Updated: Aug 8, 2022
Did you know that you can cultivate mindfulness as you go about your daily life? Every time you walk, talk or even breathe is an opportunity to strengthen your mindfulness muscle. Of course, formal mindfulness practices like mindfulness meditation are wonderful to do on a regular basis (you can learn this and more in my Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course), but there are so many other ways to practice mindfulness informally.
If you read my blog post on mindfulness, you might already have an idea of some formal and informal mindfulness practices but, in this blog post, we’ll delve a little deeper into how to cultivate mindfulness in everyday life. Let’s dive in.
Mindful waking up
Hands up if you tend to hit snooze multiple times then grabbing your phone for a quick morning scroll before jumping out of bed at the very last second and starting your day in a hectic rush. This waking up “routine” is so common these days. If you can relate, you’re missing out on a wonderful opportunity to start your day mindfully.
So what does a mindful morning routine look like? Before you reach for your phone and let the outside world in, take a few moments to check in with yourself. Perhaps you could start with a little stretch and gently awaken your body. Then it can be a lovely idea to set an intention for the day.
Sit comfortably, take a few calm breaths through your nose and into your belly and tune into how you’re feeling. Ask yourself this question: What is my intention today? Your intention might include how you’ll show up for yourself and those around you, how you can be kinder to yourself, or something you want to keep in mind as you go about your day. Form an intention in your mind–keep it simple–and then check in with your intention throughout the day to become mindful of your thoughts, actions and behaviors. Also notice how starting your day in this way helps the rest of your day to flow differently.
One thing we all do at least a few times a day is eat, making it a perfect opportunity to cultivate mindfulness on a regular basis. The thing is, many of us might find ourselves mindlessly eating: shoveling down whatever food is at arm’s length in record time as we multitask. Mindful eating, on the other hand, is all about bringing awareness to every part of your eating experience.
This might sound daunting, so I’ll break mindful eating down into bite-sized chunks (pun intended!). When it’s time to eat, stop whatever tasks you’re doing and try to designate a chunk of time to just eating, at a table, from a plate. Before you tuck into your meal or snack, take a moment to consider the journey your food has taken to arrive on your plate–all the people, places and processes involved. Then try to eat slowly: chew your food properly, put down your cutlery in between mouthfuls and let yourself really taste your food. When you start to get the “I’m full” signals from your body, listen and stop eating. Of course, if family and work make mealtimes a hectic affair, you might not be able to eat a full meal mindfully but even just 5 minutes of mindful eating or eating the first 3 bites mindfully can be a great start.
Mindful eating is a wonderful opportunity to cultivate mindfulness on a daily basis without doing much more than fully tuning into the experience. Check out this blog post to delve into the topic in more detail.
Did you know that we breathe somewhere between 20,000 and 25,000 times a day? That’s 20,000+ opportunities to cultivate mindfulness every single day!
One simple way to cultivate mindfulness using your breath is to practice breath awareness–nothing more and nothing less than observing how you’re breathing in any given moment. How you’re breathing gives you an instant insight into how you’re feeling so it’s like your own personal feedback system.
To practice breath awareness, simply notice how you’re breathing. What’s the pace? What’s the quality? Where are you breathing from? Where does your breath reach in your body? Notice what your breath is telling you about your emotional state at any given moment. Notice how your breath changes when you feel different emotions: stress, excitement, fear or joy. This is a simple yet effective way to practice present moment awareness at various points in your day and to get to know yourself better in the process!
Just utter the phrase ‘rush hour commuting’ and many people will come out in a sweat. The truth is that commutes–whether by car, train or bus–can be stressful. The noise, the busyness, the traffic jams can all too easily trigger your sympathetic “fight or flight” response. Sound familiar? If so, I want to share how you can not only make your commute more mindful, but how commutes can be an ideal opportunity to cultivate mindfulness.
Imagine you're in your car or a bus and you're stuck in a traffic jam. Instead of your usual response–which might look like cursing to yourself under your breath, negative thinking, scowling at people and perhaps even shouting at others from the safety of your own car–try something different. Take a breath deep into your belly and consciously slow down your inhale and exhale, consciously separating yourself from the stress response. Then, ask yourself what you need at this moment: reassurance? a feeling of safety? words of encouragement? Then proceed to offer yourself whatever this is by forming an affirmation in your mind and letting yourself feel it in your body. For example, ‘Everything is going to be okay’. Then look at the other commuters and intentionally offer them whatever it is you need yourself. They very likely need it too!
Chances are you’ll spend some time walking each day. Even if it’s just short bursts of walking from your car to the house/office, each time you put one foot in front of the other is a perfect opportunity to be mindful.
To practice mindful walking, try bringing your awareness to your body as you walk. Notice your feet and legs and the movements they make. How does it feel to push off the ground, glide in between paces and touch the ground again for the next step. Notice other parts of your body that become alive when you walk: your hip joints, lower back and arms. Practice this art of deeply noticing to cultivate mindfulness with each step you take. Want to take it a step further? Try barefoot walking. Take off your shoes in a suitable spot, such as the grass in your garden or a park. And then repeat the activity above, slowing down your walking pace so you can really tune into the intricacies of the experience of walking.
“When you walk, arrive with every step. That is walking meditation. There’s nothing else to it.” - Thich Nhat Hanh
How often do you actually listen to someone when they’re talking to you? Like really tune into what they’re saying with all your attention and not just be waiting to jump in with your take on the matter? Most conversations are made up of people half listening to what’s being said and half forming a response in their head for when it’s their turn to speak. So how can you cultivate mindfulness through listening mindfully?
Mindful listening is simply the practice of paying attention, in minute detail, to everything about the conversation and the person who’s talking to you. Notice their body language, their posture, the tone of their voice, their pauses as well as their actual words. Be fully in the experience. And, of course, try to hold back from jumping in with your two pence before they have fully finished speaking. This is powerful–I’m sure you can recall a time when someone truly listened to you and you felt so seen and heard. Offer that same experience to the next person you have a conversation with and flex your mindfulness muscle at the same time!
Mindful household chores
Household chores might not be much fun but they can be mindful. Just like those other things we do day in, day out, household chores offer a perfect opportunity to cultivate mindfulness.
Well, whatever task you find yourself doing, be it vacuuming, laundry, cooking or scrubbing the bathroom floor, tune into the experience with all your senses. Notice how it feels to be engaging in the task, notice what thoughts pop into your mind, notice the sounds and the smells involved. The whole experience could even become quite meditative once you get into the flow with this kind of mindfulness practice.
Sleep is one of those things we all know we need, many of us want more of, but it seems near impossible to get enough. The truth is, we often don’t give sleep the importance it deserves. According to Ayurveda, sleep is one of the three pillars of health, together with nutrition and sexual energy. Also, rest can take on other forms than sleep. But how often do we truly let ourselves rest? On holiday perhaps. But in normal life? Not so much! For more tips to help you sleep better by bringing some mindfulness into your bedtime routine, check out this blog post.
But how can being mindful about rest help you cultivate mindfulness in your daily life? Let’s take the example of down time. When you have a gap in your day, instead of lying on the sofa and using the time to scroll or watch TV or do anything for that matter, practice just being. Simply being in the moment and allowing yourself to rest without the need to be, do or achieve anything else. When you do this, not only are you actually allowing yourself to switch off and rest, but you’re cultivating mindfulness as you restore.
Everyone can find a minute to spare in their day. Yes, even you! Whenever you have a minute to spare, stop whatever else you're doing, put down your phone and just take a moment to breathe. Be in the moment and experience the here and now. What is around you? What can you feel? What can you hear? What can you smell? Examine these feelings and moments and simply be still for 60 seconds.
Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of this practice–small and often is really where the magic is. These are micro moments to pause and press the reset button before continuing with your day. Do this every day once a day and cultivate mindfulness that will impact how you move through life. Even better, practice a mindfulness minute each time you do a repetitive activity throughout the day, such as when you go to the toilet or check your phone. You might be surprised by how easy and empowering this practice is!
I hope you can see how simple and enjoyable it can be to cultivate mindfulness in your everyday life. Try one tomorrow and flex your mindfulness muscle as you go about your daily life! Want more where this came from? Sign up to my mailing list to get lifestyle and nutrition tips inspired by mindfulness and Ayurveda direct to your inbox.