Mindfulness in daily life is the everyday act of being in a non judgmental awareness of ones ‘present moment’ thoughts, perceptions, as one goes through the day to day life activities.
We all have lost mindfulness in daily life… The day to day mindful living. We have become mechanical… The hectic schedules, the everyday repetitive monotonous routine is enslaving us to run in a loop. We do exist… but, not live.
Mindfulness is not a meditation session that you soulfully do for a fixed hour or so…
Mindfulness in everyday life is an exercise that demands every moment of your everyday. The purpose and benefits of mindfulness is to break free of perception shackles, being aware of surroundings, no matter what you are physically doing and changing whats needs changing.
It might seem cliché as a concept… But understanding it, practicing it and in turn benefiting from it is a journey in itself which everyone must embark on.
Can you practice mindfulness at home?
Mindfulness is a lifestyle choice and not something one has to study theoretically per se. The most important question is whether you want to adapt mindfulness in your daily life or not. Once you have made that decision, whether you practice at home, at a centre, or in a group is secondary and least important. The fact is all you need is an open mind and a receptive heart.
The benefits of mindfulness you reap depends on how much time you are willing to devote. The aim is to cultivate peace within and change perception about how you look at things every passing moment.
But initially mindfulness group exercises may help
Sangha or a community is quite effective for those who are testing waters and are unsure how well they can adapt to the practice.
Some of us are very impulsive or easily distracted. Ideally a practice centre would be a good choice in that case. In a group or community, exercising mindfulness together becomes very joyful and effective. One tends to be way more steady and relaxed amidst a bunch of like-minded people.
Moreover, practicing everyday mindfulness exercises in a group helps as a reminder and a solid support for everyone as they keep helping and reminding each other of their practices. Group mindfulness exercises can help initially, till you learn to engage the senses, on your own.
Ultimately mindfulness is self talk, which no one else can help you master
At the end of the day, mindfulness is still something you adapt, for yourself and others can only aid the process. The main work still totally depends on you. Hence, even if you exercise mindfulness one step at a time during your everyday activity – it will reap numerous benefits. All that matters is that you want to harmonise your life, be skilful & smart in your practice, learn to solidify your aspirations and free yourself of fears & misunderstandings.
Practices to bring in mindfulness in daily life
Being mindful is no rocket science. It just requires the desire to embrace openness and let go off… …
Talking about it and how to practice it, we will be discussing simple things that you do regularly in your daily life and how these can help you be more aware of your life and surroundings.
Mindfulness alters your senses and helps you perceive things, people and events in a way more enhanced and joyful way
With the ever growing negative energy around us and with mechanical lives crippling us emotionally, we have forgotten how to enjoy the little things in life and this is where being aware and keeping your senses active 24×7 can be an amazing transformation. Let us not waste time and jump into daily activities which can help us practice mindfulness in daily life.
1. Start writing a journal everyday
You don’t need to be articulate to keep a personal diary. You don’t need to have a flair for writing and you certainly don’t need to worry about how it’s perceived. Your journal is only for your eyes, if that is how you want it to be.
All these incidents and instances of keeping journals and personal diaries have resulted in self-help and heightened self-belief. Journal writing and keeping spiritual diaries prove as an outlet for thoughts and emotions. They invoke ‘Vichara’ which can be loosely translated to introspection, self-enquiry… mindfulness. This is mindfulness in daily life… it helps you be fully mindful of that you have done in the moments gone by.
Journal writing aids you with unburdening yourself and clear your mind. It can often shower you with answers to your unrelenting questions. In fact, writing in a journal not only proves therapeutic but is also a means of building on creativity. Journalising is said to tap your inner source of wisdom, which you probably aren’t even aware of. You can progress your emotional, mental and even spiritual growth through reading your own journal a few years down the line. Once you start writing, you will see it as an extension of you.
Journalising emotions can help to release blockages. It is better to write about these feelings than to take it out on the people around you or to keep them inside you. Life is a long journey and everyone has flaws. It is important you embrace and examine your flaws by writing about them in your journal. A word advice though… Don’t be too serious in your journals, pen down your thoughts in as fun and uniquely creative way as possible.
2. Breathing exercises train the mind
Breathing exercises should be ones go to routine for everyday mindfulness. Breathing can be that one faithful friend that we take refuge in no matter what.
Breathing is like a universal truth and irrespective of how you are feeling inside – happy, joyous, sad, or angry, breathing is something that’s constant… like a solid ground for us.
“Breathing In, I calm my body,
Breathing Out, I smile…”
The beautiful thing about breathing is that we don’t control it. We just need to feel it as it is…feel the flow of air as we inhale or exhale. We will feel how light and calm, how natural and peaceful our breathing function is.
Whether we are battling a turmoil internally, or just torn between thoughts, whether we are scattered amidst a thousand problems or just drowning in a deep emotion, breathing is like a deep-rooted anchor that helps us collect our mind and stabilise ourselves.
Breath awareness exercises are the key ingredient in harmonising our mind and body together to bring a sense of awareness and mindfulness in our daily life. Regardless of whether we are breathing shallow or deep, whether we have short or long breathing at any given point, practicing conscious breathing will eventually lead to slow and deep breaths. This will help us remain calm, composed, and joyous.
Writers Note: Breath awareness is my most important tool of mindfulness in daily life. I incorporate it in everything I do… on an everyday basis. Yes! Breath awareness was difficult initially but it comes naturally now.
3. Exercise frequently
In addition to its effects on physical and mental well being, regular physical exercises has been linked to improved mindfulness, concentration, memory and learning abilities.
Nancy Hellmich of USA today reports her findings on effect of exercises on youth academic performance in 2010 article. She reported that breaks for physical exercise improve attention and concentration and scores on standardized academic achievement tests than extra lessons.
As little as 15 minutes of aerobic exercises has been reported to improve concentration, classroom attentiveness and mindfulness in children of elementary school, as reported by Dr. Stewart Trost of Oregon state university.
Exercise has also been shown to improve focus in people with ADHD, as it triggers the release of chemicals in the brain that affect memory and concentration.
A report from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign suggests that aerobic exercises improves immediate and long term functioning of the brain regions controlling attention.
4. Minimise external Distractions
A lot of different ways exist to easily block external distractions as one can not be mindful all the times. A lot of gadgets and apps are built to minimize loud noises and blinking lights. Here are a few simple suggestions to limit these common distractions:
Wear headphones or earplugs: If loud noise is breaking your focus then the most logical approach is to remove them from the equation. Noise cancelling headphones or earplugs can do the job. If you want to block all outside cues, consider recording your entire day on a digital recorder to find from where and when those sounds are coming so you can reschedule your day according to them.
Strap on your digital blinders: Block audio and visual notifications as they can wreck serious havoc or our concentration. Try to set up timed internet blocks that can block your emails or Facebook notifications or you can use browser extensions to keep you on track. You can use apps like unroll.me that takes all your email notifications and rolls into a single daily email digest, so that you don’t get notifications throughout the day.
5. Increase Attention and Concentration
We all struggle to sustain concentration in our daily lives. Countless distractions keep our brains from focusing on the task at hand. Read on… Science behind Attention and Concentrationon
6. Try the five more ‘mindfulness’ rule
Whenever your mind wants to quit or lose concentration, convince yourself to do it for five more minutes of whatever task you were doing. If you are solving a math problem do five more problems, if you are reading, read five more pages and you will feel the energy deep within to do what you were doing.
7. Try to do one thing at a time, and do it with completion
If you start doing a new project before completing the last one, you are sending the information to your brain that it’s ok to switch from one thing to another and this can seriously impact your concentration.
So to improve your focus, convince your brain for finishing the present task no matter how small that is. As even the smallest uncompleted task can have reverberations over the task you want to accomplish. Completion of a task doesn’t imply you This may look like a simple routine, but I feel it should be right up there in everyones everyday mindfulness exercises schedule.
8. Prepare yourself bodily and mentally… every morning
When we wake up every morning, we must realise we have a fresh start and 24 hours ahead of us which are very precious. We shouldn’t wake up for the fact that we have to, and go about our daily lives. We must instead wake up with a smile and a wish to dedicate ourselves completely for the next 24 hours to constructive energy and a bunch of dreams.
Wake up every day with a thought that something amazing is going to happen… even if it doesn’t happen.
We must remember this and probably say this to ourselves every morning as we wake up. It is always healthy to wake up to a positive start and revived energy.
We can also, instead of getting up from the bed right away, take a few deep breaths. Massaging the neck, shoulders, head or arms gently before getting off the bed is also a good practice. Stretching out a bit after waking up or having a glass of warm water first thing in the morning is also great for our system. These quick and small practices help in blood circulation, and also help us achieve a state of mindfulness in everyday life.
9. Drink more water
A 2012 study published in The Journal of Nutrition claimed that even the mild dehydration can affect our concentration and mindfulness. In the study when the participants were less than 2 percent dehydrated (in this study, from not drinking enough water after exercise), their ability to concentrate on a series of cognitive tests was affected.
“When the brain detects even the smallest changes in physiology, it may begin operating at a suboptimal level to get your attention,” said study co-author Harris Lieberman. “Thirst is not the best measure of hydration, so a decrease in your ability to focus is an early warning signal that it’s time to drink up.”
10. Try to wiggle your toes
“The frenetic nature of our society — constant updates via e-mail and Twitter, for example – provides some sort of excitement every few minutes, and we’ve become trained to expect that,” says author of the charisma myth, Olivia Fox Cabane. “If we’re not stimulated after a short period of time, we look around for something that will do the job. This is true whether we’re reading a dull news story or involved in a conversation.”
To bring your focus back to the present, Cabane recommends taking a break to focus your attention on your toes. This quick mindful wiggling of toes will instantly bring you back on the track.
11. Be creative. Get lost in a good story…
You can use entertainment in the form of reading a book, or playing a sport, which demands concentration for improving your focus.
Dr Perry suggests one can use any type of entertainment to utilize your escapism as a means to calibrate your brain to focusing but it should be challenging and you should be doing it actively.
This kind of mindfulness training exercise won’t simply allow you to run off and start working on the project without having to worry about distractions but by training you will get used to the feeling of being focused and this feeling transfers over across everything you do.
12. Sitting meditation as mat simulation for mindfulness in daily life
Have you ever noticed the peaceful Buddha sitting on an altar? Sitting meditation gives a similar kind of peace and calmness. It radiates a strong sense of self-care and awareness of what is in and around us.
To practice sitting mindfulness meditation, we must always sit upright with our backs straight and focus on our breathing. We must try to be calm, peaceful, and learn to let it go – just like we inhale, absorb and then exhale.
Meditating is not just about focussing on the positivity. It is also about understanding, accepting your negative thoughts, and learning to either accept them and/or letting them go.
Sitting mindfulness meditation can be immensely healing. It helps us experience whatever is within us – be it love, hatred, joy, grief, peace and agitations. The motto is to try and maintain a rhythmic breathing while staying calm, even if there is turmoil inside.
Ideally you should sit in a normal position and not be distracted or shift positions. It is understandable if your legs start hurting or get numb you should gently switch position without opening your eyes or getting distracted. Try and maintain a steady and slow breathing while shifting too.
13. Do not rush eat. Be mindful of your daily meals
Eating a meal is similar to a meditative practice where we need to immerse our presence completely. Before starting your meal, you can take in a moment to absorb all that is on the platter. We can think about how so many elements come together to gift us with this lovely meal and how the universe is supporting us and providing for our existence.
“Never eat anything that you don’t enjoy,
And, Truly enjoy everything you eat…”
Another important thing to always keep in mind is to take your time enjoying every bite of what you are eating. Enjoy the present moment and absorb in the flavours in every bite and don’t rush or swallow. This also helps in boosting our digestive system.
Do not talk or let yourself get distracted – just focus on the flavours and the different elements in the food. This helps in becoming mindful about the presence of the food and the nourishment it provides. On finishing a meal, we must take a minute to feel that our platter is now empty and our hunger is now fully satisfied.
14. Make work meditative. Do not try to rush and finish
We all have numerous chores to finish and often these chores feel hectic and tiring. Have you ever wondered why? Because, we treat them like a chore and are not interested in doing them.
If you start to find meaningfulness in most of the chores you do, they would seem much less tiring. Above everything, it will teach you to be patient even through unpleasant times and will help you gain mindfulness in daily life; help savour every moment.
“Wherever you are…be there totally” – Eckhart Tolle.
Whether you are doing the dishes, cleaning, doing laundry, or gardening – try to do so in a calm and quiet environment. Focus on your breathing; enjoy every little detail of what you are doing. Do not try to rush and finish. Instead, focus on relaxing and being mindful of your surroundings.
15. Infuse cooking with love and mindfulness, along with the spices
As surprising as it may sound, the kitchen is quite an interesting meditating space to practice mindfulness in daily life. We do our kitchen chores just as we do otherwise, except, we relax and don’t rush it like always.
Remember to infuse a lot of mindfulness and love in whatever you are cooking. Remember to not distract yourself with other things and focus solely on cooking and try to feel the joy and peace radiating around.
16. Chewing gum can help
Chewing gum boosts reaction time and accuracy rates along with enhancing ability to focus as proved by the study published in British Journal of Psychology.
The researchers believed that chewing gum by increasing blood supply to the brain improves oxygenation of the brain areas responsible for attention and focus.
17. Take to doodling
Doodling is not only a good brain exercise but it has been proved to help us to focus better, grasp new concepts and retain information.
According to the study published in the medical journal The Lancet, doodling engages brain defaults networks- the brain regions that maintain a baseline brain activity even when the outside stimulus is not present.
18. Be mindful of internalised solitude and silence
In the daily hustle-bustle, we often forget how important and imperative it is to have some time for ourselves – some solitude. Solitude does not mean going far away from civilisation and sitting alone in some hut at a mountain top. Solitude means finding that calmness within to have a stable mind and soul which does not get distracted.
“In your silence, when there are no words, no language,
nobody else is present, you are getting in tune with existence” – OSHO
Solitude is all about ensuring you have some time with yourself and your surroundings without any disturbances around you or within. There might be a crowd around you, or a sea of memories, maybe stress or worry about the future, a sad memory from the past, an exciting prospect in the near future or just a happy present. The key is to filter out all of this and take refuge in the beautiful serenity within us.
Smile to yourself, maintain deep and slow breaths, and learn to slowly drain out all the negativity, all emotions, and perceptions.
19. Anger is an undeniable reality. Accept and Process it.
Have you ever noticed how anger is just like a crying baby seeking the warmth and loving arms of a mother.
When we are angry, we essentially just look for the care and love of ourselves. We often tend to reject or reprise anger, but there is no sense to it. Suppressing or rejecting anger probably just makes it worse. You should instead welcome anger with love and compassion. Anger is just an emotion stemming from a need or an incident.
Do not interact, speak out or do anything – it will probably just make things work. Isn’t it amazing how silence can be so powerful? Be quiet, try to calm down first by taking deep breaths and practicing mindfulness. Once you are calm, open yourself to your anger, take your time, understand where it is rooted, and half your work is done.
“Anger doesn’t solve anything, it builds nothing,
But, it can destroy everything”
Be it a situation, an incident, or a person that is aggravating the anger in you; always remember to take refuge in calmness and in silence.
Once you introspect, you will be able to locate and isolate the cause of your anger. There might be a certain characteristic in a person that you did not like, or maybe it might reflect a weakness or our own that we are afraid to address.
Focus on your breathing – just like the crying baby calms down once the mother has addressed their needs, you can also pacify yourself once you have identified your issues. This brings us to the next step in practicing mindfulness in daily life.
20. Acceptance can lead to love… Self Love.
We were just talking about how we should try to identify our anger about other/others around you. But, then what should we do? React? Or ignore? Actually, you should do neither of those! You must accept whatever the root cause is, be it another person’s characteristic or a weakness of yours.
Once you learn to accept a problem, the solution will come easily. Moreover, accepting will let you drain off the destructive thoughts and let go of the anger well.
Once we deeply look into these agitations, we will learn to accept them better. And with acceptance comes love. Isn’t that the path we are treading on in the first place? To love and to encourage peace and calmness! But how can we grow to love and accept others, particularly when they are a reason to our stemming anger? The answer is simple – Love yourself.
“Surrender to what is. Let go of what was.
Have faith in what will be…” – Sonia Ricotti.
Unless you learn to love and accept yourself including all your flaws and characteristics, you can never spread love around you. With deep introspection you will realise that no one is perfect and every one might have some behaviour, or characteristics or weaknesses which might be a reason of agitation for others.
Once you learn to absorb in and calmly accept and nurture your weaknesses, you will be able to accept others weaknesses and flaws too.
21. Sharing is caring
This concept definitely applies to mindfulness. We have often heard that listening is very important for any conversation. Turns out it is just as imperative to practice mindfulness in daily life – because your everyday life cannot go around without interacting with others.
Practice breathing exercises and try to focus your full attention to the person when you are talking to someone or having a conversation. This helps you resonate and benefit from collective insight of others around you. You learn to grow as a person, and also learn to grow patient, calm, and peaceful. You can be a great listener and will also help create a receptive and calm environment, when talking to someone.
Sitting together, sharing experiences, basking in a similar joyous vibe is not just informative and introspective, but also helps you identify your true connections in life too.
22. Rest… Helps rejuvenate!
No practice is complete unless you know how to maintain a balance and ensure that your body is not tired. Practicing mindfulness is not something that tires you. On the contrary, it is a practice that energies and rejuvenates you.
If you are feeling tired, then you are not resting enough and your body is trying to communicate that with you. No practice, be it mindfulness or anything else can be best done with a tired body and a worked up mind.
One often confuses resting with sleeping, but it is not the same. Resting means to give your mind and body a break from whatever you are doing. It means to take a 5-minute walk outside, to sit and relax somewhere in silence, or anything else. The whole point of resting is to practice mindfulness breathing while sitting, standing, or lying down. That is your only focus and you erase everything else from your mind, and stop everything else that you are doing.
This is what restores and resets both our body and mind and is crucial to enjoy a healthy life and practice mindfulness in its true essence. Literally not doing anything or not thinking about anything is an art and is incredibly healing.
Of course, sleep is also resting and at the end of the day, we do need to go to sleep. Mindful and slow deep breaths can help you fall asleep sooner. Try to keep your heart calm, and mind free.
After practicing mindfulness in every day life, and after spreading your share of love and joy around and within, it is time for you to let your body and mind naturally reset and gear you up for the next day. You can then start your everyday afresh with new aspirations!
Mindfulness in daily life is about everything we do otherwise, but differently.
This small and simple change can turn your life around and can even give you a new hope and direction!
We have covered the basics of how you can exercise mindfulness in daily life and learn to be more aware and gradually create a beautiful harmony between your body and mind.
But practicing it is a never ending process and these are not the only activities where you limit yourself. Keep practicing mindfulness and see how it changes you and your perceptions – about you, about others, and most importantly, about life.
“In the end just three things matter…
How well we have lived.
How well we have loved.
How well we have learnt to let go”.
Btw, to know more about how to incorporate everyday mindfulness exercise, mindfulness meditation and related exercises and activities, please consult a related expert…
A lot of yoga ashrams have started conducting everyday mindfulness exercises, mindfulness retreats, workshops, courses, classes or lectures along with specific mindfulness exercises for anxiety, stress and depression etc… and mostly, they are on the mark. Do attend them, as the benefits of mindfulness are immense. All the Best!