“Nothing is worth more than this day.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Mindfulness is “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994, p. 4). When we begin to make contact with the present moment using the tool of mindfulness, the world gradually begins to look and feel different. It is as if we are slowly becoming awakened to the reality of the constantly unfolding present moment in a new way. Worries about the past and the future begin to fade away as you realize that you are only truly alive in this moment… right now.
Research is continually showing us the myriad of benefits associated with mindfulness meditation. If the idea of beginning a formal meditation practice seems unrealistic, intimidating, or uninteresting to you, consider the benefits that you may receive through approaching your regular everyday tasks in a mindful manner. You don’t need to devote a large chunk of your time each day to a mindfulness practice to experience the benefits of mindfulness meditation. You can choose to approach your regular tasks differently.
Engaging in your everyday tasks in a mindful way means being fully present, aware, and alert to all aspects of your internal psychological experience and your external material experience. This involves being mindfully attuned to your ongoing inner thoughts and feelings as well as your external sensory experience.
Mindfulness Exercises for Daily Living
3 Simple Everyday Mindfulness Practices (Hayes, 2009):
(1) Mindfulness in your morning routine
We all have a general routine that we engage in most mornings, whether we are fully conscious of it or not. Perhaps it involves waking up at a set time, taking a shower, getting dressed, and having breakfast. Simple, right? You can apply an informal everyday mindfulness practice to your already established morning routine without adding on any additional time in your schedule. It begins with engaging in your regular morning activities in a different way.
Focus your full attention to whatever you are doing, whether it is brushing your teeth or washing your face. As you do this, simply notice all of the sights, smells, and tastes you are experiencing. Rather than allow your mind to wander to what you need to do “next” or what the day will bring, focus your attention on being fully present. Notice these familiar activities in a new way – with curiosity, openness, and without judgment.
Begin to notice exactly what the water sounds like as it comes out in the shower. Notice the temperature of the water and how it feels on your skin. Draw your attention to the smell and feel of your shampoo and how it feels as you clean your hair. When thoughts arise that are unrelated to this present moment, simply acknowledge them and allow them to pass. Don’t be surprised if it is difficult to maintain your focus in the present moment.
Your mind will try to take you elsewhere – to thoughts of the past or of the future. When this happens, simply notice that it is happening. When you become the observer of your thoughts, it is much easier to avoid being fused to those thoughts and “stuck” in them. How do you imagine that your regular morning routine will set a different tone for the day if you meet your regular activities with your fully conscious mindful presence?
(2) Mindfulness of domestic chores
Most of us have different chores that we regularly do around the house. Perhaps you are responsible for taking care of doing the laundry, washing the dishes, or taking out the trash. Whatever this regular domestic activity may be, recognize that it does not have to be a time when you “check out” and simply go through the motions. Begin to view your regular household chores as wonderful opportunities to practice mindfulness.
Pick an activity such as doing the laundry. To engage in this type of domestic chore with mindfulness, it involves a change in your attitude. Really tune in to and notice the colors, shapes, and textures of the clothing. Choose to fold each item with care and attention, begin fully present to your sensory experience. Use this regular domestic chore as a special time for you to focus on being fully present and conscious, rather than checked out or robotic. Begin to notice how the benefits of practicing being present carry over to other areas of your life.
If you notice yourself beginning to feel bored, frustrated, or distracted, simply acknowledge the reality of your experience. Do not try to deny that you are feeling those things – accept them as valid and then let them go. When we choose to acknowledge and validate our experience, we avoid becoming fused to and wrapped up in it. The idea is to observe your feelings of boredom or frustration with an attitude of, “Oh – I notice myself feeling bored/frustrated.” This simple way of reframing your experience allows you to release it.
(3) Mindfulness of pleasant activities
Simple and pleasant activities are a wonderful opportunity to engage full mindful awareness. Choose not to rush through these enjoyable and simple moments. Instead, savor them through being fully present and aware with all of your senses. Many of us have a tendency to rush through the simple happy moments in life, since we are often so focused on “what’s next.” Instead of constantly thinking “ahead” of what you need to do later, choose to be present.
Pick a simple pleasant activity such as petting your cat or dog, snuggling with a loved one, taking a walk outside, taking a bubble bath, listening to music, etc. When you engage in this pleasant activity, allow your attention to completely open up to your full experience of the present moment. Notice all that you see as if you are seeing it for the first time. Look upon this pleasant experience with fresh eyes. Notice the smells, sensations, and sounds that you experience. Give yourself permission to truly enjoy the moment.
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Harris, R. (2009). ACT made simple. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Kabat-Zinn, J. (1994). Wherever you go, there you are: Mindfulness meditation in everyday life. New York: Hyperion.
Featured image: Be by hkoppdelaney / CC BY-ND 2.0