I know how valuable mindfulness is to my general well-being. Yet I often neglect to practice. Perhaps you can relate to the struggle of practicing mindfulness regularly? After mulling this problem over, I discovered 5 ways to add mindfulness to everyday routines. This allows me to incorporate mindfulness into the things I do daily. As a result I don’t feel like I must find space for it.
Welcome to Mindfulness Monday where we learn to be more present in the moments of each day. As a result, we are more present in our relationships, less reactive and experience less overwhelm. Yet, even knowing these benefits of mindfulness, as I mentioned above, I often neglect to practice. Upon evaluation, I realized the reason is, it feels like another thing to add to my day. This very thought defeats the purpose of mindfulness! For mindfulness to be effective, it must be a part of what I do in the course of a day.
Remembering the “why” of mindfulness
In my first Mindfulness Monday post, I defined mindfulness, its benefits and why we need it. I won’t rehash all of it here, so if you’re new to the community or need a refresher, please check it out. That post also describes how to begin a simple practice, which is great for beginners. If you’re like me and have a fairly regular practice, but struggle with consistency, keep reading.
The reason we need mindfulness is to keep us grounded in the “present”. The present is the only place we have any control over; even then, we can’t control everything. When we linger in the past, we encounter regret and sadness. The exception of course is when we choose to “reminisce” which is a positive way of reviewing pleasant memories. When we rush into the future we encounter anxiety. Mindfulness provides a way to avoid negative emotional energy in a positive way. I devised 5 ways to add mindfulness to everyday routines to simplify the practice.
remembering the basics of mindfulness
It’s good to remember “why” we practice mindfulness to help us focus on keeping it a part of our daily activity. Another aspect of mindfulness to remember is the basics for the practice. Sometimes I forget how simple it is to practice mindfulness, choosing instead to skip it. This thought pattern is exactly what caused me to re-evaluate my perspective. Mindfulness is not an “add-on” to my day, but an integral part of my day.
Simple breathing techniques focus my attention on what I do naturally every moment of the day. This reminds me of the sacred breath that I often take for granted. A five minute mindful check-in gives me awareness of emotions and stress my body is feeling. Tuning into each of my five senses, empowers me to enjoy all the present moment offers. Mindfulness cultivates awareness in the present which adds a level of richness to our relationships and lives. This reminded me of how easy adding mindfulness to everyday routines could be.
signs you are missing mindfulness
To be honest, when you’ve practiced mindfulness as long as I have, you become lazy. Though a benefactor of mindfulness, I realized one day I lost my “intention”. I manage to do my breathing exercises, easy enough I breathe everyday! But I wasn’t intentional, and failed to keep myself present by using my five senses. How did I notice this? Actually there were a few danger signals I missed; see if you recognize any of these in your life.
- A nagging feeling of “urgency” to everything. This is a classic anxiety response. Rushing from one thing to the next with no real plan or purpose. This is both an escape from present conditions/emotions and an attempt to control the future.
- A lethargy or reluctance to do anything. Procrastinating, low productivity. This is classic despondency. A negative rumination of past events resulting in hopelessness and lack of direction.
- Feelings of impatience, irritability, overwhelm and stress.
- Lack of focus; distracted. Forgetful, neglectful and unappreciative.
5 ways to add mindfulness to everyday routines
There are so many ways to be more mindful each day, but I tried to choose common activities most people do every day. By choosing activities we already engage in daily, it becomes easier to add mindfulness to your day. Additionally, I chose these activities because we tend to do these “mindlessly” while elsewhere in our minds.
Ideally, mindfulness is simply adding “intentionality” to a particular activity in order to remain present. By performing these everyday activities with intention, you are practicing mindfulness with little effort. So without further delay, let’s look at 5 ways to add mindfulness to everyday routines.
This is an activity that we often do “mindlessly”. I know many people use this time as a planning session or brainstorming session. My husband gets his best ideas in the shower. That may be exhilarating, but what if you used this time for mindfulness? Whether you shower in the morning or evening it is the perfect time to step away from the daily “noise”.
- Prepare. take time undressing and arranging your things for your shower. Anticipate the luxury of a shower; cleansing, refreshing.
- Use Your Senses. Listen to the sound of the water, watch the way the water hits the tub and shower and rolls off the glass or curtain. Smell the fragrances of your soap and shampoo. Feel the water on your skin, the soap, the sponge or cloth. Take everything in.
- Body Scan. Focus on how your body feels in the water or as you wash. Notice the relief the hot water may bring to sore joints and muscles; enjoy that! Feel how refreshing cooler water feels on a tired body.
- Breathe. Focus on slow, intentional breaths to enhance your body’s relaxation. With each inhale breathe in energy, cleansing. On the exhale breathe out worries, viewing them as going down the drain.
- Gratitude. Acknowledge the blessing of a shower, hot water, luxurious soaps. The time that you have taken to nourish and care or your body. Continue to focus on gratitude as you dry, dress and prepare for your day or your evening’s rest.
Good self-care includes some form of exercise. Not everyone can or will go to the gym, but the body requires regular exercise to thrive not only physically, but mentally and emotionally. I cannot emphasize the many benefits of exercise enough.
My preferred form of exercise is Yoga. Yoga has many variations for every body type and ability, is gentle and easily develops a mind-body connection. I also enjoy walking or hiking, which also provide good opportunities for a full body experience. Exercise is not meant to be an “out of body” experience. Even elite athletes use mindfulness in their workouts to increase body control and awareness. Try these tips the next time you exercise.
- Feel Your Body. Many people do not even warm up before exercise and have little awareness of how their body feels. While you warm up, take a brief body scan to notice how your body feels. Note areas of soreness, fatigue or stiffness. Consider the work out ahead and make the most nourishing choice for your body. Instead of rushing ahead with your work out, make any needed adjustments to truly care for your body.
- Notice Your Surroundings. Make sure you have what you need for your work out. Then turn your focus outward using your senses to bring you into the moment and the place of your workout. Be present “here and now”. This is especially helpful if you are walking or hiking to ensure your awareness is present.
- Breathe. Make your breath the “anchor”. Focusing on your breath keeps you present and aware of your body. This will also help you properly breathe through reps oxygenating your muscles. Breathing is the number one thing trainers say their clients rarely do correctly.
- Cool Down. Instead of rushing on to the next thing or hitting the shower, take a few moments of quiet time. Use this time to notice how you feel. Pay attention to your physical body, but also your mental and emotional state. Take time to express gratitude for a good work out and progress you have made
As with the other activities we mentioned above, cleaning is another activity we do without thinking. For some people it is an activity full of “judgment”. Complaining (outwardly or inwardly) about the mess our family members make. Bringing mindfulness to this particular activity can be revolutionary. Cleaning with intention changes the outcome and our attitude in the process. I listed a few of the normal areas we may clean, but the principles can be applied to almost any “cleaning” chore.
- Just Clean. Be there, be all there. Don’t think about what you’ll do afterwards, watch TV or zone out with your music. Focus on the job at hand, how you can best do that chore.
- Dish Wash Wonder. Does anyone hand wash dishes anymore? I do. It’s actually therapeutic for me. Feeling the hot water, soap, and seeing each dish clean and dry. My dishes are 27 years old. I often fondly remember when I got them and how much I still like them. If you use a dishwasher, focus on arranging the dishes inside, examining each piece as it goes into the dishwasher and back out.
- Whose Clothes Are These? Laundry, another favorite chore of mine. It didn’t used to be that way. Until one day I started actually looking at the clothes and thinking about who they belonged to. As I put them from washer to dryer and folded, I prayed for that family member. Enjoy the feel of the clean clothes, the methodical folding and putting away.
- Breathe. Again, the breath. As you breathe you stay present, you become aware of your body, how it feels, breathing energy and yet relaxation into your body with each breath. You breathe in “clean”, you exhale worry and soiled, judgmental thoughts.
- Gratitude. We have abundance of material possessions. Houses to clean, dishes of all types to use, more clothes than we need, and all the modern conveniences to care for these things. Focus on gratitude for these blessings and the privilege to care for your loved ones.
I realize in our busy culture cooking a meal every night is not possible. But most people cook a few times each week. Whatever your preferred routine is, try adding mindfulness to your prep and cook times. You may be surprised how much you actually enjoy cooking once you give yourself permission to experience it fully. Cooking mindfully can transform a sometimes repetitive, hurried experience into something new.
- Cook Intentionally. Immerse yourself in the process without the distraction of TV or smartphone interruptions. Make this time a special time, but protecting it from artificial noise or the stress of outside demands.
- Allow Sufficient Time. Avoid stress by knowing in advance cooking takes time. But also look forward to this part of your schedule, it’s “me time” in the kitchen!
- Use Your Senses. The kitchen is one of the best places to enjoy using your senses. Plus, cooking is the only activity that you can “play” with your food. Use your hands more, feel the food! Focus your attention on the textures, colors, fragrances of the food. Taste! A good chef always tastes his food before serving! Take advantage of this perk!
- Notice the Process. Enjoy the journey from chaos of items all over the counter to a beautiful meal on the table. Focusing on the method of steps and procedures brings order and peace to the mind. Don’t rush through, celebrate the steps along the way.
- The Means Justifies the End. Take time to be grateful for the finished product. Whether it is an extravagant, festive meal or a weeknight family dinner, acknowledge the accomplishment. Remember the blessings of the food on your table and your talents that put it all together!
Ah, the “piece de resistance”, eating! Since I am Italian, I not only love cooking, I LOVE eating! My grandfather was a chef, as is my brother and my father was an outstanding cook. Preparing any meal and sharing it mindfully with those you love is an experience you do not want to miss. Break the habit of rushing your meals and enjoy nourishing your body, soul AND spirit!
- Slow Down. Rushed, mindless eating is the cause of over 80% of digestive ailments and chronic overeating. When you eat too quickly, your brain doesn’t register your food intake causing you to over eat. By slowing down, you nourish the body and give yourself the opportunity to enjoy the experience.
- Eat “Alone”. Turn off the TV, smartphones or other distractions during the meal. Soft music is helpful, otherwise silence is golden.
- Use Your Senses. This seems obvious, but how many meals have you eaten and don’t remember their presentation or taste? Take a moment to look at your plate, savor the textures and colors. Savor the aroma! Chew slowly and contemplate the taste of the food. I love trying to distinguish all of the herbs and spices used in the dish.
- Contemplate the Experience. Put your fork down in between bites of food while chewing. Think about what you’re eating, be present with your family or partner.
- Say Grace Before And After! Many people give thanks for their food prior to eating. Why not take a moment o two afterwards to acknowledge with gratitude the meal, the company and the atmosphere?
Notice how mindfulness transforms the everyday
Trying even one of these tips for adding mindfulness to your everyday will transform an everyday task into something extraordinary. You will find you do each task with more intention, and the outcomes will be more delightful. Your sense of gratitude will expand, and you’ll find you don’t take things for granted as easily.
If you find yourself rushing through any of these daily activities, complaining or feeling overwhelmed in any area, try incorporating mindfulness. By using these 5 ways to add mindfulness to everyday routines, you will nourish body, mind and spirit more completely. Leave me a comment and let me know your favorite!