The idea and practice of mindfulness is definitely becoming more mainstream. And this is a really great thing. The ability to slow down and be present in the moment is not only much needed in the fast pace world of today, but it can seriously benefit our mental, emotional and physical health. But it’s important to know that practicing mindfulness doesn’t have to look a certain way, and this means that there are a number of opportunities for even the busiest person to include mindfulness into their day.
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What really is essential when it comes to mindfulness is your attitude towards it, not necessarily how or where you practice it. There are seven attitudinal factors considered to be at the foundation of mindfulness, which are described in John Kabat-Zinn’s 2004 book, Full Catastrophe Living. By applying these attitudes to whatever activity you are doing, you can effectively practice mindfulness while going about your day. And as with anything that you practice regularly, it will start to become a habit within your life.
The Seven Pillars of Mindfulness:
- Non-judging – Allowing thoughts, feelings and experiences to come and go without becoming hyper-focused or judgmental about them. They simple are.
- Patience – Not getting frustrated or giving up if the mind and body wander from being mindful.
- A beginner’s mind – Simply allowing whatever comes up to do so without having a set rule about what is supposed to happen or how the practice is supposed to go.
- Trust – Listening to and trusting yourself; not feeling obligated to follow the “authority” on what it means to be mindful or practice mindfulness.
- Non-striving – Not working towards any particular result or outcome; loosening any expectations you might have about mindfulness practice.
- Acceptance – Acknowledging each moment, thought, feeling or experience as it comes; not trying to avoid or push out uncomfortable thoughts or feelings.
- Letting go – Allowing each moment, thought, feeling or experience to go; not trying to force a particular thought or feeling to remain.
Can’t Find the Time? Not to Worry
It can be hard to consistently schedule a morning mediation session (or at all). And even if you do, there’s a chance that something else comes up (*raises hand) or you sleep in (*raises both hands). And for some, the idea of sitting quietly to mediate isn’t all that appealing.
Truthfully, mindfulness can easily be adapted to fit a person’s preferences and lifestyle. So if you want to build your capacity to be mindful, to slow things down and respond versus react, but aren’t always able (or want to) practice traditional meditation on its own, here are a few simple ways you can easily fit it into your every day routine.
We all have to eat, so this is a great time to fit in a mindfulness exercise. Mindful eating has been shown to not only improve our mood, but help us better digest our food and contribute to long-term physical health and weight management.
When practicing mindful eating simply pay attention to the experience of eating your meal from beginning to end, and notice what comes up along the way. Before you even take your first bite you can take a moment to enjoy the presentation of your food while taking a few deep breaths. Or practice gratitude by appreciating the fact that you have something to eat, and that you have the opportunity to nourish your body and give it the fuel it needs to get you through your day.
The truth is re-fueling our minds and bodies is extremely important and deserves it’s own time to be appreciated. In addition, by paying full attention to our eating practices we are better able to notice when we are full. This can be a helpful guide if you are looking to improve your mindful eating practices and relationship with food.
Mindful Grocery Shopping
Oddly enough, a fantastic place to practice mindfulness is none other than at the grocery store. In a busy place like this it can be easy to feel frustrated, overwhelmed and even anxious. Have you ever been to Costco on a Saturday morning?!
So while you walk through the congested aisles or wait in the seemingly endless checkout line take a few minutes to slow down and pay attention to your breathing. Notice if your muscles are tense, and if so use a relaxation strategy of slowly tightening and relaxing a single muscle group at a time. Allow yourself to simply move through the process as you check another thing off your to-do list. And any negative or frustrated thinking can come and go without building up or leaving you feeling drained.
As many of us spend most of our days indoors and seated, mindful walking can be a great way to switch things up. In fact, this is one of my favourites because if you can get outside you get the added bonus of connecting with nature. Going for a walk can allow us the opportunity to work through the things that are on our minds, but it also allows us to pay attention to our bodies, the world around us and puts us in a better state to deal with the problems we are experiencing. But even if your only opportunity to walk is to and from your car, you still have the chance to make it count and relieve some stress.
When mindful walking (or moving of any sort, really) it’s again helpful to start with paying attention to your breath, then your body, how you experience each movement (e.g. the weight of your body shifting, your heel pushing into your shoe, the rhythm of your step) and finally, your surroundings. As with the other mindful practices if you catch yourself caught up in a flurry of thoughts or feelings, gently take notice and guide your focus back to your surroundings.
These are just three everyday practices that even the busiest person can do to build up their mindfulness skills, but there are countless others! I would love to hear in the comments below how you incorporate mindfulness practice into your everyday life.
And if you’re interested in really taking charge of your mindfulness skills here are a few resources that might help along the way.
- The Mindfulness Solution: Everyday Practices for Everyday Problems
- Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
- Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
- Mindfulness for Busy People: Everyday Mindfulness Tricks to Enjoy Your Life, Be Happy, Reduce Stress and Create Freedom