Essentially mindfulness is being aware of all that is around you and in doing so you become present.
Through being completely engaged in where you are and what you’re doing, you are able to access the joy and opportunities that arise within that moment that otherwise may have been overlooked. Mindfulness also includes accepting the present moment without judgement or struggling against it. It may sound simple but many people live in a state of thinking they were somewhere else, doing something different, either worrying about the future or replaying the past.
- Be present and aware of your surroundings and feelings; where you are and what you’re engaged in.
- Accept the present moment without struggling against it or judging it.
- Be aware of your thoughts, recognize that they are just thoughts.
- Be proactive in the moment based upon what you feel and not on autopilot behaviours.
By turning the following mindfulness exercises into habits in your life you will find that you are more likely to live deliberately as opposed to unconsciously. All of the following are opportunities to cultivate mindfulness. Part of mindfulness is watching your thoughts; the blue box below goes into more detail about thought awareness, or you can skip ahead for tips to cultivate mindfulness into your day.
Watching your thoughts is an important element to the practice of mindfulness. To practice watching your thoughts simply become aware of them and with non-judgment allow them to go as freely as they arrive. Not only does it help you to come back to the present moment but it takes away the power given to unconscious thoughts and mindless overthinking. Remember it is just a thought, it is not real and you do not have to believe it.
5 Ways to Cultivate Mindfulness through Everyday Activities
Mindful 5 – Do nothing, that’s right nothing. In an attempt to not sound like George Costanza and his sitcom about nothing, I would like to put some emphasis on this practice. For 5 minutes a day sit down and do nothing, with no distractions. Your focus should be simply on your body and breath. Now is a good time to become the watcher of your thoughts, remember to let them pass with ease. Without knowing it you are meditating. But why do this? It will reduce anxiety and stress, it will also center you in peace. You will be able to think clearer when you’re finished and you have cultivated this mindfulness which for me tends to last for at least 3-4 hours after the mindful 5. Who doesn’t have 5 minutes a day for that! The added bonus of learning to focus on your breathing can be re-applied at other times, put it to good use when you’re stuck in traffic, or about to embark on a stress-producing meeting.
Mindful Listening – When in the company of others practice mindfully listening. It sounds easy but so often we have distractions. When you’re with people, especially people you care about, turn off the phone, television or anything that greatly distracts you. No one can do more than one thing at a time very well, it just ends up as half-arsed. This is so much more than a lesson in etiquette, this is a key practice to strengthening relationships. Cultivate mindful listening by being fully present, with no distractions. Give the person you’re with the space to be heard without worrying how you will respond next. Every time can practice mindful listening you will win serious brownie points with whomever you’re with and you will be more aware of any opportunities that arise from the conversation.
Mindful Technology – We all need it and many of us love it but technology needs to have its place. The best way to get the most out of your computer programs or apps is to practice single-tasking. Single-tasking is the most mindful way to use technology, which means one thing at a time. One app in use, or one web page open (not 25 tabs), one program at a time. If you are checking your emails, don’t try to use your phone at the same time. The brain is not designed to toggle back and forth between things but it excels with one focus. By using technology mindfully in this way you will achieve maximum productivity, you will be working in flow and by single-tasking you’re setting your brain up for the space to get creative with fresh ideas.
[With mindfulness] it’s easier to pay attention. You remember more of what you’ve done. You’re more creative. You’re able to take advantage of opportunities when they present themselves. You avert the danger not yet arisen. You like people better, and people like you better, because you’re less evaluative. You’re more charismatic. – Ellen Langer
Mindful Eating – At some point we have all eaten mindlessly, usually when the food is coming straight out of the box or packet and when something else has our focus like a good film. There is nothing worse than getting through a whole bag of chocolates and realizing you haven’t tasted or really enjoyed the pleasure of a single one of them. That’s where mindful eating comes in. Mindful eating requires you to be present with no distractions. That means it should not be done in front of a TV or at your computer desk and definitely without phones or other devices. The environment should be a peaceful one, that means stress-free. Relaxing conversation or gentle music are a great accompaniment. Sit down at a table, make sure to clear off any clutter from the dining table and set it in the style that is pleasing to you. Choose foods that are both nourishing and that you truly love and then mindfully savour each bite. Be sure to put the fork down every few bits and allow yourself to be fully aware of the smell and taste. Before eating, internally ask yourself: am I hungry? Pay attention to how your body feels; come to the table with hunger and finish when you are satisfied, which is quite different than being ‘full’. Practicing mindful eating will not only make meal times more relaxing but will help you to get the most pleasure out of eating. Mindful eating is practiced by French folk who gain pleasure from their decadent food whilst maintaining a slender waste line.
Mindful Cleaning – So much of our time is taken up by mundane tasks, but these can become wonderful opportunities to practice mindfulness. If you are folding laundry feel the fabric in between your fingers, be aware of any sounds and smells around you, become aware of the silence and calmness in the space between your thoughts. Instead of cleaning on autopilot, in which you may try to multitask and your mind might also be thinking about something other than what you’re presently doing, use this seemingly simple task to be fully present and deliberate in your actions.
Share your tips for cultivating mindfulness below with our community. I love hearing how others have incorporated mindful living and how it has changed their life.
Life consists only of moments, nothing more than that. So if you make the moment matter, it all matters. – Ellen Langer.