If "practicing mindfulness" makes you think of yoga mats and stretchy pants, you're probably not alone. But mindfulness is a tool for everyone. You don't need to be anywhere special or have the "right stuff" to do it. Being mindful really just means being present in the moment and paying attention. It can help you calm your mind, relax your body, and manage stress. Here are some simple ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life.
- Eat your lunch, and do nothing else.
Set your phone aside. Don't read your English assignment. Turn off the TV. Basically, don't multitask like we're all so used to doing.
Sit somewhere you feel comfortable, and try to eat slowly. Notice the texture of your sandwich. Is the bread soft or firm? Are the contents crisp or creamy? Listen to the crunch of a pretzel. Take slow sips of your drink, and try to feel it travel all the way down your throat until it sloshes into your stomach. A little gross? Maybe. Mindful? Definitely.
- Listen to music, but really listen.
Think about your favorite song. You know it inside and out, right? Every lyric, every pause, every second. But try listening to it from a different angle. For example, if you love the lyrics, focus instead on listening to the music behind the lyrics. Can you pick out which instruments are being used? How about where the speed of the song slows down or gets faster? See if the beat of the music is affecting your body. Maybe you can actually feel it in your chest. Or maybe the beat triggers your fingers to tap along.
If you start by mindfully listening to a song you know well, try it out with a song you don't know very well too. Or if you've tried it with a song that has lyrics, try it with a song that doesn't. How is it different? See if one way works better for you than another.
- Get outside.
Just going for a walk can be a way to practice mindfulness. You don't have to walk a long distance or through some golden wheat field at sunset. You just have to try to stay in the moment and pay attention to what you see, hear, smell, and feel. If your mind wanders off, that's okay. Just bring it back and focus it again. The more you practice mindfulness, the easier it gets to be "present" for longer.
- Pet a dog, or scratch a cat.
Or snuggle a hamster, or hold a lizard. If you have a pet of some kind, you can practice mindfulness by showing it affection. Note: This works best with pets who aren't fish!
Notice the temperature of the animal's body and the weight of it against your body. Try to hear the pace of its breath. Or see if you can feel the bump-bump of its heart beating against your hand. As you do this, take deep, steady breaths. This can help calm and relax you. Added benefit? It can help your animal friend relax too.
Sometimes the hardest part of mindfulness is just making a point to do it. But even spending a little time being mindful can have benefits. Think of these tips as a place to start. As you get more comfortable with practicing mindfulness, you'll probably be able to find new ways to make it part of your day.