While the concept of mindfulness―moving through life with full awareness―is simple, developing a habit of applying mindfulness to your everyday life takes practice. Most of us have to remind ourselves continually to refocus; we have to remind ourselves repeatedly to pay attention, to be mindful of our thoughts and actions.
As I mentioned in Explore: Mindfulness, meditation is a way of formally practicing mindfulness. For information on meditating, read Learn: Meditation; find a list of further resources in the post Explore: Meditation. Today's post focuses on ways to practice mindfulness more informally.
Thich Nhat Hanh, in his book The Miracle of Mindfulness, advises that it's important to practice mindfulness through the entire day, not just in the time set aside for formal meditation. Each act you do throughout the day is meditation, he explains.
5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness through Everyday Acts
Focus on your breath. Using your breath is the most basic way to be aware in the present moment. Your breath doesn’t concern itself with either your most recent breath or your next breath: only this breath right now. Sometimes it helps to think to yourself: "Right now, I am breathing in," or "I'm exhaling with mindfulness." Since you always have your breath, you can use it to ground you anytime, anywhere.
Use your inner voice to announce what activity you're doing or to ask yourself, "Am I awake and aware in this moment?"
View objects of your activities as articles of contemplation. As you're folding laundry, listen with awareness to the sounds of the fabrics moving and shifting; consider how the towels or clothes look, feel and smell. As you move through your chores of setting the table or doing the dishes, pay attention to the sounds, sights, textures and smells of each dish.
Notice your food: What does your food smell like? How does it feel on your tongue and teeth? Consider your food's flavors. Pay attention to how the food moves into your body as you swallow. Ask yourself how your body feels being nourished by this food, what your thoughts and emotions are about this food.
Pause. The sound of a bell can serve to bring those in meditation back to awareness. Sarah Susanka also suggests setting a timer/mindfulness bell to go off every 15 minutes throughout the day to remind you to bring awareness to your mind and body. You can even find mindfulness bell apps (like this one) for your smart phone. Another way to pause involves stopping for reflection before you allow an emotion to settle in. Ask yourself where the emotion is coming from and then choose your reaction to the situation.
These are just a few ways to integrate mindfulness into your daily life. The following list offers further resources on the topic of mindfulness.
The Miracle of Mindfulness by Thich Nhat Hanh
The Not So Big Life by Sarah Susanka
Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Liv Mindfully offers a list of resources
Mindfulness.org outlines a wealth of information
The Minnesota Zen Meditation Center suggests a list of recommended reading
PsychologyTools.org provides mindfulness instructions, recordings and more
There can be no one way to be, no one way to practice, no one way to learn,
no one way to love, no one way to grow or to heal no one way to live,
no one way to feel, no one thing to know or be known.