“Mindfulness” has taken the nation by storm. But what is it, and why is it so popular? As it turns out, drawing your awareness to the present can do anything from decreasing your stress levels to improving your decision-making skills.
The best part about techniques that encourage inward focus is that you can perform them anytime and anywhere for free. You don’t need to visit a spa — all that you require are your senses. Here are five small ways to be more mindful in your everyday life.
1. Make Movement More Mindful
If you want to try the ultimate mind-body routine, you can attempt one of the many yoga styles to flow your way to namaste. However, you don’t have to pull out a mat to make movement more mindful. All you need to do is draw your awareness to the moment while you work your muscles.
For example, working against water’s viscosity in aquatic environments instantly draws focus to your muscles. Try going for a run in a pool instead of on land and savor the way you work your muscles differently — all without breaking a sweat. Even the sensation of submerging yourself helps take your head off racing future fears.
You don’t necessarily need to get wet to make your next workout more mindful. Leave your headphones at home the next time you walk or jog in your neighborhood. Instead, shift your awareness to your senses, starting with sound and working your way to scent and vision. How do your feet feel when they strike the pavement? Does the air on your skin chill or refresh you?
2. Savor Your Meals
Obesity rates among American adults increased from 30.5% in 1999 to 42.4% between 2017 and 2018. That means close to half of all citizens run significantly increased health risks from carrying too much weight — and mindful eating could help trim the fat.
You don’t have to go so far as to take several minutes to eat a single raisin, but you do need to stop noshing at your work desk. Instead, make meals something that you savor by turning off electronic devices and sitting down at the table.
As you eat, pay attention to the way your body feels. This exercise helps you notice when you start feeling full. Slowing down and savoring the taste of your meal also gives your body time to recognize its internal cues and notice the sensation — too often, you overeat when you ignore your stomach’s cries of “enough.”
3. Stop and Smell the Roses
When was the last time you paid attention to the scenery on your daily commute? Shifting your attention to the more beautiful things in life instead of the frustrating — like slow-moving traffic — can decrease your stress levels and make you feel happier.
Try keeping a gratitude journal — you don’t have to do so forever. Writing in it for 15 minutes a day for two weeks should do the trick. Jot down up to five things for which you feel grateful every day. You might feel thankful for the rainbow that dropped your jaw when you first stepped outside or that your favorite coffee shop finally got your favorite flavored creamer back in stock.
4. Spend More Time in Nature
Spending time in nature encourages mindfulness. Who hasn’t gazed up at the night sky and marveled at the universe and their tiny place in it? Getting outdoors also makes your senses come alive and grounds you in the present.
You don’t need any equipment other than a sturdy set of shoes to get into activities like hiking. If you are more adventurous, sports like bouldering work your entire body while teaching you strategic thinking and how to take a fall. Those who enjoy knowing where their meal comes from can help feed their families and enjoy outdoor recreation through hunting and fishing.
5. Adopt a Daily Meditation Practice
Finally, daily meditation practice helps those who want to get more mindful. Some clinical trials suggest that such techniques can reduce chronic pain patients’ suffering by more than 50%, and many individuals likewise see impressive results when meditating to help with various mental illnesses.
All you need to start is a quiet place to sit for 12 to 15 minutes, but you can add to your practice if you like. You might find it helps get you in the mood if you put on some relaxing aromatherapy oil or dim your lights. Those who enjoy meditating before bedtime should surround themselves with cozy blankets and pillows so that they can seamlessly drift into dreamland.
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