Mindfulness doesn’t have to be a full time job. In fact, the point of practising mindfulness is to make your life more relaxed and enjoyable. Meditation practice has many benefits, but it isn’t necessary for a mindful life. There are lots of little things you can work into your day to increase your mindfulness that take no effort at all. And isn’t that the point? Here are just a few everyday mindful practices.
5) Be ritualistic
You don’t have to be religious or even spiritual to include rituals in your day. A ritual is any activity performed with a specific set of rules and timing. It’s usually an action that is performed on a regular basis. Normally when we think of rituals images of religious ceremonies come to mind, but anything can be a ritual if you want it to. By creating little rituals out of the things you do every day, you bring a new level of awareness to the action that you may have been missing before. Meals are a great way to incorporate ritual into your life. Even if you don’t prepare the same food in the same way every day, the action of carefully polishing the cutlery and setting the table, transferring the meal from the cookware to a special serving dish, and then again to your plate, and taking a moment to look at and smell your meal before digging in are all ways you can create a ritual out of the important task of nourishing your body. You can also ritualize bathing, dressing, getting ready for bed, or a daily housecleaning routine.
4) Spend time in nature
The slow pace of nature offers lots of opportunities for mindfulness practice. Going for a walk can be a mindfulness practice on its own but add a wooded path or a park to the equation and you’ve just kicked it up big time. The wonderful thing about nature is the way that it hides its greatest mysteries in plain sight. Pay close attention to your surroundings. Try to fully engage your awareness and use all of your senses to take it in. Look closely and lingeringly at the springtime buds on the trees. Notice their shape and try to visualise how that shape translates into an open leaf. Listen to the leaves gently landing on the ground in the fall. Try to focus on each detail of a small plant or a vast landscape and understand how those details come together to create a whole picture.
3) Use water
We live on a blue planet but we don’t think about what a huge part of our lives water is despite the fact that it makes up 60-70% of our bodies. Water is us. Our bodies develop in a sack of water, water plays an important role in the history and lore of every culture, and we need to replenish our water every day to survive. The human experience is intrinsically tied to water and that’s why so many of us find the sight of water to be calming and pleasing. You can use this to you mindfulness advantage by taking a bath or going for a swim and focusing on the water. Notice the buoyancy created by the water. Drip some water on your skin and feel it run down along the path of least resistance. Watch the sea roll or a river flow by if you live near one and think about all the ways that you are connected to it, both scientifically and if you prefer, spiritually.
2) Travel alone
Travelling with friends can be fun, but with someone else constantly there it’s hard to find moments of solitude and contemplation. When you travel alone you live a sort of double life with lots of chances for mindful practice. On the one hand you may meet lots of new friends and spend plenty of time getting to know them. On the other hand you’re alone in a foreign land where you know no one. You may not fully understand the customs or speak the language, giving rise to the perfect opportunity to mindfully study everything and everyone you see. Trying to successfully communicate with a person with whom you don’t share a common spoken language means you must listen carefully to body language and intonation, two great ways of practising mindfulness. And navigating cities you aren’t familiar with will keep your mind present with every step.
1) Make something
Creation is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. Handmade items require focus and repetition, two key elements of mindfulness. You can paint, draw, or sculpt, but you don’t need to be a great artist to create, especially if the project itself is not the end goal. Simple crafts like collaging, card making, or even colouring can all serve the purpose of becoming more mindful. As you work, consider the life of the materials you are working with. Think of where they came from and how they got into your hands. Imagine the life of the item you are making. Where will it spend its existence and how will it end? Making crafts that are meant to be destroyed like candles or soap is a really great way to practice mindfulness because they showcase the impermanence of all matter. This is the reasoning behind Buddhist sand mandalas but you can get the same effect from macaroni art.
Practising mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and enhance lives, and it doesn’t take much effort at all. Try incorporating some of these tips into your daily routine and see how they work for you.