I’ve once heard it said that we are all in two places at any given moment- that we are either here-and-now in the present moment, or nowhere, lost in our thoughts in some made up place.
We’ve all felt the experience of being lost in thought, unable to feel really grounded in the present moment. On the other side of the coin, we’ve all experienced those magnificent moments when we were truly present and awake to the beauty of life, unencumbered by impeding thoughts.
It’s important to remember that as humans we will never be able to stop our thoughts, but through practice and discipline, we can train ourselves to be more present and mindful in each and every moment.
Consider that your life is happening right here, right now, even as you read this. Life is literally happening all the time, from the big moments to the small ones, the exhilarating to the mundane, the painful to the joyful. All of it is right here, right now.
Thinking, formulating, and planning for the future definitely serves its purpose, and is important. Still, there are times when being too much in our head and lost in thought is harmful to our mental health. By practicing the art of mindfulness, we can learn to differentiate between the two, and learn to experience more presence as an ordinary way of living.
Below are 10 ways in which I believe we can practice the art of mindfulness:
1. Walking - Finding Your Feet & Opening Your Eyes
While walking, I find myself especially prone to drift off into thought, whether it be about the future or the past. Through practice, I’ve found walking can be a great time to practice mindfulness. Simply noticing the sensation of your feet making contact with the floor while walking, jogging, or running will instantly ground you in the present moment and help get you into your body. Also, really observing and looking at your environment with a fresh set of eyes, instead of having your face stuffed in your phone can help you appreciate the beauty of the present moment.
2. Enjoying Your Food
How often do we treat food as another thing to “do”? Instead of taking time and really being where we’re at and enjoying the meal we are so fortunate to eat, we often take our food for granted, scarf down our food while being immersed in an another activity. The next time you eat something, whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a small snack, I encourage you to take the time to really enjoy and be mindful to the meal in front of you. While eating, focus on really chewing and tuning into all of the sensations, flavors, and textures of your food.
Similar to #2, drinking has become another part of our lives that we put on autopilot. The next time you take a sip of your water or coffee, see if you can really focus on the taste and temperature of the liquid. Is it hot? Is it cool? Enjoying a sip of a nice refreshing drink is another example of the practice of mindfulness.
4. Conversing & Interacting with Others
This one is interesting. In our daily interactions, are we really present to the person in front of you? Are we listening with everything you’ve got to understand? Or instead, are we listening with an answer or auto response already in our head?
How often do you not notice little things about the person in front of you, simply because you are so caught up in your own head? Try to take notice of their eye color or distinct facial features, and maybe notice something about that person you might have missed while being too busy in your own head.
5. Listening to Music
While it might sound silly, I find that many times we put on music to tune out. Music is a powerful tool that has dramatic effects on us, and can certainly change our emotional and physical states at any given moment.
Are you really listening to the music entering your ears? Can you put your attention on the smallest of sounds that compose the great symphony of each song? Perhaps focus on the drums, guitar, or a distinct instrument and watch as the music or song will take on a whole new experience!
Your breath is one of the ultimate connectors to the “here-and-now” moments. Your breath is an invaluable tool to help calm you down, center you, and bring you back to reality. Did you know your breath has the ability to reset your sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response)? I find that when I am caught up in a maelstrom of worry and fear, placing attention towards my breath and breathing deeply and freely, it brings me out of my head and back to the present moment, as well as puts me at ease.
Meditation practice is a powerful tool to generate mindfulness and create present-moment awareness. Even if it’s just 5 minutes of focused attention on your breath while sitting in silence, this can make a difference. It’s important to remember that meditation has processional effects on your mind, and the more you practice meditation and mindfulness, the more it can spill into and impact all of the other areas of your life.
8. During Your Daily Hygiene
Instead of automatically going through your morning hygiene routine on autopilot, think about how can you take a few moments to really get grounded, not rush or be in the nowhere mindset. While showering, notice the sensation of the water and soap on your body, and check into how the mind and the body are feeling. Or, while brushing your teeth, really make every brushstroke with intention, focusing on cleaning your teeth and noticing how that feels.
I once read a study that claimed the average American spends a whopping 42 hours a year commuting! During time spent commuting it can be very easy to slip off into thought about where we’re headed, instead of being exactly where we are at in the present moment. Some ways to practice mindfulness on your commute can be bringing your attention to the body’s physical sensation against the seat or floor, listening to the myriad sounds from other commuters, the radio announcements, or just taking in and noticing your immediate surroundings. You can also by switch up your normal commute routine and route you take to your usual destination. Doing this can wake up your senses and awareness to a new way of thinking and new environments.
No matter what your outlet for exercise is, you may get even more benefits from it by being mindful of the practice, quieting the mental chatter, and focusing on a particular aspect of the exercise. Perhaps you’re at the gym. Really notice and bring your awareness to the sensation of the equipment you are using (barbell, dumbbell, etc). Focus on each rep one by one, instead of thinking of all of the work you still have left to do.
During my yoga classes, I often remind my students to bring their awareness to the present moment by noticing and putting their attention on the sensation of the mat and floor beneath them. During running, you can focus on your breath or the sensation of each foot striking the earth with every stride. There is no right or wrong way about this. What matters is your intention to be present and mindful!
By becoming present in even the most ordinary tasks of our lives, we wake up to the beauty and splendor of life in each and every moment we find ourselves in. Consider this list as a starting point for your mindfulness and presence practice because the possibilities are endless. I encourage you to take some time and reflect on some other areas I may not have mentioned that you can generate mindfulness in, and get started on the practice today.
What are some other ways you can practice mindfulness throughout your day? Share your comments at the bottom of the page.
© Whatismyhealth, March 29th, 2017