How you can integrate mindfulness into your everyday life
29th September 2017
By Grace Kouvelis
Surely by now, you have realised that mindfulness has been the ‘flavour of the month’ for the last few years. But what you may not know is how flexible and easy it is to integrate into our daily lives. It’s about being present in the moment – but that doesn’t mean you have to be sitting on a yoga mat, with your eyes closed.
The misconception of mindfulness practice
Although the benefits are far stretching and widely acknowledged, many people may be disinterested to pick up the practice due to false beliefs of what it actually entails. There still exists a preconception (for some) that mindfulness is time consuming, limited to a certain time or place or that you have to be in a complete state of silence. Or maybe you believe it’s all about the “ommm’s” with incense burning and your legs crossed. Although this may suit and help some people to reach a state of mindfulness, it doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
Mindfulness can – and should – be a part of our everyday lives. This may sound complicated, but in this way, with practise and patience, you will start to become more at ease and relaxed in how you carry out your daily routine. And as mentioned, this doesn’t mean that we have to put a dedicated 30 odd minutes aside, but rather, we can carry on with our day…in a more mindful manner!
How to be mindful in everyday tasks
Mindfulness doesn’t need to necessarily be a reactive way to deal with stress and a busy lifestyle, but rather it should be a proactive way to stay focused, calm and collected. Daily activities and tasks where your mind tends to wander are a great opportunity to try and focus your thoughts and be present.
It is an important life lesson to step back and appreciate the moment, clear your mind, centre your thoughts – not ignoring thoughts and feelings, but allowing them to come and go, freeing your mind from angst and noise.
Some important tips to consider:
Essentially, we want to build mindfulness into our routine activities. Great examples include while you are waking up, showering, commuting, waiting for the lift, drinking your coffee, to name a few. [Note, a more detailed example is provided below.]
Keep it short and sweet: these daily mindfulness practices don’t need to be X-amount of minutes long every day. What is important to remember is that it is better to take 3 deep breaths every day rather than meditate for 10 minutes only every other week. It can be a simple moment, just taking notice of a particular sensation, e.g. ask yourself, “Is there tension in my shoulders?”
Notice 3 things around you. One great, easy way to try and become mindful, is to take conscious note of 3 colours around you, or 3 sounds around you. Savour this perception for a few moments before carrying on with the task in front of you.
Alternatively, notice 3 things about yourself. Instead of taking note of what’s around you, focus your thoughts for a moment on how you are feeling. Ask yourself, ‘What does my shirt feel like against my chest?” “Am I breathing softly…or deeply?”
Be gentle: it will take time and patience to effectively integrate mindfulness into your everyday life. Be nice to yourself, but supportive of your efforts and encourage your progress. Do not harshly judge or criticise yourself.
An example: Mindful cooking
For many, cooking can become a stressful task. Maybe you are exhausted by the time you have to cook. Or maybe you associate it as a chore. Although, not everyone will feel this way about cooking, adopting a mindful cooking approach will serve you many benefits regardless.
1. Decide what you are going to cook. If you are boiling, grilling or frying, then it is a great opportunity to remain involved, yet focused as you stir, flip, fry. Remember it is a good idea to remove any distractions – turn off your phone, don’t put the TV on.
2. As you cut up your ingredients, take notice of the different shapes and sizes. Are you cutting in a rhythmic pattern?
3. Begin cooking – place the water on the heat or pour the oil in the pan. Add you first ingredients. Take a moment to soak up the smells and sensations that rise. Can you notice the aromatics starting to develop their flavoursome essence?
4. As you start to add more ingredients, notice how each one adds something new to the overall fragrance, colour and appeal of the dish. If your mind wanders, bring it slowly back to the different sensations. What is the most prominent smell? Are your ingredients sizzling away in the pan? Or can you notice the water bubbling as you bring it to the boil?
5. Bring your attention to your mood. How do you feel? Do you feel calm? Is the heat on the stove too much? Are you a bit anxious, maybe trying to perfect every element to your dish? If you are a bit stressed – whether that is due to work, personal issues or the current cook – take a deep breath. Then bring your focus back to the dish you are creating.
6. Don’t fight any incoming thoughts. Just quickly acknowledge them, but then bring your attention back to the fragrances enhancing in your kitchen.
7. As you continue with your cook, take note of how your mind behaves. Is it comfortable being in the moment? Or does it tend to run off with reflective thoughts of the past or anxious thoughts for what’s ahead? Starting to become aware of how your mind works will assist you in mastering mindfulness techniques. With practise, turning an everyday activity such as cooking, into a mindfulness activity will become easier, allowing you to have a more serene experience.
Remember, you can apply these same principles and techniques to basically any activity. The main thing to remember is to centre your thoughts, try and remove any distractions and to focus calmly on the task at hand. By doing so, not only will you feel calmer and more at ease, but you will actually deepen your experience of that activity.