‘Mindfulness’ is a word we all hear allot these days and at times its somewhat overuse can lead people to dismiss the practice as a ‘fad’, something they are constantly told to do but just don’t have time for.
The definition of mindfulness is:
‘a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations’
Put simply it’s keeping our focus on the present moment, really living that moment, while being aware of our thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations but not being kept captive by them. Not being racked with sadness about past mistakes or worry about the future, just being able to be in the moment, experiencing the present. Something that can have highly positive impacts of our mental wellbeing, overall health and enjoyment of life.
There are several great mindfulness exercises and techniques out there but making time for a formal exercise can feel like having to add another task to your already overstretched daily to do list, meaning for many people mindfulness goes to the bottom of the pile. That’s why thinking of ways of integrating mindfulness informally into our everyday routine can be the most realistic but also most beneficial practice for many people.
It’s a win-win, we don’t have to add another task to our to do list but we still get to receive the benefits of mindfulness.
Russ Harris, a champion of Acceptance and Commitment therapy, put together the below informal ways of integrating mindfulness into the everyday.
1. Mindfulness in Your Morning Routine
Pick an activity that constitutes part of your daily morning routine, such as brushing your teeth, shaving, making the bed, or taking a shower. When you do it, totally focus your attention on what you’re doing: the body movements, the taste, the touch, the smell, the sight, the sound, and so on. Notice what’s happening with an attitude of openness and curiosity.
For example, when you’re in the shower, notice the sounds of the water as it sprays out of the nozzle, as it hits your body, and as it gurgles down the drain. Notice the temperature of the water, and the feel of it in your hair, and on your shoulders, and running down your legs. Notice the smell of the soap and shampoo, and the feel of them against your skin. Notice the sight of the water droplets on the walls or shower curtain, the water dripping down your body and the steam rising upward. Notice the movements of your arms as you wash or scrub or shampoo.
When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, and let them come and go like passing cars. Again and again, you’ll get caught up in your thoughts. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what the thought was that distracted you, and bring your attention back to the shower.
2. Mindfulness of Domestic Chores
Pick an activity such as ironing clothes, washing dishes, vacuuming floors—something mundane that you have to do to make your life work—and do it mindfully. For example, when ironing clothes, notice the colour and shape of the clothing, and the pattern made by the creases, and the new pattern as the creases disappear. Notice the hiss of the steam, the creak of the ironing board, the faint sound of the iron moving over the material. Notice the grip of your hand on the iron, and the movement of your arm and your shoulder.
If boredom or frustration arises, simply acknowledge it, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, let them be, and bring your attention back to what you’re doing. Again and again, your attention will wander. As soon as you realize this has happened, gently acknowledge it, note what distracted you, and bring your attention back to your current activity.
3. Mindfulness of Pleasant Activities
Pick an activity you enjoy such as cuddling with a loved one, eating lunch, stroking the cat, playing with the dog, walking in the park, listening to music, having a soothing hot bath, and so on. Do this activity mindfully: engage in it fully, using all five of your senses, and savour every moment. If and when your attention wanders, as soon as you realize it, note what distracted you, and re-engage in whatever you’re doing.
Enjoy bringing a bit more mindfulness into your everyday!