Practicing mindfulness is a skill we’d all like to master. With magazines, websites, workshops, and retreats dedicated to mindfulness, it’s clearly an important topic in health and wellness.
It can help you manage stress, be present in the moment, and focus on the task at hand. In a 2018 study, Harvard scientists found that the mere act of clearing your mind for 15 minutes each day alters how your genes operate. They also found mind-body practices that create a relaxation response can reduce blood pressure.*
Michael Kanter, MD, medical director of Quality and Clinical Analysis for Southern California Permanente Medical Group, highlights the fact that mindfulness is a practice for the betterment of health. “Scientific studies have shown that the practice of mindfulness can in fact help our members improve their total health — body, mind, and spirit. Individuals who practice mindfulness techniques report better mental and physical health, and quality of life compared to those who do not practice mindfulness.”
But how do we make mindfulness part of our everyday lives? The key is to start practicing in the moments that work best for you.
Mindfulness simply means awareness. You intentionally pay attention to the present moment while putting aside your everyday tendencies. For example, you might focus on your breath and surroundings instead of rushing through a meal while staring at your phone.
According to Marsha Lucas, PhD, psychologist and author of Rewire Your Brain for Love, “Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally. It’s a practice that trains your brain to be more efficient and better integrated, with less distractibility and improved focus. It minimizes stress and even helps you become your best self.”
Moments for mindfulness
To begin your own practice, find moments in your daily routine that work for you.
When you wake up
A mindfulness practice first thing in the morning helps set the ‘tone’ for the rest of the day, increasing the likelihood of other mindful moments. Whether you’re sipping a cup of coffee, showering, or brushing your teeth, take a moment to concentrate on your breath. Deep breaths help bring more oxygen into your body and improve blood circulation. Then zero in on the sight, sound, smell, taste, and feel of these activities.
While you wait
There are many moments in a day when we’re waiting. While our instinct may be to stare at our phones or feel frustrated, you could instead make the most of the time. According to Ed Halliwell, mindfulness teacher and co-author of the book The Mindful Manifesto, waiting is actually an opportunity for mindfulness. When you’re waiting, he suggests bringing your attention to your breath. Focus on “the flow of the breath in and out of your body, from moment to moment and allow everything else to just be, even if what’s there is impatience or irritation.”
While you eat
Mindful eating means choosing food that is pleasing to you and good for you, while using all your senses to explore, savor, and taste. Mindful eating is also learning to be aware of physical hunger and cues that guide your decision to begin — and to stop — eating.
For example, you can practice mindful eating at your next meal by following these simple tips:
- Eat in a set place. Sitting at a table is better than your desk or on the couch.
- Focus on what you’re about to eat with a sense of gratitude.
- Concentrate on the act of eating. Chew your food slowly. Take in the texture and the sensations in your mouth.
It may seem like a lot to remember, but the key is finding small ways to incorporate mindfulness into everyday moments. With these small changes, you’ll be on your way to a more mindful — and healthier — day.