Six Ways To Make Your Day More Mindful

Think about the last time you had a shower. Did you breathe in and smell the fragrant scent of the soap? Did you enjoy the sparkle of the bubbles, the prisms of light in the foam? Did you luxuriate in the warmth of the water as it enveloped your skin?

Or did you furiously lather the shampoo into your hair while planning the meeting you had later on that morning?

We spend so much of our days lost in thought, hurtling around from one activity to another, and often trying to do several different things at the same time. This frantic busyness is the cause of so much of our unhappiness and anxiety, and the common call of the Londoner - “there just aren’t enough hours in the day!”

With mindfulness, we have the chance to really slow down and appreciate everyday activities with new eyes, new senses. And every time we do this, we’re applying what we learn in our formal meditation practice (the time we take just to sit or lie and practice meditation) to our everyday activities. The formal practice is about learning to pay non-judgemental and kind attention to whatever is going on in our mind, body and the world around us, moment by moment. We can then take this sharpened attention into our everyday lives, bringing a rich awareness to our experience of the world and the ways in which we interact with it.

Our lives offer countless opportunities for this type of everyday mindfulness practice. Here are six suggestions to get you started:

1. Waking up

When you wake up, try keeping your eyes closed for a few minutes and focusing on your breathing and on the sensations around you - the softness of your duvet, the smell of the linen, distant sounds from outside the window. Just make sure to set your alarm to ‘snooze’ in case you fall back to sleep!

2. Eating and drinking

Instead of wolfing down your dinner in front of the TV, you could try cutting out all other distractions and really focusing in on the food - looking at the colours and shapes, smelling the aromas, tasting each layer of flavour and savouring every mouthful. You can even do the same with a pint of beer or a lovely cup of tea!

3. In the queue

While you’re waiting for something - at the bank, the doctors’, the bus stop - you have the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Take the time to be attentive to your breathing and any emotions or thoughts you may be having - even if they’re ones of frustration. Let it all be. The beauty of this practice is that rather than seeing this as ‘dead’ time, you start to appreciate this time as a little breathing space amidst the busyness of the day.

4. Answering the phone

When the phone rings or you get a text message notification, see if you can leave it a few seconds before picking up. Notice the sound and the effect on your body (does your heart rate speed up, any tension?), take a conscious breath and then go get the phone.

5. In conversation

When we’re ‘listening’, we’re often not actually listening to the other person at all but to our own internal stream of thought, maybe forming judgements, worrying about how you’re coming across or considering what to say next. Next time you’re in conversation, try being truly attentive to the person who’s speaking and focusing on what they are trying to communicate, both through words and through body language, without judgement and with a willingness to understand their point of view.

6. At work

However busy you are at work, you can take the time to take a few conscious breaths throughout the day. You could try setting yourself reminders on your computer, maybe at hourly intervals, to prompt yourself to pause and bring your attention to your breathing. Even just a few seconds can make a huge difference, giving you the chance to slow down and reconnect with the present moment, take in more oxygen and trigger your body’s relaxation response. The rest of your day will be much more productive!

It can be helpful to introduce these mindful practices gradually into your daily routines. You could start just by trying to have a truly mindful shower each morning; then, when you get used to that, you could add something else until eventually much of your day could be spent in a kind of focused, highly-attentive meditative state!

As well as bringing some calm to your day, you may well start finding enjoyment and wonder in things you may have taken for granted before. As Jan Chozen-Bays, MD says in her book Mindful Eating:

“When we use mindful eyes, everything is beautiful and everyone walks in beauty”

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