Simple Ways to be Mindful Throughout the Day
Life can feel hectic and overwhelming for many of us these days. Many of us often spend a lot of time throughout the day either worried about something that has already happened that we cannot change, or that something in the future that hasn’t happened yet may not live up to our hopes or expectations. We rarely focus on what is happening in the present moment. While you may not be able to change your daily schedule or responsibilities, you can practice something called mindfulness to help bring yourself back to the present when you are feeling overwhelmed and stretched to the limit throughout the day.
The term mindfulness has become a buzzword in our current culture, but what does it actually mean to be mindful and live life mindfully? One of my personal heroes, Dr. Dan Siegel, describes mindful awareness as “a form of awareness in which we are alert and open to present experience without being swept up by judgments and prior expectations” (Siegel, 2012). Take a second to think how often you have done that in the last week-just acknowledged your thoughts and worries without placing a judgment or expectation on them-probably not many times, if any.
When most people hear the term mindfulness, they assume that it means meditating. It definitely can, but meditation isn’t for everyone, and that is ok! There are other simple ways to include mindfulness into your everyday routine. Below are some of my favorite ways to include mindfulness into your daily life and bring yourself back to the present:
Listening to music: If you are a big music person like I am, listening to music in itself can be therapeutic. You can also turn listening to music into a mindful activity as well! Turn on a song (I suggest listening in headphones so you can hear the nuances of the music) and pay attention to the different instruments individually, the beat, etc. By focusing on one instrument individually it will bring you to the present. For example, turn on one of your favorite songs and focus only on the base line or the piano from the start of the song to the end. I bet you will be surprised how centered and relaxed you will feel as you do this!
Take a mindful walk: One of my favorite things to do during a busy day is step out of the building for a few minutes and take a quiet walk. If you are able to take a quick 10 minute walk during the work day or on a break, pay close attention to your senses as you are walking. For example, focus on the sounds you hear (leaves rustling, the breeze blowing, etc.), the feeling of the ground beneath your feet as you are walking, the feeling of the air on your face, etc.
Gratitude list: Keep a gratitude list each day. You can carry a pad of paper with you, or even keep it in the notes on your phone. Throughout the day, take a moment here and there to think about something you are grateful for that day and add it to the list. So often, we rush throughout the day and focus more on all the not so great things that have happened that day. By actively stopping for a moment and shifting your thoughts to the positive, it can help center you in the midst of a busy day.
Mindfulness apps: There are many great apps that you can put on your phone or IPad to help you engage in mindful activities throughout the day. If you just search “mindfulness apps” in your app store, a lot of different options will come up. Some allow you to set times to remind you throughout the day to take a mindful moment, some will walk you through breathing exercises-whatever is most helpful for you, there’s an app for that!
When I teach mindfulness to clients, some of the most frequent responses I get is “I tried it and it didn’t do anything” or “I couldn’t relax enough for it to do anything“. I experienced this too when I first started incorporating mindfulness into my day. But for most people, the more they practice it each day, the easier it becomes. It’s like a muscle you have to build up over time until it eventually becomes a natural way of being.
Best of luck on your journey to becoming more mindful!
Siegel, D. J. (2012). Pocket guide to interpersonal neurobiology: The integrative handbook of the mind. New York, NY: Norton.