Mindfulness is probably something you’ve been hearing a lot about lately. But what is it, what can it do for you, and how do you do it? Here are the basics, and some simple ways to incorporate it into your day.
What Is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness is the art of bringing your awareness into the present moment,” says Emily Fletcher, founder of Ziva Meditation and author of Stress Less, Accomplish More. It’s similar to meditation, but with a key difference: “Mindfulness will help you get rid of stress in the now,” she explains. “Meditation heals your stress from the past.”
Mindfulness is especially relevant right now, Fletcher notes, because the average person today absorbs more information in a week than our ancestors did in their whole lives. “It’s not natural for us to know every single terrible event in the world,” she says. The fact that we can now — in one look at our iPhones — costs us our mental and physical energy.
“Mindfulness is like medicine to counteract this constant inflow of information and technology,” Fletcher says. “People are recognizing that if they implement daily mental hygiene, not only do they feel better, but they actually perform better.”
Put another way: “Most of us fall into the trap of spending too much time inside our own heads, either through worrying about something that happened in the past or fretting about an event in the future,” says John Burley, author of Mindfulness for the Mindless. “The past only exists in your memory and the future just in your imagination. The only time that isn’t inside your head is the present. It’s a present moment that you will never have again, so don’t waste it inside your head; spend more time in the present moment. Your life will become easier and more enjoyable.”
Luckily, there are some simple, straightforward ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into your day.
1. How to be mindful in the shower.
Instead of scrubbing up as quickly as you can while stressing about the busy day to come, use those few minutes for mindfulness. Feel the water hitting your skin, smell the soap or shampoo, listen to the sound of the spray hitting the tub floor. This isn’t about taking more time, but using the time you have to practice being present.
2. How to be mindful during your commute.
“Turn off the radio off in the car on the commute to work and listen to the sounds that you hear inside and outside the car,” Burley suggests. “Notice the sounds that the car makes at different speeds and on different surfaces. Notice the sounds of other cars around you in the traffic, or birds in trees as you wait to take a turn. Try to take in all the road signs that you pass; there will be many that you will see for the first time even if you’ve done the same journey hundreds of times. If you use the train as part of your commute, try to do the whole journey without looking at or touching your mobile phone. Just notice the people around you, the stations that you stop at and scenery that you pass.”
3. How to be mindful while breathing.
Try a 5-minute breathing exercise in which you focus on the sensations you feel as you’re breathing.
4. How to be mindful while having a conversation.
Most of us are not fully focused on other people when we talk with them. Choose one person or one conversation and give the other person your full attention. Listen to their voice and what they’re saying without formulating a response at the same time. Look at his or her face and note their expression. Turn your body to face them. Not only does this help you by increasing mindfulness, it also makes the other person feel truly heard, which is a gift.
5. How to be mindful while doing chores.
Pick something you do every day—washing dishes, folding clothes, cooking. Choose one thing and instead of just getting through it, pay attention. Notice the way you do it (without judgment), the order you choose to complete the task. If you’re folding clothes, note the different textures, how they smell coming out of the dryer. Don’t think about what you’re going to do next, just do what you’re doing.