A Mind Workout for the Meditation Challenged
You know how people say you can bring more fitness to your life by adding in a few simple actions to your daily activities? Like taking the stairs, instead of the elevator. Parking farther away so you walk more. Walking to your co-worker’s office rather than emailing him. Standing at your desk instead of sitting. Those moments of activity can add up over time and have a positive impact on your overall health and well-being.
Well, you can do similarly with mindfulness practices as well. Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment, noticing your thoughts, feelings and body sensations without judgment. It’s an excellent way of building your resilience, improving your capacity for concentration and focus, minimizing your sense of depression and anxiety, helping you to manage your difficult feelings and improving your sense of connection in your relationships.
One of the best ways to experience the most impactful benefits of mindfulness is to formally practice every day for 45 minutes or so with meditation or guided mindfulness practices (like those you can find in the Mindfulness App – see here for more information about how to use it).
But don’t let the formalness of that time expectation scare you off. You can still benefit a great deal from Informal ways to practice mindfulness, even if you don’t have an hour a day to spend meditating. There are many opportunities throughout the day when you are doing what you’re already doing, that if you took a moment to pay attention in a curious and open way, these would build up to a rich practice of mindful living. Consider these ways as suggestions for how to work out the mind and build up your mindfulness muscle, which will contribute to stronger emotional well-being.
Here’s a list of informal mindfulness practices that you can try out or use as an idea generator to create your own.
- Notice patterns on the rug
- Listen to sounds
- Really look at people’s faces
- Savor the sensations in the shower
- Practice paying attention to the breath when you’re calm or paying attention to the CALM when you’re breathing (check in with your Chest, Arms, Legs and Mind, and notice what’s going on in each of those spots, several times throughout the day)
- Wash the dishes paying attention to every sensation.
- Walk mindfully – be aware of walking, footsteps, sounds, all of your senses, etc.
- Other ways to walk mindfully include walking as quietly as you can, or as if you were balancing a bucket of water on your head, or like a favorite animal
- Hit the button on the elevator and wait with curiosity and attention to all the details around you.
- Wait at a stop light to cross the street or in a grocery store line and count your breaths
- Mindful eating – really savor the look, smell, texture, taste and even sound of each bite you eat
- Focus on sensations – How many of your senses can you track when you’re in the middle of doing something?
- Do 7-11 breaths (Breathe in to the count of seven, and breathe out to the count of 11. Having a longer exhale allows your physiology to slow down. This breath is open and available to you 24 hours a day!)
- Wait for your coffee to brew and pay attention to the how the sounds and smells make you feel.
- Greet the day when you wake up (‘I wake at dawn and give thanks for another day of living and loving’)
- Notice where your mind goes when you follow distractions – especially when on tech
- Watch a show mindfully – notice the colors of the clothing or the set; notice the actors’ movements and body language; listen to the different voice tones.
- Do one thing at a time for an hour
- Just drink coffee or tea without getting on your phone
- Look at where the clouds meet the tops of the trees as you walk
- Feel the muscles move in your face as you talk
- Practice three R’s (rest, recognize and return) with your attention
- Stop every now and then and ask yourself ‘What am I doing and how do I know I’m doing it?’
- 5-4-3-2-1 practice (notice slowly and fully, five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can touch or feel, two things you can taste or smell, and finally let your whole body and all of your senses take in one full, deep, long and slow whole body breath.)
- Be aware of your body in motion – see what it feels like to go from sitting to standing; tune into your movements.
- Do things with your opposite hand (write, brush your teeth, eat, etc) and notice how that feels.
- How long can you suck on a hard candy or lollipop before you bite?
Mindfulness is cheap and portable. It’s about checking in to what’s going on right here right now; and not about checking out, through distractions. It is simple, and empowering, and is about single-tasking. It wakes us up to the life we are living and makes it possible for us to be more present in our own lives. Try some informal mindfulness and see what you notice.
I’d love to hear from you. What kinds of informal mindfulness practices do you already do, or feel you can incorporate more of into your life? What do you notice when you pay more attention to the present moment?
If you or someone you love is having difficulty with being in the moment or feels overwhelmed with worries about the future or sadness from the past, please call me for a therapy appointment.
For more ideas on how to bring more calm and less worry into your life, click here for a free email course on Mindfulness.