With the fast paced lifestyles we live, we can easily become overwhelmed with everything that we have to accomplish that we lose sight of all the moments in between. For example: when driving, we might focus on the traffic, how other people are driving, the directions to our destination, or the song on the radio. Of course for safety, we must focus on the road and other drivers, but in paying attention to all these factors, we lose sight of the actual driving experience: how our seat feels against our back, how the pedals feel under our feet, the movement of our vehicle, noticing how the song on the radio makes us feel, and appreciating the scenery around us. In taking that extra moment to appreciate these small experiences, we are practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness can be a difficult skill to develop and it may require a lot of practice to master. Even something as simple as taking in the driving experience can shift our mindset, allow us to focus on the present, and in turn, can have an impact on our overall mood. There are many ways to be mindful on a daily basis and the following mindful practices can, hopefully, become part of your lifestyle. Here are two simple mindful practices that you can incorporate into your daily life.
Chores are not typically viewed as positive experiences. Oftentimes, we want to finish a chore so that we can check off the next item on our to do list. The next time you are completing a chore, I encourage you to be present in the moment and focus on how you are experiencing this chore through each of your five senses. If you are doing the dishes, reflect on how the water temperature feels on your hands, how the dish soap smells, the sounds that the water and dishes are making, the tastes that you can remember from the food you ate, and the shapes and sizes that the different dishes hold. Reflect on the functionality of these dishes and how they contribute to making food to sustain you. If you notice your mind wandering and other thoughts popping into your head, disregard them, and bring your attention back to this experience.
This can be done anytime, anywhere. During a walk, lying down, before a meeting, anytime you feel that you need to reconnect with your body and refocus your attention. Start by bringing your attention to your breath: breathing in and out through your nose, feeling the air fill up your chest and belly. Notice the sensation of this breath. When you are ready, bring your attention to your head, eyes, jaw, and neck, acknowledging any tensions you are experiencing and breathing into the sensations. Start to bring your attention down to your shoulders, arms, chest, and belly. Notice any tensions or sensations here and continue to bring your attention back to your breath. If thoughts and feelings start to arise, acknowledge their presence, and bring your attention back to your body. Focus now on your back, hips, and thighs, breathing into these sensations, and exhaling all the tensions you are holding here. Finally, bring your awareness to your knees, calves, ankles, feet, and toes. Notice the sensations here in these areas that support your body all day. Take a few more deep breaths, and when you are ready, bring your attention back to the external world, thanking your body for this process.