The practice of mindfulness isn’t just limited to sitting down and meditating. Mindfulness is something we can bring into every aspect of our lives on a day-to-day basis. It helps us go about our daily lives exactly as it is, which is in the present moment; not in the past or the future. Our minds also become focussed, aware and more compassionate to ourselves and others.
As a beginner, I was a bit clueless on how I could incorporate mindfulness into my daily life. My mind was always racing, jumping from one thought to another. The only time I could settle it was when I sat down and meditated. But like many people, I don’t always have the luxury of time. So how could I immerse myself in the same state when I’m moving about and with my mind focussed elsewhere?
I would like to share my 5 practical tips for everyday mindfulness that has helped me over the years. Hopefully it can bring some peaceful awareness into our lives and beyond.
1. Choose a Cue
Most of us are on auto-pilot the moment we jump out of bed until we start to unwind at the end of the day. This is why it’s important to choose a cue, or multiple, to help us turn off that switch and remember to be mindful. The cue can be anything from a thought to an action to an object. Ideally, it should be something that we encounter on a daily basis. Some of my cues are stress, negative thoughts, walking and driving. When we encounter these cues in our daily lives, it’s a reminder to become aware of our presence and existence at that exact moment. From there, we start to be mindful of the action that we’re undertaking and focus on our breathing. Over time, mindfulness will come naturally and we start to find more cues that connect with our practice.
2. Understand the Power of Breathing
We underestimate the power of our breath. Undoubtedly, breathing is something that keeps us alive but it can do much more than that. It can alleviate physical discomfort such as pain and nausea and mental turmoil such as stress and anxiety. A good place to start is to know where we feel the breath most. It could be at the philtrum where the air enters and exits out of the nose, the rising and falling of the chest or the expansion and deflation of the abdomen. As we go on about our day, try to notice this sensation as often as we can and hold it for as long as we can. When we experience physical or mental pain, try to gauge the breath and let it help us. I focus on my breathing when I feel nauseated or when I’m running and I also imagine the uptake of oxygen flowing through my nose, diffusing across my blood and spreading all over my body.
3. Focus on the Action
Sometimes we do things but we don’t register it on a deep conscious level. Usually these actions are part of a routine that we’ve done thousands of times before. For example, we brush our teeth so often that we are probably thinking of something else as we do it. Yet, being mindful of the current action is the basis of mindfulness itself – being completely present with what we are doing now. The best thing about this is that it empowers us to be more focussed and calm at what we are doing. So take the time to acknowledge the exact thing that is currently being done and relish in the process, feeling, mental effort and all the sensation that it brings. As I’m typing this paragraph, I’m feeling the sensation of the keystrokes against my fingertips, the way I’m sitting in my chair; I’m acutely aware that I’m present in this moment typing away.
Mindfulness and compassion go hand in hand. Throughout our busy schedule, take time to be compassionate to our body and our mind. This can be in the form of self-love, care, knowing when we need a rest or some water. Be understanding that we didn’t even think of mindfulness today and try to do better the next day. As we are compassionate with ourselves, extend that care to others. The ability to send compassion, empathy and love to our close friends and family, strangers and people who irked us is magnificent and requires a lot of consciousness. So if we can try to do that somewhere in the day, it’s also a form of mindfulness.
5. Body Scan
I love to do body scans at the end of the day before going to sleep. But body scans can be done anywhere and anytime during the day. It releases tension, stress and allows our body to relax even if we’re on the go. Whether we are standing, sitting, running, talking or eating our lunch, do a quick body scan from head to toe. Start with the foreheads and the eyebrows, I find that my eyebrows always need unscrunching. Relax the temples and jaw. Follow down through to the neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, pelvis and legs. This is an incredibly powerful way to become mindful of our body and the tension that we hold as we go on our day.