What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.-mindful.org
Mindfulness is something that we all possess; yet, it is hard to access unless we put it into practice. According to the American Psychological Association, making mindfulness a daily practice can improve one’s working memory, focus, relational satisfaction, and improved sleep.
Don’t we all need a little help in those areas?
Often when we think of mindfulness we think of meditation and yoga, but it actually can be cultivated in many ways. Below are 4 easy ways to integrate mindfulness in your everyday life.
- Mindful Journaling
Journaling allows us to slow down and connect with what we are feeling in the present moment. Whether we journal about the details of an ordinary day or a particularly terrible day, we are forced to slow down. When we slow down in this way we allow ourselves space to notice what we are feeling, absent of judgment, and to fully connect with our experience.
Below is a link to journal prompts that will help you slow down and practice mindfulness by journaling.
- Mindful Breathing
Breathing: 4-7-8 breathing is a simple tool to incorporate in your daily mindfulness practice. We often hear the phrase “relax and take a deep breath” as a way to reduce reactivity or stress. According to the APA, “breathing techniques have long been used as part of traditional stress reduction practices and their use is supported by much research . . . . practices involving consciously controlling and focusing on your breathing can be powerful tools for relaxation, stress reduction and mental health.”
Follow along with the following prompt:
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
- Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
- This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.
Prompt from Mindful.org
- Take a Mindful Walk
Mindful walks are another simple way to integrate this tool into your daily life. Getting outside before your day starts, on your lunch break, or even before dinner, are ways to connect with yourself and decompress from your work day. Below is a prompt for how a mindful walk could possibly look.
Focus your attention on sounds. Whether you are indoors, in the woods, or in a busy city, pay attention to the sounds around you without labeling or naming. Try to avoid getting caught in whether you find the sounds pleasant or unpleasant. Notice the sounds as nothing more than what they are.
Shift your awareness to your sense of smell.Again, simply notice the smells. Try not to push or force yourself to feel anything as a result. Simply bring you attention to your sense of smell.
Next, focus on your vision.Notice colors, objects, and whatever else you see. Patiently come back each time to something that grabs your attention. Do so naturally, not with rigidity. Try to avoid daydreaming and drifting. Instead sustain your awareness.
Maintain open awareness of everything around you.Wherever you are maintain your mind in the space of having nothing to do, nothing to fix, and nothing to change. Stay fully aware and continue walking.
In your last moments, come back to awareness of the physical sensation of walking.Wherever else your mind traveled throughout the practice, come back to the walking sensation. Notice your feet touching the ground and the movements of your body with each step.
Script from mindful.org
- Use your 5 senses to bring attention to the present moment
This exercise is perfect when you only have a moment. You can easily do this from your desk at work or while your kids are napping. Getting in touch with your 5 senses allows you to ground yourself in the present. Below is a prompt to get in touch with these 5 senses.
What are 5 things you can see? Look around you and notice 5 things you hadn’t noticed before: a pattern on a wall, the light reflecting from a surface, or a bookshelf in the corner of a room.
What are 4 things you can feel? Feel the pressure of your feet on the floor, your shirt resting on your shoulders, or the temperature of your skin. Try picking up an object and noticing its texture and weight.
What are 3 things you can hear? Notice the background sounds you were filtering out – the air conditioner running, birds chirping, cars on a nearby street, etc.
What are 2 things you can smell? Coffee, freshly cut grass, a candle, etc.
What is 1 thing you can taste? Try chewing a piece of gum, sip a drink, eat a snack, or simply notice the taste in your mouth.
Script from therapistaid.com
For more resources on integrating mindfulness into your everyday life, visit mindful.org or apa.org. If you find integrating a daily practice doesn’t alleviate your symptoms, it may be helpful to schedule an appointment with a therapist.