Have you admitted that you need to be more mindful, but are struggling to incorporate this awareness into your routine? I have been on the journey of mindful living for years. I still experience times when I struggle to practice.
What happens to me when I fall off the mindful living wagon? Several things, in no particular order:
- the “grumpies” return and I become easily irritated
- I notice apprehension about the future
- I fill my “downtime” with mindless activity (social media scrolling, hours of phone games, etc)
- multitasking becomes the norm
- I forget what I was doing or where I put something
Once I start noticing these symptoms of mindless living, I gently remind myself of these three mindfulness strategies.
Returning to the Breath
Almost every second of the day, we are connected to a built-in mindfulness opportunity – our breath. How often do you take your ability to breathe for granted? I know most of the time my breath happens subconsciously.
You can return to your breath for a mindful moment at any time. There are literally thousands of opportunities each day to practice mindful breathing. All you have to do is shift your awareness.
Try this right now:
- Inhale through your nose to the count of 5. Do it slowly, with control.
- At the top of your inhale, pause to the count of 3.
- Slowly, exhale through your mouth to the count of 5.
- Repeat these steps deliberately, with control, focus, and ease.
- When you notice your mind wandering (thinking of something other than your breathing) gently nudge thoughts back to your breath.
- Continue this focused breathing for 1 minute.
The wonderful thing is that once you master 1 minute of mindful breathing, you can easily repeat the practice, whether it’s for a short or sustained period.
One Mindful Activity
Most of us don’t remember what we were like as a child, learning to do basic activities, but we have probably witnessed other children practicing eating, walking, or completing a task. Bringing yourself back to this elementary mindset can help you to approach everyday tasks with mindfulness. Think of the concentration it takes a child to tie their shoe or brush their teeth. Allow yourself to explore these and other simple tasks with presence. Find an activity you can practice regularly with mindfulness. Build it into your daily routine.
My activity is washing my hair. Even though I am usually rushing in the shower to get ready for the day, I have committed to washing my hair mindfully. Everytime I start the task, I become present. The first thing I do is bring my awareness to my hands. I notice how I am moving them to get shampoo, cradle it in my hand, lift it to my hair, and massage my hair. The steps don’t necessarily take me longer, but I am present with each action.
When I first started this practice, I had to think in my mind what I was doing. “I am pumping the shampoo bottle and I see the shampoo coming out. Now I’m holding the shampoo and bringing it to my head. I can feel the soap suds forming. I can smell the fragrance…” When other thoughts came in about what was coming up that day, I sometimes had to say aloud, “I’m washing my hair right now,” and was able to return to the moment.
What is one activity you can designate as your mindful activity for the day?
A common denominator of mindless living, for me, is a packed schedule. The more full my days get, the less I am able to be present. I also find that I get less done. Isn’t that ironic?
I don’t always have the option to drop something from my schedule, but I do have the choice to make plans mindfully. So, when I start feeling like things are getting hectic, I pause to assess the calendar situation.
Here are some things to take into consideration when practicing mindful scheduling:
- Is this activity absolutely necessary?
- What am I looking forward to during this schedule block? How can I adjust to add in something I will enjoy?
- Does my schedule allow attention to my mind, body, soul?
- How am I attending to my basic needs: nutrition, sleep, connection?
- Are there any activities that are unhealthy?
Taking a step back and reflecting on these questions helps illuminate where I need to make changes.
Stop, Observe, Return
No matter how you choose to incorporate mindfulness into your life, you will always be repeating these actions: stop, observe, return. To begin a mindful practice, you must stop and become present. Then, you observe and practice mindfulness in the moment. Inevitably, you’ll be distracted; that is the point you return to the moment by stopping the distraction.
Returning to your breath, practicing one mindful activity regularly, and mindfully scheduling will all help you to incorporate mindfulness into your busy life.
If you are interested in learning in greater depth about mindfulness practices, check out my Mindfulness in a Busy Life mini-retreat!