Before we get to how mindfulness can change your day, we need to know what mindfulness is. It’s as simple as this: Mindfulness is being fully conscious in the current moment, observing thoughts, feelings, and sensations, and not being overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you; not worrying about what happened in the past or about what comes next.
Unlike meditation where you try to clear your mind, mindfulness is a deliberate focus on your surroundings or activities.
Here is a great example of being mindful (with a bit of a modern-day twist) from Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk, peace activist, author, poet, and teacher. After dinner, you want to get comfy and watch your favorite streaming TV series. But the dishes have to be washed. You begrudgingly fill the sink with soap and water and wash the dishes to get that chore out of the way. But while you are washing the dishes, you aren’t really “alive” if you are thinking about what comes next. The truth is, if you can’t think about washing the dishes, you won’t be able to focus on the show either. Which, according to Thich Nhat Hahn, renders you “incapable of actually living one minute of life”.
When you are consciously aware of your thoughts in the present moment—no matter what you are doing—you can rewire your brain by strengthening the neuron connections, which helps bring about positive changes associated with memory, sense of self, empathy, and even stress.
Here are 9 simple ways that you can practice mindfulness throughout the day and change it for the better!
Arise with Feelings
As soon as you open your eyes in the morning, experience your senses. Feel the pillowcase against your cheek. Listen to the sounds of birds chirping or children laughing. Look toward a window and take in the light while you allow yourself to come to life.
Don’t hurry through that first cup of coffee or tea. Inhale the aromas of the beans or leaves and let the steam warm your face before you ever take a sip. Notice the warmth on your tongue and the back of your throat as you swallow.
Take a Scentsational Shower
The shower is the perfect place to practice mindfulness. Shut your eyes and notice how the warm water feels against your skin, how the fragrances from your soap and shampoo smell, and how the steam rises to the top of the shower to create a cloud.
Instead of letting a morning commute to the office stress you out, pay attention to the small details that usually go unnoticed to help you pass the time mindfully. Take note of the air conditioning or heat and how it feels against your face and your hands. Sense the fabric of the seat and steering wheel against your skin and the sound of the hum of the engine as you make your way along your favorite route.
Observe Your Office
Before you step into your office or cubicle, take a look at your surroundings. Is there something new you’ve never considered about your office like the fabric on your chair, the color of the window treatments, a family photo on your desk that gets overlooked?
Whether you eat lunch with colleagues or alone, slowly enjoy the different flavors of your food, taking account of all the flavors in each bite. Listen and participate with intent to the conversations and see if you can come up with a trait that you like about each one of your coworkers.
There is no better way to end a workday than a mindful exercise class like yoga, which has been shown to reduce your body’s stress response. It’s an opportunity to connect your mind and body and focus on each breath, pose, and movement of the body.
Look to the Sky
When watching the sunset or the stars in the sky, pay attention to the colors, the shapes of clouds, the brightest star, and the change in air temperature. Think about all the possibilities that exist beyond your eyesight.
Take in as you Turn In
As you prepare to go to sleep at the end of the day, make yourself comfortable in bed, close your eyes and lay in silence. Take inventory of what you hear: A ceiling fan running? Bull frogs croaking outside? Muffled sound of children talking? Your feet rustling against the sheets?
Mindfulness isn’t difficult and it doesn’t require you to carve out an hour a day for mediation. When you focus on what’s happening in the present, you’ll be capable of living every minute of life.
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