Mindfulness is all the rage these days, and with good reason. Practicing mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. A new study from the University of Oxford even found that mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) is as effective as antidepressants in preventing depression relapses.
What is Mindfulness?
What may at first seem like senseless hippie jargon is actually quite simple--mindfulness teaches an individual to observe his or her own behavior and thought process totally devoid of judgment. Individuals acknowledge their feelings and thoughts, then release them.
Mindfulness teaches individuals to be present in and embrace the moments of life, rather than be suffocated by the constant self-criticism and anxiety that so often plagues our minds.
12 Mindfulness Hacks in 24 Hours
Practicing mindfulness isn't just for the Zen Buddhists, sitting in lotus flower positions on the tops of snow-capped mountains. In fact, you can practice numerous mindfulness techniques in a single day.
In the Morning
1. Start a Mindful Morning Routine. When waking up in the AM, instead of going about business as usual and thinking ahead about the upcoming meetings, reports, and stresses of the day ahead, give attention to the physical elements of your morning routine. Feel the water on your skin when you shower, smell the shampoo and soap, notice how your brush feels as it smooths your hair, and hear the sound your toothbrush makes rubbing against your teeth.
2. Coffee Concentration. Buddhist monks have a form of meditation involving a tea ceremony, in which monks devote utmost concentration to every aspect of the tea. You can do this with your own morning drink. Listen to the sounds of your coffee maker at it brews your drink and the smell the aroma. Study the color of your coffee, watching how it changes when you add milk or cream. Feel the warmth of the mug in your hands. Then, finally, study the taste in measured sips. Eating and drinking are everyday practices we often take for granted, but they can easily become mindfulness exercises that can be utilized throughout the day.
3. Exercise to Connect With Body. Exercise presents another opportunity for mindfulness, as you focus on your breathing, your form, and your body's movement. If you're running, listen to the pounding sound of your feet on the pavement. If you're lifting weights, feel the cool metal bar in your hands. Don't let negative thoughts and distractions slip in.
Afternoon Moments of Zen
4. Sketch a Doodle. Grab a notepad and pencil, find a subject, and get sketching. Don't write this one off believing yourself to have no artistic talent. Anyone (yes, really, truly anyone) can draw. It only takes practice. Choosing a subject is simple--you can even draw the Starbucks cup sitting on your desk.
Begin drawing by choosing a point on your subject to start drawing from. Then, follow the lines of the object with your eyes and pencil. Study the subtle indentations, the gentle curves, and the shadows cast by the cup. Sketching is a great study in mindfulness, requiring concentration and awareness. Plus, your sketch can be as simple or as detailed as you'd like, serving as a great short or long break from constant screen time.
5. Take Time to Stretch. Take a mid-day break from the office and step outside to do some basic stretching. Stretching is good for maintaining a healthy body, and taking the opportunity to study how your muscles move and feel is a great opportunity for mindfulness.
6. A Few Minutes of Deep Breathing. Focused breathing is an often-cited mantra of meditation pros and yogis, and not without reason. We breathe constantly, but are almost always unconscious of its activity. Taking the time to focus on breathing helps individuals find connection with their bodies.
Try this almost laughably simple breathing exercise: Take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, breathing in air from your belly rather than your chest. Pause a moment, holding in your breath, before letting the air out slowly through your mouth. It's that simple, just rinse and repeat!
7. Ongoing Check-Ins. Pause regularly throughout the day and assess the state of your body and mind. How is your posture? Are you clenching your jaw? Are you thirsty? You may be surprised what you learn about yourself through these regular check-ins. Try to practice these mini check-ins every hour or so. Some individuals use periodic vibrating smart watch alarms to serve as quick reminders to collect themselves and refocus.
In The Evening
8. Take Out the Ear Buds. When walking home from work or jumping on a bus, avoid the temptation to put in your ear buds. Instead, focus on what is happening around you. Hear the birds singing, listen to the children playing on the nearby jungle gym, and be fully present.
9. Meditative Mind Dump. Dedicate 10-15 minutes to sitting down with just a pen and a pad of paper. Use this time to write out any and all thoughts that are swirling about in your mind. Not only will writing down your thoughts help clear your mind and relieve built-up stress, but you also may stumble upon some genius ideas that were previously buried.
10. Clear Mind (And Dishes) With Chores. Arriving home to be greeted by mountains of dirty dishes is far from fun. Instead of attacking your dishes, laundry, and garbage duties with dread, turn those burdensome chores into mindfulness exercises. Feel the water on your hands (or gloves) and study the texture of the sponge as you go about cleaning dishes. Take care to concentrate on the shape and weight of the plates, bowls, and utensils as you clean them.
11. Get Lost In The Music. Music can be another handy tool for practicing mindfulness as part of your everyday routine. Ideally, choose a song you've never heard before and hit play. Avoid letting your mind drift into thoughts about the song's genre, artist, and lyrical meaning. Instead, simply listen with attention to the song, following the beats and crescendos while keeping your mind quiet.
12. Try A Guided Meditation. As the mindfulness movement grows in popularity, more apps and resources are becoming available to aid you in your journey. Check out popular apps like Headspace and Calm. You may also try listening one of the many guided meditation videos on YouTube, which are especially calming when you're getting ready to power down before bed.
What mindfulness tactics do you employ in your average day?