5 Unexpected Ways to Practice Mindfulness Every Day
When many of us think of “mindfulness” we automatically picture a person (often a woman) in a meditative, cross-legged pose with back straight, hands in prayer—and maybe the sounds of soothing music in the background.
Certainly this is one way to do it, but it might surprise you to know that it’s possible to practice mindfulness while doing many everyday activities—it just takes a bit more awareness. Before we reveal how to incorporate it into your daily routine, we need to know what exactly mindfulness is.
What Is Mindfulness?
A simple definition of mindfulness is “conscious awareness of the present moment.” A more complete definition is “nonjudgmental awareness of your thoughts, feelings, or experiences from moment to moment.”
The Many Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindful awareness and meditation have been shown to reduce blood pressure, boost immune function, enhance mood, and even change brain function.1,2,3 Stress relief is perhaps the most important benefit, since so many ailments—from asthma, to depression, to anxiety—can be triggered or worsened by chronic stress.
In a study published in Perspectives on Psychological Science researchers identified four aspects of mindfulness:
- Attention regulation
- Body awareness
- Emotion regulation
Keep these things in mind as you practice mindfulness:
- Notice: Notice your surroundings and what you’re doing with an open mind; try not to judge, label, or analyze.
- Breathe: Wandering thoughts can lead to stress that we’re not consciously aware of, causing us to tense our muscles and take shallower breaths; if you find your mind wandering and notice tension, redirect your attention and focus on your breath.
- Sense: Use your senses fully—actively look, smell, taste, feel, and/or listen.
- Manage: When nagging or intrusive thoughts enter your head, whether it’s a phone call you need to make or a big decision that’s weighing down on you, have a strategy for managing those thoughts and the feelings they bring on. Writing thoughts down is one technique—once you’ve recorded the thought you can let it go and relax, knowing you’ll get back to it later.
- Accept: Don’t judge yourself for wandering thoughts or for not being “mindful enough.” Try to practice mindfulness often, but let it be what it will be.
Incorporating Mindfulness Into Everyday Activities
Without further ado, here are five unexpected activities during which we can practice mindfulness every day.
#5: Baking/Cooking: The process of baking a loaf of bread—measuring the ingredients, carefully making the dough and kneading it—or whipping up a delicious meal, is a sensory experience that you can use to help you focus on the present moment and let go of nagging thoughts and worries.
#4: Exercising: This is you-time all the way. Whether you love a high-impact aerobic workout, meditative yoga, or jogging on a treadmill, exercise is a great time to focus on the present moment, practice breath control, and let go of intrusive thoughts.
#3: Eating: Mindful eating is one of the best ways we can be in the present moment and really enjoy the sensory experience. Notice how your food smells, tastes, feels in your mouth, and sounds. Eat slowly, chew thoroughly, and savor each bite.
#2: Doing Kegels: Much like we need to work the muscles we can see—those of our back, shoulders, arms, legs, and abs—we need to work the ones we can’t see. Every woman can benefit from pelvic floor (Kegel) exercises, regardless of age or stage of life, but especially after pregnancy, childbirth, or during/after menopause. Doing Kegel exercises (on your own, or better yet, with a Kegel biofeedback device like PeriCoach) requires focused-concentration and is a good time to practice breathing techniques.
#1: Housecleaning: Most of the time housecleaning is just a chore to get through, yet the repetitive motion of the mop or vacuum cleaner, or the calming sound of warm water as you’re doing dishes can provide the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness (provided there are no screaming kids in the background!); practice breath control, let go of judgment, and take in the sensory experience.
Dedicating time each day or even each week to a session of mindfulness meditation may seem impossible, especially for busy working moms. Practicing self-awareness, emotion control, and body awareness during everyday activities can provide similar benefits—and you’re worth it!