One of the most common questions I’m asked these days is “how can I bring more mindfulness into my every day life?”
So today I’ll share the 11 strategies I find most effective and commonly use to infuse mindfulness into my whole day.
I hope you try them out for yourself and experience first hand the transformative power of mindful living.
1. One Minute Of Mindfulness
You can introduce short ‘meditation minutes’ throughout your day. You will need a clock or timer for this exercise. Set the time for one minute. During this time, your task is to focus your entire attention on your breathing, and nothing else.
You may practice with your eyes either open or closed. If you lose touch with breath and become lost in thought during this time, simply let go of the thought and gently bring attention back to the breath. Bring attention back as many times as you need to.
Minute meditations can be a wonderful practice for times when your start to feel a little stressed or aggravated.
2. Mindful Listening – An Act of Love
When listening to another person we are often there in body, but not fully present. Very often, we are not focusing on listening to them; we are caught up in our own mind chatter. We judge what they are saying, mentally agreeing or disagreeing, or we think about what we want to say next.
Next time you’re with a loved one or co-worker, try using your time as an exercise in mindfulness. Don’t just hear their words; really listen to what they’re saying.
Focus all of your attention on the other person. You’ll be amazed at the power of listening; it’s an act of love and kindness. People appreciate it deeply when you truly listen to them. You’ll also find that they’ll listen to you more fully when you speak.
3. Transformational ‘Chores’
Turn your ordinary household tasks into mindfulness sessions. For many of us, housework takes up quite a good portion of our lives. Instead of thinking of it as just a boring chore, the task can becomes a mindfulness ritual.
The next time you have to prepare dinner or do the laundry, focus all of your awareness on the task at hand, in the present moment. Aim to be fully engaged in what you are doing and not caught up in mind chatter or just rushing to the end of your task.
For instance, if doing the laundry, as you fold the clothes, don’t rush through it simply ‘getting it done’. Notice the feel and textures of the fabrics -how fresh they smell. Pay attention to the patterns and colours and the way they are affected by the light of the room. Make folding into a sort of yoga practice and move with mindfulness, attentive to each fold.
In this way, every little act becomes a sacred ritual. It keeps you in tune with the moment, with yourself, your space and even the world around you—all functioning in harmony.
4. Eating With Awareness
Eating mindfully can help you reclaim the pleasure of food. So many of us have become out of touch with this, one of life’s most simple and wonderful pleasures. Mindful eating has been shown to aid weight loss and have aided healthy digestion.
When you sit for your meal, turn off all distractions and focus on your immediate experience. Before you begin to eat, pause. Look at your food, take notice of the scent.
When you eat take small bites and eat slowly. Be fully present in the moment with your experience.
5. Slow Down!
Our culture is one of business, effort, deadlines, striving and achieving. The information age has us racing through life at a pace that would make our forefathers’ heads spin— but are we happier?
Many of us rarely allow ourselves to slow down and be fully present for the precious moments of our lives, and we’re shortchanging our lives living like that.
Physically slowing down helps us to mentally slow down. We get more pleasure out of life when we slow down like this. Take some time out to eat a meal and really connect with your family (With the TV off!).
Walk barefoot on the grass, enjoying the sensation. Take time to connect with a customer instead of “selling” to them. Do one thing at a time and be there, fully.
6. One Thing At A Time
For a couple of decades now, the catch phrase has been “multi-tasking.” Some people boast of their multitasking abilities on their resumes or at job interviews, others do it among friends and family as they talk about the things they try to get done in a day.
There is a myth that multitasking make us more productive; in reality, it drains us faster. Trying to spread our attention so thin and keep up with so many things makes us more prone to mistakes. We’re not more productive; we’re just busier, both mentally and physically, exhausting ourselves needlessly.
Try changing your focus to doing just one thing at a time. Take on each task with full awareness, one by one. When mindfully doing a task, you’re less prone to rushing, mistakes or forgetting details. You’ll find you can be more efficient with the task, and finish it without feeling worn out or tense.
When your ‘doing’ simply be there fully, with all of your attention, for each moment of it. Remember – Life is not a to-do list. It’s meant to be enjoyed!
7.’Watch’ The Mind
Through self-observation, mindfulness automatically streams into your life. The moment you realize you are not being mindful – you are mindful! You have stepped out of the continuous mental dialogue of the mind and are now the observer. You are now watching the mind instead of being swept of in its current.
Any time you watch thoughts, you are being mindful. Start listening to the voice in your head as often as you can, especially any repetitive thought patterns. As you listen, aim to do so an impartial witness. You’ll soon realize, “there is the voice, and here I am listening to it. I am not the mind.”
The key is this – Don’t believe your thoughts. Don’t take them all that seriously. Watch them, question them. In this way, thoughts and conditioned, reactive ways of living and thinking lose their hold over you. You no longer have to play them out.
8. Nothing Time
Living in a culture where idleness is frowned on has made many of us forget how to be still and do nothing at all. The mentality has been ingrained in us that screams, do, do, do! Go, go, go! The idea of sitting and doing nothing can be so foreign to us, it makes many feel uncomfortable—guilty, even.
We don’t have to be doing all the time, though. Take some nothing time each day. Even if it’s just five minutes, sit for that five minutes and do… nothing.
Sit silently in a favourite chair or in a sunny spot outside. If possible without mobile phones, beepers or other distractions near you. Become still. Bring your full awareness into the present moment and to your sensory perceptions. All that exists for you is the here and now.
You may be amazed at how pleasurable and satisfying it is just to ‘be’ – How much taking five minutes from your day will give back to your life.
9. Mindful Walking
Walking can give you a chance to spend time being mindful without taking any extra time from your day. Whether you’re walking around your neighborhood, from the car to the store or through the hallways at work, you can turn it into a meditative exercise.
Before even rising out of your chair, turn your attention to your intent to walk mindfully. Rise and allow yourself to become aware of the sensation of standing. Put your attention on your body. Pause, take one conscious breath.
Begin to move your feet. If possible you can walk slowly and deliberately to aid you in your practice. Notice how the floor feels under your feet, how your clothes feel swishing around your body. Pay attention to the details in your surroundings—the architecture of the building, the plants you are passing, and the birds singing in the trees.
Be present in your here in and now experience. Aim to be there for every step.
“Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.” ― Thich Nhat Hanh
10. Come To Your Senses
The essence of mindfulness is the ability to let go of the mind’s noisy compulsive chatter and to touch deeply the stillness that lies underneath. To be mindful is to be in a state where you’re highly alert and not ‘lost’ in thinking.
To access the state you can use your senses. Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing give your senses your fullest attention. You can turn any moment into a mindfulness practice by this method.
Whatever you sense, go into it fully. Explore the world with your senses. Visually observe details of your environment, such as the curve or a tree branch or the arch of a doorway or the play of light in the room you are in. Be fully engrossed in the looking but without mental labeling of any kind. Look with ‘bare awareness’.
As you go about your day be mindful of the feel of sun on your skin or the wind in your hair when you leave the house. Be mindful of the softness of a chair, or the smoothness of a stone. Take a breath and put your focus on what scents you’re taking in.
To be fully engaged in sense perception like this draws attention into the moment and out of all that mental noise. It brings a sense of fresh aliveness and wonder into our day.
11. Urge Surfing
Sometimes we have urges, cravings, impulses—addictions even.
These can actually be transformed into a wonderful ‘wake up call’ into mindfulness.
The next time you feel an urge, know that you don’t have to fight it; you don’t have to follow or give into it either. You can simply be there to observe it with mindful awareness.
This technique is sometimes referred to as urge surfing.
Urges ebb and flow, just like waves. With urge surfing, we bring awareness into the urge itself—how it feels in the body, in the moment. We simply acknowledge we are having an urge and we allow it to be there without getting caught up in the thoughts about it. In this way we ride it out instead of pushing the urge away or following it.
If a sensation of craving comes to you or you notice yourself having impulsive thoughts – see if you can firstly simply acknowledge their presence “oh I’m feeling a craving for chocolate”. Observe it directly, as an impartial witness.
Notice if the craving has a physical sensation in the body. Note if you are having ‘wanting’ thoughts. See them for what they are – just thoughts. Aim to remain ‘present’ for the duration of the wave which usually only lasts maximum of 30 minutes.
Each time you successfully surf an urge, you make it easier to do so next time. Urge surfing can, with practice, liberate you from addictive and compulsive behaviours while bringing the benefits of mindfulness into your life even more.
I hope these 11 tips give you as much joy as they give me! Let me know how you go by writing in the comments below. If you have any questions or maybe some tips of your own jot them down there too!