What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation. The art of mindfulness is about learning to be simultaneously self-aware and aware of your surroundings. Everyone should learn how to practice mindfulness to both enhance your daily life and help brighten your day when you are feeling down. It is one of the most important tools you can add to your mental health ‘toolbox.’ We can apply mindfulness throughout our daily lives.
How to practice mindfulness
Mindfulness can be broken into a few basic components then applied to all kinds of your daily life.
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- First you want to choose a primary focus; usually, breath but the connection with your body and the ground is another common focus.
- Next tune into your body and how you feel.
- Finally, focus on your senses and surroundings.
This will change somewhat depending on your activity. Practicing mindfulness is easy, but like any meditation exercise, remember it is a practice so be kind to yourself and simply return to your chosen focus when you get distracted and make mistakes.
Benefits of mindfulness
Everyone can benefit from mindfulness meditation activities, and you only need to practice a few minutes a day to reap the benefits. One study found that the more people meditated, the greater the benefits, indicating that it has cumulative effects over time. So the more time you dedicate to it now, the more you will benefit in the future. You can start to feel the benefits immediately, but like a muscle, the more you practice, the stronger you get.
- Reduces stress
- Improves general health
- Reduces depression
- Enhances memory and academic achievement
- Reduces the chance of burnout
- Helps people suffering from PTSD
- Reduces anxiety
- Eases symptoms of aching muscles or joints
- May improve cardiovascular health
Five ways to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life:
I love mindful walking because you can do it anywhere, around the house, garden, neighborhood, park, office, literally everywhere.
- Firstly, Just focus on feeling the ground beneath you. Now focus on each step. Feel how your feet move against the ground. Heel first then toes. Is the ground soft or hard? Are you walking on grass or sand? Notice the grounding sensation that having your feet on the ground has.
- Now focus on the sounds around you. There might be birds chirping, traffic driving past, trees swaying in the wind, lawnmowers humming. Listen carefully to what you hear. Is there anything in the far distance you didn’t notice at first?
- Feel the breeze against your skin and in your hair. What sensations does it create? Warm, crisp, refreshing, chilling?
- Finally, breathe. In and out through your nose and out your mouth. What can you smell? Remember to stop and smell the flowers you come by. Feel the fresh air while you breathe in and out.
Anytime you find yourself getting distracted, move back to feeling the ground beneath your feet. Remember to relax and observe.
In our busy lives, we often end up shoving food into our faces while we race out the door or run around at lunchtime trying to get errands done. If you have read Mireille Guiliano’s French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure you will be familiar with mindful eating. Though she doesn’t call her style of eating mindful eating, it is very similar.
Mindful eating is about slowing down to savor the presentation, scents, and flavors of your meal. It’s about enjoying every bite to the fullest. Food can be one of the most pleasurable daily activities. It fuels us, it can enhance our energy levels, and if we’re honest here, it is just downright fun.
You owe it to your loved ones as well as yourself to know and pursue your pleasures.”
― Mireille Guiliano, French Women Don’t Get Fat: The Secret of Eating for Pleasure
2. Mindful eating and weight loss
Mindful eating also helps us to become more aware of what we are eating and how much we are eating. If you want to enjoy food more, lose weight and feel healthier than mindful eating is for you! Yes, I did say lose weight. This depends on what and how you eat but typically when we eat too fast we overeat. It takes a little time for our stomachs to register we are full. When we slow our eating we allow time for our brains to register we are full so we eat less.
- Mindful eating is simple, just remember to slow down and enjoy your meals.
- Before you dig in, notice the presentation, the colors, ingredients, and scents.
- Take one bite at a time and note the taste and texture. Is it smooth or crunchy? Does it melt in your mouth? Sweet or savory?
Before you take your next bite note how you feel. Warm, refreshed, satisfied, hungry, full?
- Every time you catch yourself getting distracted and eating too quickly pause, take a break and breathe for a moment. Go back to noticing your food and how you feel.
As with all mindfulness practices, remember to be patient with yourself, relax, observe & enjoy the pleasures of eating.
This is an excellent chance to practice mindfulness. You have some time to yourself without anyone disturbing you.
- First, take a few deep breaths and notice how the water feels on your skin. Is it steamy or refreshing?
- Showering and bathing is a very sensual time. What does the soap smell like? Listen to the water splashing or swishing around you. Tune in and enjoy the peace.
- When you get out, stay in the zone. Notice how the fluffy towel feels.
Take a moment to pamper yourself with body brushing &/or a full-body moisturizer.
As well as practicing this for a couple of minutes every time you wash you can also set aside self-care time for a more extended bath. Light some candles, add some bath salts and bubble bath, brew your favorite herbal tea, put on some soothing music, breathe and relax.
4. While waiting in line
Waiting in line can be one of the more monotonous parts of the day. Waiting in line to buy your groceries, waiting to bank a cheque, waiting in line at the clothing store. Why not turn it into a chance to get some meditation practice in?
- Take a moment to focus on your breath, slow down and clear your mind. Breathe in and out through your nose. Feel your stomach and chest expand and contract with your breath.
- Now just like in the walking mindfulness practice tune in to feel the grounding sensation of your feet connecting with the ground.
- Pay attention to your surroundings. Notice any sounds or smells? What is the temperature like? Is there a breeze? How is the lighting in the room?
- Then when you are next start to bring your breath back to normal. You will find the time has passed by and instead of feeling bored you feel refreshed.
5. During household chores
Just like waiting in line this can be a monotonous task, or you can turn it into a moment of peace. Your focus will depend on what you are doing but as we have discussed earlier take a moment to slow down and focus on your breathing. Then tune into your surroundings, notice the physical sensations you are experiencing, your movement, the temperature, the breeze and anything else you notice. Next pay attention to the sounds and smells of your environment.
When you are ready to come out of your heightened state of focus reverse the process. Focus on your surroundings, then go back to focusing on your breath for a few moments. At the end of any mindfulness practice always remember to note how you are feeling now compared to before you started.