One of the best ways to do self-care is to start and maintain a mindfulness practice and live in the present moment.
In this post, we’ll outline several simple ways to add mindfulness to everyday activities that you may already do, but didn’t realize could be so beneficial.
But first, what is mindfulness?
What Is Mindfulness?
Merriam-Webster says that mindfulness is the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.
In simpler terms, to be mindful means to be conscious of your thoughts, yourself, your surroundings, and what is happening at any given time.
People desire to be in this state because it is said to bring an end to suffering and promote feelings of peace and joy.
The calmness of being more aware is brought about because you’re centered on what is happening right now. You’re not fretting about the past or worrying about the future, which is what causes most suffering.
The question becomes, how to get your focus on the present and maintain it there. We’ll explore those methods in a bit. But next, we’ll look more closely at the benefits of mindfulness practice.
Why Is Mindfulness Beneficial?
You might be thinking at this point, it’s all well and good to become more mindful, but what’s the benefit of doing that?
According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness has been shown to benefit with:
- Fewer depressive symptoms
- Decreased stress
- Increased working memory capacity
- Longer attention span
- Less emotional reactivity
- Greater cognitive flexibility
- Better relationships
- Numerous physical health benefits
These are all excellent reasons to start and maintain a mindfulness practice.
The point of any mindfulness practice is to develop the habit of being in the present moment as much as possible throughout the day.
The more you can stay alert and conscious, the greater the psychological and physical benefits you’ll experience, which equals less suffering.
Next, we’ll highlight some simple daily activities you can use to become more mindful and present. We’ll start with one of the easiest to do anywhere, which is to focus on your breath.
How to Focus on Breathing for Mindfulness
Focusing on breathing is an excellent way to bring your awareness into the present moment and become more mindful.
One of the simplest ways to become mindful is to use the natural rhythm of your breath as it goes in and out of your lungs.
Anyone can do this exercise just about anywhere. You don’t need special equipment, clothing, or setting. And, you don’t need to master any complicated techniques.
While it’s true you don’t need to be in a special place to focus on your breathing, it may be helpful in the beginning if you choose a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
As you practice more, you’ll find you can do this pretty much anywhere.
The exercise is simple. You just turn your attention to your typical in and out-breathing. You don’t have to breathe deeply or in any special way, just notice the feeling of each breath as you take it in and release it.
If you feel tense at the start, you can take a couple of deeper breaths to encourage relaxation and calmness.
Another thing that is helpful in the beginning is to close your eyes. You don’t have to do it, but it makes it easier to concentrate until the activity becomes a habit.
As you maintain your focus on your breathing, you’ll find that you aren’t thinking. However, in the beginning, you may find that your attention wanders and stray thoughts pop up in your mind.
The trick is to gently bring your attention back to your breathing. Don’t resist the thoughts that occur or fight your wandering attention. It’s common for that to happen a lot when you first begin this type of mindfulness activity.
As you practice more and more, you’ll find you spend longer with your full focus on your breathing, and the calming effect increases.
Without a constant parade of disruptive thoughts going through your mind, you’ll achieve greater peace and natural joy.
Let’s look at 3 simple tips to help you master this technique.
3 Simple Tips for Focusing on Breathing
Here are 3 tips to help you on your way with focusing on breathing for more awareness:
1. Start in a Quiet Place and Alone
When you start out, it might be easier if you choose a quiet place to be alone. The fewer distractions there are, the faster you’ll become at ease with the activity.
As you become able to switch to focusing on your breathing with more ease, you can try out a variety of settings.
2. Don’t Stress Over Stray Thoughts
Your mind is going to wander, so don’t get yourself worked up about it. The point is not to banish all thoughts forcefully; it’s to become aware of them and let them release naturally on their own.
So, when a thought intrudes, look at it without judgment and gently move your attention back to your breathing. Eventually, you’ll go for long periods without thinking.
3. Don’t Force the Time Limit
You’ll naturally find you can stay with this practice more and more as you do it consistently. Try to make time for it each day, but don’t force the duration.
The amount of time you spend focused on your breath will increase naturally as you progress. So, in the beginning, if you feel uncomfortable, leave it, and move on. Forcing it will just lead to frustration and the potential for quitting.
Use this information and 3 tips to focus on your breathing in a natural and calming way to become more conscious and aware during your daily activities.
Next, we’ll explore bringing mindfulness to mealtimes.
How to Be Mindful When Eating
If you’re looking for information about being more mindful in your daily activities, eating mindfully is one of the important aspects of becoming aware.
In our hurried culture, with it’s “drive-thru” mentality, we’re encouraged to eat on the fly. At the same time, our attention is focused somewhere else.
This is not a healthy practice, and more people are turning to mindful eating to slow down and become conscious of their food choices and practices.
What is Eating Mindfully?
Eating mindfully is the same as doing any other activity mindfully. It means to pay full attention to the entire process of eating.
We often think only about the stage where we’re sitting and eating the food. But, mindful eating takes in all stages of the process, including preparation and clean up.
You’ll want mindful eating to become a full experience where you place your attention on:
- Shopping for, preparing, and cooking the food, including sounds, textures, and aromas.
- Reflecting on where it came from and who produced it, including farmers, harvesters, and process and packaging workers, store employees, and so on.
- Setting the table or place where you eat.
- Attention on the choice of plates, bowls, cups, and utensils.
- The act of eating; how the food smells, feels, and tastes.
- Chewing, swallowing, pausing between bites, the aroma, and how it looks.
- The act of cleaning up, washing and drying dishes, or loading the dishwasher.
All these aspects of bringing your awareness to the process are part of the practice of mindful eating. But don’t confuse it with obsessive thinking about food sources, cooking methods, and choice of diet.
It’s not about thoughts, labeling, or judgment, but rather a deeper awareness of the act of eating and your environment.
The Benefits of Mindful Eating
Anytime you bring awareness to what you are doing in the present moment, you’re going to access benefits. It’s particularly true with mindful eating. When you focus on the entire process of food consumption, you’ll:
- Become more conscious of food choices and cooking methods.
- Experience more gratitude.
- Eat more slowly and improve digestion, which influences overall wellness.
- Take time to appreciate the company during meals.
- Gain an understanding of the bigger picture of food supply and the web of society.
Eating mindfully will create a cascade of benefits for your physical and psychological health.
Next, let’s look at 4 tips for eating mindfully.
4 Tips for Eating Mindfully
Use the following 4 tips to get started with mindful eating and reap the benefits:
1. Start Simple
Don’t start by making things too elaborate. The ability to maintain awareness for a long time is something you can build up. It’s a simple concept but more difficult in practice.
In the beginning, aim to focus on one part of the process, such as the food prep or the meal at the table. You can even start with something really simple, like enjoying a cup of tea.
Over time, you can build up to keeping your attention on the entire process of shopping, preparing the food, eating, and clean up.
2. Use Chopsticks to Slow Down
Part of the challenge of mindful eating for many people is trying to slow down during the eating part of the meal.
A clever way to encourage slower eating is to use chopsticks. If it’s a new skill, only do it until you feel frustrated. If that happens, switch back to a fork, and increase the use of the chopsticks over time. Letting frustration go on will defeat the purpose of the exercise.
Other tricks people use to slow down eating are:
- Using their other hand to hold the fork instead of the one they normally favor.
- Placing an egg timer on the table to flip every time they start to chew a mouthful of food.
- Putting their fork, knife, or spoon down between bites of food.
- Running a short tune through their mind while they chew the food.
These are all ways that you can encourage a slower approach to eating your food. You might come up with other creative ways to accomplish this.
3. Turn Off Devices
One of the biggest distractions when eating is the use of electronic devices, such as televisions, laptops, and smartphones.
Keep all your devices away from the table, and better still, turn them off during mealtime. That way, you’ll have a better chance of keeping your focus on your food. You might also learn to what degree you depend on these devices.
Likewise, don’t bring any work to the table or eat at your desk. You won’t focus on your food when your attention is on the task in front of you.
4. Start with Meals Alone
When you start out with a practice of mindful eating, you might find that it’s better to do it alone, without companions.
It’s especially true if you are easily distracted by the presence of other people. However, it won’t be the case if the whole group agrees to make the meal a mindfulness activity. Then, everyone is on the same page.
Use these 4 tips and tweak them to suit your needs so you can begin to experience the benefits of a meal that is conscious and focused.
Eating mindfully is just part of the process of deepening awareness in daily life to access the inner peace and stillness of your being.
Next, we’ll look at another common activity that can be a doorway to mindfulness.
How to Take a Mindfulness Walk
A mindfulness walk is a walk or stroll that helps you bring awareness to your thoughts, emotions, physical state, and surroundings.
It’s not meant to take you from point A to point B specifically. Nor is it meant to be timed or measured as a form of workout, exercise, or competition. Its purpose is to center you in the present moment.
What Is a Mindfulness Walk?
A mindfulness walk is an activity you can use to bring your awareness into the present moment by becoming conscious of your breathing, movements, thoughts and emotions, and environment.
You can do a mindfulness walk anywhere, but it’s particularly beneficial if you can do it in nature or in a place where you can see nature.
According to Harvard Health Publishing, there is growing evidence that the amount of time spent in nature is directly related to a reduction in anxiety, stress, and depression.
A mindfulness walk is still an excellent tool no matter where you do it, but if you want to increase the benefits, try to do one in nature whenever you can.
That said, you can incorporate one of these walks into your daily routine, going across a parking lot, commuting between buildings, in your living room, or as you walk your dog around the neighborhood.
People adapt the details of a mindfulness walk to suit their needs and preferences, but generally, it follows the following.
4 Steps of a Mindfulness Walk
Use these 4 steps to bring your awareness into the present during your walk.
1. Bring Awareness to Your Breathing
Start to walk slowly and place your hands wherever they’re comfortable, by your side, on your belly, or behind your back.
Then, as you take steps, pay attention to the natural rhythm of your breath going in and out. Don’t adjust it in any special way, just notice it.
This is exactly like the breathing focus discussed earlier in the post.
2. Pay Attention to Your Steps and Body
After you notice your breathing for a few minutes, turn your attention to the steps you take. Notice how it feels when you take each step.
Pay attention to the ground or floor under your foot, the feeling of your shoe on your foot, or the sound your footfall makes.
You can expand this attention out from your feet to the rest of your body when you’re ready. Feel the motion of your legs and the movement of your muscles as you go along.
Note: If you get distracted by your thoughts, don’t fight it, or feel frustrated. Just acknowledge the thought and bring your attention back to the next step. In the beginning, you’ll likely get easily distracted by thoughts, but it lessens as you increase your practice.
3. Examine Your Surroundings
After bringing your attention to the present with your breath and physical body, now take note of your surroundings.
Use as many senses as you can to notice any sounds, smells, sights, or sensations. You might even taste rain or snow on your tongue.
Without labeling or judging, become aware of whatever is going on around you. If you’re crossing a parking lot, it might be quite busy, but if you’re on a country lane, it may be more peaceful. But you can still raise your awareness of the environment and stay present.
4. Determine the Length
You can determine the length of your mindfulness walk by how it suits your needs. It may only be a few turns of the living and dining room before you get ready for work in the morning.
Or, your walk might go around your neighborhood when you take your dog out for an evening outing before bedtime. You choose when it suits you to stop.
Use these steps loosely to craft a mindfulness walk that works for you. The most important thing is always that it suits your purposes and needs, not a rigid set of rules to frustrate you.
The following tips will also help you benefit from a mindfulness walk.
Tips for a Mindfulness Walk
Here are some tips to help you enjoy a mindfulness walk for best results:
- Decide if it suits you to walk alone, as a couple, or with a group.
- Dress comfortably, so you aren’t distracted by things like a rubbed heel.
- Let go of expectations and allow it to develop naturally.
- Choose a time and place that works for you.
- Walk until it feels like the right time for you to stop; don’t impose limits.
- Whenever you can, fit in a nature walk to double the benefits.
- Without imposing a set schedule, try to walk several times per week.
- Leave the electronic devices out of it as they are more of a distraction.
Use these tips and make other tweaks to design mindfulness walks that are best for your circumstances. It isn’t helpful to try and force yourself to follow someone else’s method exactly or a set outline.
A mindfulness walk can benefit you in multiple ways, including staying present, feeling more peace and joy, and seeing improvements in your mood and physical health.
It’s an easy activity to take up and doesn’t require special clothing, equipment, or extra cost.
Next, we’ll look at drinking tea mindfully. It may sound funny, but it’s an easy way to try out becoming mindful in simple daily activities, like your tea break.
Note that you can swap tea for any beverage that you prefer.
How to Drink Tea Mindfully
You can use an activity like preparing and drinking a cup of tea to bring yourself into the present moment by doing it intentionally. Being intentional means paying close attention to every step of the process.
It’s a simple concept, but how easy it is for you will depend on how much time you spend chasing thoughts. When you’re thinking, you aren’t as conscious.
It’s easier to understand and grasp this idea if you see how it works, so we’ll move on to what it looks like in practice.
What Does It Look Like to Drink Tea Mindfully?
In this section, we’ll draw an image in words of what it might look like to drink a cup of tea mindfully. During the activity, you’ll use your senses to focus on what you’re doing. Try to keep your attention on the task.
If you drift back into your thoughts, just gently bring your attention back to what you’re doing. Notice, I said gently. Don’t criticize yourself when your mind wanders. The more you practice, the easier it gets to stay focused.
First, you fill the kettle with water and put it to boil. While you do this, pay attention to the sound of the water running and the noise of the kettle boiling. You might also notice the steam from the hot water.
Next, choose your mug or teacup. Do this with attention to the one you pick out, especially if it’s a favorite. Does it have a good fit in your hand? Does it have a saying on it or a nice image? But be careful not to let a decal trigger off a series of thoughts.
When the cup and water are ready, choose your beverage and place the teabag in the water. Notice the way it changes the color of the water and any aroma that fills your nose. Take a moment to breathe it in while the bag steeps.
To drink your tea, choose a quiet place that you enjoy sitting. Hold the cup in your hands and notice how the warmth makes them feel.
Take a sip of the tea and savor the first taste that rolls around on your tongue and slips down your throat. You might also notice things around you, like the feeling of the chair, or the soft breeze through an open window, or birdsong nearby.
Don’t rush the experience, and don’t try to do other things while you drink your tea. Take your time and keep your focus on every sip. Stay with it as long as it feels comfortable. If you start to get fidgety or the tea stops being enjoyable, move on to other things.
If you continue to do this regularly, after a while, it will become easier to stay focused on your activity, and fewer thoughts will intrude.
This is a great way to take a mental break on a hectic day and allow yourself to experience just being present. You’ll discover the beauty of not having to think about things all the time.
Does the Choice of Tea Matter?
Some people wonder if you need to drink a special kind of tea for this to work. Of course, individuals will have their preferences, but any tea that you enjoy will work fine.
Some people like to try a tea that they haven’t had before because the new taste helps them keep their attention on what they’re doing. Novelty can be an excellent aid to staying present.
There’s also a notion that drinking tea mindfully should be reserved for herbal teas or green tea, which have a spiritual connotation.
But that isn’t true. Any experience can be mindful, so go ahead if you prefer a plain old black tea or your favorite homemade latte.
The only caution is that it works better if you go through the process of making the beverage yourself, as this is part of becoming intentional, especially for beginners.
But, truthfully, any activity can be a mindful activity, even picking up coffee at the drive-through. It’s all about bringing your attention to whatever you’re doing.
Bonus Tip for Drinking Tea Mindfully
Here’s a bonus tip to include when you enjoy your session of drinking tea mindfully.
Try adding a short phrase each time you take a sip of tea. This isn’t the same as thinking; it’s more like a mantra. You are intentionally repeating the same words each time.
You can try something like:
- I’m here now.
- Just this.
- Who is drinking?
- No hurry.
You can pick anything that resonates for you and add it to your routine to keep yourself centered in the moment.
Adding a tea break that helps you become aware of the present moment gives you a better chance at renewal than drinking your tea or coffee while you work at a project or other task.
A favorite mindfulness practice for many people is sitting in silence, and we’ll take a look at that method next.
How to Sit in Silence
Sitting in silence is a method used to quiet the mind and become present. To do it, you simply sit and don’t talk or do anything.
Keep in mind that the “silence” part is more about what’s going on in your mind than any external noise that surrounds you.
In today’s noisy and distracting world, this activity can be a challenge for a beginner. Often, people don’t realize they’re being influenced by their conditioning and internal dialogue.
What Does Sitting in Silence Look Like?
As stated above, sitting in silence is a simple concept. You find a quiet place to sit comfortably and don’t talk or do anything.
It sounds easy. But, it’s quite tricky for most people, simply because the mind refuses to be quiet. In the silence, it practically shouts to be heard.
Thoughts will race through your mind, competing for your attention. They’ll remind you to pick up the kids after school, finish the laundry, or find a gift for your spouse’s birthday.
They might even encourage you to reflect on how much you didn’t like the lady at the grocery store checkout yesterday.
From the outside, you may look like someone peacefully sitting in the garden, eyes closed, enjoying the quiet afternoon. While on the inside, your mind is forcefully urging you to get up and finish the weeding.
So, the problem becomes how to still the mind and enjoy the benefits of sitting in stillness. It won’t do to try and suppress your thoughts or make them go away. That approach can make it work even harder to get your attention.
And, don’t start thinking of your mind or thoughts as an enemy. They serve their purpose and are a useful tool when we need them at appropriate times. Stay away from judgment.
What you need is a gentle technique for keeping your attention off the racing thoughts. Enter again, the simple solution of focusing on your breathing.
Focus on the Breath While Sitting in Silence
Focusing on your breathing is an excellent and easy way to still the mental chatter that goes on in the mind as soon as you try to be still.
As outlined earlier, while you’re sitting quietly, notice your breath as it flows naturally in and out. You don’t have to change it, just notice the rhythm as it comes into your lungs and exhales back out.
You may find it more comfortable in the beginning to close your eyes. But you don’t have to. It’s entirely up to you to decide what your preference is.
What you’ll find is that while your attention is on your breathing, you don’t pay attention to the random thoughts floating around in your mind.
However, at first, you’ll wander back to your thinking after only a few seconds. Don’t give up. You didn’t fail. Just acknowledge any thoughts that pop up, without judging, and bring your attention back to your breath.
If you keep doing that, the time you spend without thought will increase considerably. Over time, it will become much easier to sit in stillness for long periods, with internal silence.
The Benefits of Sitting in Silence
Sitting in silence provides many of the same benefits as a formal meditation practice. Physically, they include:
- Lower blood pressure
- Boosts immunity
- Brain cell growth
- Decreases stress
- Regulates hormones
- Improves blood circulation
These are encouraging reasons to increase your practice of seeking silence regularly. In the areas of psychology and emotions, the benefits include:
- Increased creativity
- More self-awareness
- Increased awareness of the environment
- More interest in self-improvement and relationship mending
- Better sleep experience and less insomnia
These benefits are just as impressive as the physical improvements, and they provide ample reasons for cultivating silence in your daily schedule.
How to Add Silence to Your Daily Schedule
In the beginning, it’s a good idea to practice sitting in silence on your own in a quiet place, without obvious disruptions. It allows you to develop the practice and strengthen your ability to turn off the mental noise.
However, as you master the ability to become silent internally, you can take this method to any situation that suits your preferences.
You can add a few moments of mental vacation during your lunch break on a park bench. Or, you can sit in your office alone for your coffee break. If you carpool and must wait for people, use the time to sit quietly and still your mind.
There are many ways and places to add stillness into a busy day. Use it as often as you can to stay focused on the present moment and renew yourself.
Any or all of the above activities can be used to develop mindfulness and make it a way of living for an abundance of physical and psychological benefits.