There’s a lot of talk about mindfulness these days. It shows up in everything from apps on your phone offering to guide you to books explaining the impacts of mindfulness on our brains.
A mindfulness practice offers an opportunity to slow down, focus on yourself, and be more deliberate in what you choose to say and do. It teaches us to use our breath and our body to bring ourselves into the present so we can enjoy many benefits such as reduced stress, increased balance, and an overall sense of contentment.
But sometimes, the volume of tools and information can be overwhelming and we never take that first step of simply learning about and trying a mindfulness practice. Not knowing where to begin or how to find time in a busy schedule can be the biggest challenge.
In this post, you’ll learn about a simple “everyday” approach to incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine.
So, What is Mindfulness Anyway?
There are many definitions of mindfulness, but I really like the one from Jon Kabat-Zinn. He defines mindfulness as awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
And don’t worry! You don’t need a special seat in a certain room, it doesn’t require 30 or 40 minutes each day. Instead, you can take a simple approach to mindfulness by incorporating it into your everyday activities.
Let’s break this down into a few simple steps.
One of the main goals of being more mindful is creating awareness. Our general “awareness” often consists of creating an outcome. We are aware of what we need to buy at the store, and what we need to do to plan an event or achieve our next life goal. In this context, we often lose sight of the process and get overly focused on the goal itself.
When the goal is awareness on its own, we are shifting our perspective on goals. This approach creates more space for ourselves and each other. As individuals, we will have different motivations for our desire for increased awareness. But the overall intent is to increase our awareness one day at a time, one hour at a time, one moment at a time.
Tuning In to the Present Moment
We practice creating awareness by paying attention to the moment we’re in, rather than the past or future moments of our day. This may sound simple, but it can be quite challenging.
How many times have you been in line at the grocery store or waiting for someone to meet you at a restaurant and your thoughts turn to something that happened earlier in the day, or perhaps an event you’re looking forward to this weekend? Our brains naturally do this. That’s why a “mindfulness practice” takes a lot of, well, practice!
Whether sitting on your meditation cushion or waiting in line, bring your awareness to the present. Use your senses to focus your attention. What do you see around you? What do you hear and smell? How does your body feel?
Use Your Breath to Focus
Your breath is a fantastic way to focus your attention because it’s always with you. There’s no need to change your breathing. Just allow your attention to rest on the breath. If thoughts arise about your weekend plans, simply note that to yourself, let them go, and come back to the breath.
View Mindfulness as a Choice
When we do something “on purpose”, it demonstrates our intention. This part of a mindfulness practice reminds us that this is a conscious choice we are making. We are making a decision about how we want to spend our time, and how we want to show up in the world.
Go Easy on Yourself
Being non-judgmental is often the hardest part, especially when other thoughts creep in. Suddenly we may think, “I’m not doing this right.” Regardless of what thoughts come up, you are not doing anything wrong. The intent is to let those thoughts pass and return your attention to your breath.
“When we relax about imperfection, we no longer lose our life moments in pursuit of being different and in the fear of what is wrong” – Tara Brach
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Over time, mindfulness becomes a way of being, not just an activity you do while seated on a cushion. It enables us to have more compassion for ourselves and for others.
As you gain greater awareness of your thoughts and your emotions, your approach to any situation can be more settled and grounded. You can scan a scene or situation and see what’s needed and more easily co-create with others.
And, as your mindfulness practice grows, you can also reduce mental and emotional strain. When you begin to feel stressed, simply tap into your resources. You will be able to intentionally bring your best self to any situation and make better decisions.
Over time, you’ll feel that you have more choices, and more space to decide how you want to show up, engage and respond in a way that is intentional and aligned.
Mindfulness practice provides greater clarity, patience, and creativity in all aspects of life.
Implementing it doesn’t have to be hard, but it may feel a little awkward at first. This is normal! It takes time to feel comfortable. In time, it can become second nature and the benefits will slowly reveal themselves.
I hope you’ll take time to try the tips above and find what works best for you. It can truly be amazing!