but food for seven days. A person can fast desserts, give up coffee or tea, abstain from television or online shopping for a period of time.
Aside from all of its physical and spiritual benefits, fasting is also excellent for greater mindfulness. When you eliminate a daily and habitual activity or something that generally soothes you, it makes room in your countenance for more self-awareness and clarity. I have experienced some of the most mindful and clear moments of my life during periods of extended fasting.
Consider giving up something important to you for a week. Perhaps you enjoy green tea every morning. Give it up. Each time you long for that hot cup of tea, use it as an opportunity to be present and more mindful in the moment.
10. Sit in Stillness
Meditation, in any form, can help you come into a more mindful state. Mantra meditation is a very effective mindful practice. Similarly, Christian meditation or centering prayer can help you clear out anxious thoughts and enter into a greater sense of awareness.
Give yourself about 20 minutes of solitude and silence in meditation to become more mindful.
Practice mindfulness. Psychologist Tara Brach says, “The only way to live is by accepting each minute as an unrepeatable miracle.”
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