Mindfulness in Everyday Life
You can practice being mindful in your day-to-day life while you do different things. This is called "informal" mindfulness practice. Informal practice means bringing a present-focused mindful awareness to yourself and your environment during the flow of daily life. This is different than formal practice which involves doing a formal mindfulness meditation or mindful yoga practice as your primary activity for dedicated period of time. Informal practice may involve things like: 1) observing your breath go in and out as you wait in traffic, 2) paying attention to the sensations in your body you experience while doing things like taking a shower or brushing your teeth, 3) eating slowly and paying full attention to how your food tastes, 4) paying attention to the sensations in your feet as you walk to class, 5) taking a brief moment to pause and check in with thoughts and emotions that are present throughout the day.
Before you read about different informal mindfulness practices, it is important to understand that you DO NOT always need to be completely focused on what you are doing in the present moment. Mindfulness is not a competition. There is no one keeping score. It is perfectly okay to be thinking about a lot of things in your head while doing things if that is what you CHOOSE to do. The key is to CHOOSE where you want to place your attention and to be AWARE that you are thinking about the past or the future, instead of letting your thoughts run your life without you being aware of it. If you are taking a shower and want to think about the past, then go ahead and do so. If you are eating a meal and there is something in the future that is important and you need to think about it, then go ahead and do so. On the other hand, if you find it helpful or pleasurable to bring a present-focused attention to sensations you experience while showering or eating, then go ahead and do so. As noted, the key is to CHOOSE when you want to be mindful and learn when mindfulness of everyday activities works for you best.
Here are some complete examples of mindfulness practices in everyday life:
1) Mindfulness In Your Morning Routine
- Instead of thinking about or planning out the rest of your day during your morning routine, practice being present and focusing on what you are doing in the present moment.
- As you brush your teeth, shower, etc. notice sounds, smells, sights, tastes, touch, and your movement. Bring an attitude of curiosity to what is going on.
- If you mind wanders or your mind is busy with thoughts, that's okay.
- Acknowledge your thoughts, let them be, and bring your attention back to your morning activities.
- Your mind may wander again and again. Practice being patient with yourself and guide your attention back to your morning activities again and again.
2) Mindfulness of Chores
- Sometimes chores are a drag. Instead of rushing through the chore, take this opportunity to practice mindfulness.
- Whether it is washing the dishes, ironing your clothes, sweeping the floor, etc., practice bringing a curious awareness to what you are doing. Notice sounds, smells, sights, tastes, touch, and your movement.
- If you get bored or frustrated, simply notice this, and gently bring your attention back to you what you are doing.
- Your mind may wander again and again. Practice being patient with yourself and guide your attention back to your chores again and again.
3) Mindfulness of Eating
- Often times we rush through eating without really being aware of how our foods looks, tastes, smells, and feels. When you are eating, take moments to be mindful of your food. You can practice one mindful bite or practice a mindful meal.
- Try to practice taking at least one mindful bite each day.
- First take a good look at your food. What can you see?
- Then slowly bring the food to your nose and smell it.
- Depending on the type of food, experiment with touching the food too.
- Then slowly place the food in your mouth. Before chewing just notice how the food feels in your mouth.
- If you find your mind wandering or you are judging yourself, that's okay.
- Just notice whenever you mind wanders and gently bring your attention to your food.
- With awareness, begin chewing. Notice how you chew. Notice how the food tastes as you chew it more and more.
- With awareness, swallow the food. Notice what it feels like to swallow.
- Take moment to notice how you feel overall after taking a mindful bite.
- Take another mindful bite if you want!
4) Mindful Walking
- We often walk from one place to another without really being aware of walking itself. Often we are just focused on where we are going.
- You can experiment with practicing being mindful whenever you are walking. You can practice being mindful of your walking whether you are walking slow or fast.
- Notice how the pressure on your feet changes as you walk.
- Notice and be curious about how you actually walk. How does your body move?
- Notice what sensations arise your body as you walk? What muscles are working?
- Your mind may wander again and again. Practice being patient with yourself and guide your attention back to the process of walking again and again.
5) Mindfulness of Nature
- Whenever you are outside, you can practice being mindful of nature.
- Practice intentionally bringing a curious awareness to your surroundings.
- What do you notice? What colors and shapes are present?
- Look up at the sky. Are there any clouds? What are their shape?
6) Mindful Listening
- Sometimes when we are in a conversation with others, we are not really listening but are instead thinking about other things such as what we are going to say next.
- Whenever you are in a conversation with someone, you can practice being mindful and really listening to what this person is saying.
- If you notice you mind wandering, just acknowledge this and gently bring your attention back to what the other person is saying.