Being more mindful has so many positive benefits that it makes it a great practice to introduce into your daily life. You can improve both your physical and mental health with just a few minutes a day. Practicing mindfulness is like practicing any other new skill. The more you do it, the better you become and the more positive benefits you will see.
There are a number of ways you can introduce mindfulness into your daily life. We will go through a few basic ways to practice mindfulness and give you some tips on when and where to fit it into your routine.
What is Mindfulness Practice?
Mindfulness is focusing your mind on the present moment. Being aware, on purpose, of what you are doing right now. You are not thinking of the past or planning the future. You are simply noticing your feelings and sensations relating to right now, without any judgement or criticism.
The Benefits of Practicing Mindfulness.
So, what do you get out of it? If nothing else, mindfulness will allow you to truly enjoy something. Whether you are spending time with your kids, family or friends, visiting your favourite place or having a meal, you can be present for it. So much of our lives pass us by because we are thinking instead of being. If you let your monkey mind control your life, you will miss it. Being able to enjoy your life is one of the best benefits of mindfulness practice.
As well as this, there are many ways that mindfulness practice improves your health and wellbeing. Studies show (see the resources below for links) that the practice of mindfulness can:
- Boost your immune system
- Decrease your levels of cortisol, the stress hormone
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce chronic pain
- Make measurable changes in your brain in regions associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress
- Improve your enjoyment of music
- Boost your compassion
- Decrease loneliness in the elderly
- Help treat a number of mental health problems including depression, anxiety and pain
- Improve your sleep
- Help with substance abuse and eating disorders
There are very few habits that can have such a great impact on your health with such a little effort on your part.
When to Use Mindfulness in Daily Life?
Surely with all of those benefits you are now ready to start practicing mindfulness in daily life. So, what is a good time for your practice? That depends on whether you are starting with a formal practice of mindful meditation, or an informal practice of simply bringing awareness to your everyday activities. Let’s take a look at both.
Formal: Daily Mindfulness Practice can look like this:
- First thing in the morning is best.
- Sit or lie comfortably with your back straight, close your eyes, and relax your body.
- Begin to focus on your breath as it goes in and out of your body.
- Find an anchor, a place where you feel the breath most, usually the nose, chest or stomach.
- When your mind wanders, notice it without judgement, let the thoughts go and return to your anchor.
- When finished, notice how your body feels compared to before you started.
To make it easier if you are just starting out, find a good guided meditation or app and press play. Try thisTara Brach Basic Mindful Meditation.
Informal: How to Practice Mindfulness Throughout Your Day:
- When you first wake up in the morning and before you get out of bed, take a minute to bring your attention to your body and how it feels. Take a few mindful breaths. Then get on with your day.
- When you are eating, take a few minutes to notice, smell and taste your food. Eat slowly and savor each bite, without any distractions. Think about all the people involved in getting that food to your plate and offer them gratitude.
- Take a few moments throughout your day to notice your surroundings. You can do this at home, at work, at school, on your commute, when stopped at a red light, or while you are waiting for an appointment. Even if it is a familiar place, stop and look around, and really take it in.
- Use regular activities or cues to trigger mindful breathing practice throughout your day. The phone ringing, checking the time, opening a door, or picking up keys. Any of these can be used to remind you to focus mindfully on your breath for a minute or two.
- As you are going to sleep, take a minute to focus on your breath again. Take 3 deep, even breaths before you close your eyes.
Mindfulness Practice Exercises.
These mindful awareness practices will train you to pay attention in the present moment and help you to disengage from your mental clutter and have a clear mind.
- Mindful breathing, as mentioned above, can be done anywhere and anytime you think of it. Still yourself and bring your attention to your breath.
- Tune in to your body. Take a moment to feel the sensations in and on your body when walking, or washing your hands or taking a shower. Do this at anytime during the day that you think of it.
- Mindful observation of an object. Choose something to observe with purpose. What color is it? What shape? Is there anything unusual about it? How does it feel? Something see everyday without a thought can become fascinating to look at.
- Mindfulness during routine activities, like brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or doing the housework. Purposefully notice what you are sensing, sights, smells, sound and touch.
- Be curious about your life. It might seem mundane and repetitive at times, but purposeful awareness of your day can really make something seem like new again.
You can make anything or any activity the object of your mindfulness. Try different types of mindfulness to find what works for you. The more you practice mindfulness daily, the easier it will be.
Some Tips for a Successful Mindfulness Daily Practice:
- Set an intention the night before you want to start that you will be mindful tomorrow.
- Do it first thing in the morning upon waking. Starting the day with a positive action can make a big difference in your life.
- Start small, with just a few minutes a day, and build on that over time.
- Practice mindfulness anytime you are waiting during the day. When you are stuck in traffic, waiting in line at the shops or for an appointment. Focus on your breath or notice your surroundings.
- Find your cues or triggers to mindfulness. Opening a door, picking up keys, having a tea or coffee. Use these cues to remind yourself to be mindful for a few minutes.
Once you have built a consistent mindfulness practice into your daily life you can introduce a mindful meditation practice and experiment with other types of meditation to help improve your health and mindset.
Jon Kabat-Zinn on What is Mindfulness:
Tame the Voice in Your Head: A Review of 10% Happier by Dan Harris
How to Let Go: A Review of The Untethered Soul by Michael A Singer
Scientific Studies on Mindfulness:
Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation
Self-reported mindfulness and cortisol during a Shamatha meditation retreat
Localized attention to body sensations enables subsequent gains in emotional and cognitive regulation by enhancing sensory information processing in the brain
Mindfulness meditation training changes brain structure in 8 weeks
Mindfulness, attention, and flow during music listening
Can Meditation Make You a More Compassionate Person?
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction training reduces loneliness and pro-inflammatory gene expression in older adults
Meditation may help with anxiety, depression and pain
Effects of mindful-attention and compassion meditation training on amygdala response to emotional stimuli in an ordinary, non-meditative state
Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness-based stress reduction for prehypertension
Effects of Mindfulness on Psychological Health: A Review of Empirical Studies
The Effects of mindfulness meditation training on anticipatory alpha modulation in primary somatosensory cortex
Effects of mindfulness-based stress reduction on medical and premedical students