What do you think of when you hear the term “mindfulness”? Maybe you envision Buddhist monks in a mountaintop monastery, sitting in meditation, seemingly without a care in the world. Maybe you link the word to a hippy-dippy idea and believe it’s totally unachievable to you because your brain just.won’t.stop. Maybe you already have a mindfulness practice of your own and love how calm and connected to life you feel.
Regardless of where you are on this journey, here’s the good news: Mindfulness is a simple practice, one that will bring joy and contentment into your life. And, as with any other practice, it’s just that. You practice it over and over and over, with no destination or moment of completion.
So let’s break it down into a simple concept. How often do you actually pay attention to what you’re doing?
Have you ever driven your car and arrived at a location with no recollection of the actual trip? I’ll bet you’ve eaten a meal while watching a show, scarfing your food down so quickly that it didn’t even really register how delicious the food actually was. And how many times have you been in a conversation with someone, only to have zoned out and have no idea what they’re now talking about? These are easy examples of the ways we often do mundane tasks in non-mindful ways.
Practicing mindfulness is simply a way to stay present in our bodies, our minds, and our relationships. It’s a form of meditation that helps us remain anchored in the moment rather than multi-tasking, spacing out, or checking out altogether.
Here are some easy ways to bring mindfulness into your daily life:
*Walking: Paying attention to where we’re walking seems obvious, but it’s really easy to stub a toe or trip on something when we’re not focusing on what we’re doing, aka not being mindful. Instead of thinking of why you’re walking into the kitchen, for example, focus on how your feet are connecting with the floor. Then, once inside the kitchen, focus on why you went in there (and not what you’ll be doing once you leave the room).
*Movement practices like Tai Chi and yoga can help us learn to be more present in our bodies. Keep your mind’s eye on your body, and your ears on what the teacher is saying, rather than crafting your grocery list in your head during class.
*Stay present when you’re making love. That might seem obvious, but a wandering mind can happen even when we’re totally happy to be doing what it is we’re doing. Focus on the tenderness of your lover’s lips, their caresses, their scent – you get the idea. I don’t want to turn this into a romance novel, so I’ll stop there.
Pretty much anything can be turned into a mindfulness practice. So the next time you’re doing the dishes, taking a shower, or petting your dog, stay present on that action. Notice when your mind drifts – which it will, and likely 5,000 times – and bring it back to what you’re physically doing. And please don’t get irritated with yourself in this process. It’s normal to have to redirect your mind back to the practice again and again. Cut yourself some slack and remember that this is a practice, not a perfect.
Now, if you’re like me, listening to something while doing my day-to-day things (such as putting on my makeup or sweeping my house) can be a good use of my time. But I’ve noticed that I can zone out while listening to a podcast, audiobook, or a banging playlist while still doing the task at hand. What if, instead of listening to something, we try to be present with the task and keep our minds there? Or, if you feel like you really need to listen to something, put on a playlist of, say, classical music (with no lyrics), binaural beats, or even a chakra balancing song, and then practice mindfulness with that in the background.
By staying in the moment as much as possible, and allowing ourselves to savor each moment (yes, even while picking up dog poop), we can reduce anxiety, depression, and cultivate a sense of wonder and joy in our lives.