Mindfulness is the idea that you spend as much time as possible living in the now. You’re not chewing on thoughts from the past and you’re not obsessed with planning for the future. Life can only truly be lived in the present moment because you can’t change the past and you can’t predict what will happen in the future.
However, it’s sometimes difficult to live in the present because the mind is a powerful machine that naturally wants to think. By building awareness of the present moment through your daily activities, you can begin to expand the amount of time spent enjoying this moment.
1. Morning Meditation
Each morning set your alarm to wake you up for a short morning meditation. Sit up on a pillow, allow the knees to drop below the hips, and begin to follow your breath. When you get carried away by your thoughts, just notice and come back to the breath. Repeat this practice over and over again. If you like, add a short meditation at the end of the day as well.
2. Walking Meditation
Add mindfulness to the middle of the work day with a short walking meditation. Inhale on one step and exhale on the next. Feel the ground beneath. Soften your entire body, including your jaw, forehead, and shoulders. Notice everything you can about the world around you, including sights, sounds, and smells.
3. Listen Well
When you’re having a conversation, listen intently to what the person you’re talking to is saying. Notice those moments when you’re preparing your response instead of truly listening. Try your very best to stay present with the person you’re talking to; you’ll notice it often means listening more and talking less.
4. Practice Detachment
One reason why we constantly get caught up in the daily cycle of thoughts is because we attach ideas to our thoughts.
Say, for example, you’re running down the road and someone blocks your side of the walkway. Not only do you feel anger, you run through a world of thoughts about what a selfish person the walkway blocker is. Then you get mad at yourself for being so bothered. By dinnertime you’re telling your partner as you continue to chew on the thought. Using detachment, you’re able to mindfully notice the emotion of anger that comes up in the present moment and then let it go.
5. Chew Slowly
When you’re eating a meal, chew slowly and truly taste the food that you’re eating. Take your time noticing its texture and smell. Swallow completely before taking another bite. And for bonus points, put your fork down between bites.
6. Practice Yoga
Yoga (especially in its slower forms) allows you to spend more time in the present moment. It’s less about the poses and more about following your breath as you align breath to movement. Once your breath is obscured, you know you’ve gone too far and need to ease up a bit.
7. Try Pranayama
Pranayama—or breath work—slows down the nervous system dramatically. Start and end your day with deep-breathing techniques. Three-part breathing is a great introduction to deep breathing. Begin by breathing into the belly and then allowing the breath to expand to the ribs and chest. Slowly exhale the breath and continue the process for five minutes.
8. Avoid Multi-Tasking
Multi-tasking is the enemy of living mindfully because it scatters the thoughts. Focus on one task at a time. If you get overwhelmed by the number of tasks that you need to accomplish, start your day by making a list and then checking tasks off as you go.
9. Sing Along
Music has an amazing ability to bring us into the present moment. When you feel like your mind is beginning to jump from thought to thought, take a few minutes to pull away and turn on your favorite tune. If you’re really feeling stressed, feel free to dance around the room as well.
10. Write It Down
Sometimes your thoughts can be overwhelming and focusing can seem difficult. This is a good opportunity to consider brain dumping, or dumping your thoughts onto a sheet of paper. Reducing the heaviness of your thoughts can bring you back into the present moment.
Mindfulness doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, it’s a lifelong endeavor that requires everyday practice. But there’s no greater benefit than the ability to live and enjoy your life in the present moment.