Here’s five ways to practise mindfulness throughout your day.
Integrating our mindfulness practice into daily life is crucial. We don’t practise to become Olympic gold meditators, we practise so that we can get rid of harmful habits of thought and behaviour and live in the present moment with greater awareness, calm, clarity and contentment.
While the ‘formal’ practice of sitting for 10 or 15 minutes of meditation everyday is crucial to training the mind, ‘informal’ mini-practices throughout our day can bring us huge benefits, and integrate the qualities we are cultivating.
Meditating with the eyes open, looking down, is a great preparation for integration. Some schools of mindfulness teach this from the beginning. Some don’t. If you’re meditating with your eyes closed, try opening them for a few minutes halfway through your practice or when you feel settled. Over time, you can learn to sit, undistracted, with eyes open. This skill helps us to integrate mindfulness into everyday life.
1. Remember to pause. Remembering to actually pause and check in with oneself regularly is also a habit to be trained. When we forget to remember, and get caught up in work or being busy, we can lose touch, and then we don’t even know how we are. Some people like to set an alarm on their phone or have a ‘mindfulness bell’ remind them. Some apps that can help here are Insight Timer and Mindfulness Bell. Another technique I find very useful is counting how many times I remember to pay attention to my body, my breath, my mind. On the days when my count is higher, I feel more self-aware and more calm and connected. I wear a little finger counter to help me do this.
2. Check in with Body-Breath-Being. ‘The Three B’s’ is a useful three-step process for checking in. Whatever we are feeling, we can turn our attention to our bodies. If there’s an emotion, we can investigate how that feels in the body. Where does it feel tense or warm? What thoughts are arising? If there’s no overriding mood, we can spend a moment noticing the sensations in our feet, how they feel as they make contact with the floor. Then we can turn our attention to the breath, tuning into the sensations of breathing. Then we can drop all focus and rest, simply being, present and aware of whatever arises.
3. Take a three-minute stretch break. Working at a computer all day is proven to be bad for our bodies and minds. Every hour, why not take a three-minute stretch break? You can stay sitting if you like, but take your gaze away from the screen. You can use stretches you’ve learned from yoga or exercise, or why not just tune into how your body feels and stretch in the way you need to? Notice the sensations in the muscles as your stretch. What happens to your breath? Here’s a great three minute desk stretch routine.
4. Pay attention to the world around you. Being able to focus mindfully is one thing, but if we get over-absorbed we don’t pay attention to what is happening around us. Notice when this happens, when you get stuck in a little bubble. Take a few seconds to open up your awareness to the world around: the sights, sensations, sounds. We can be nosey! We can investigate what our colleagues are doing, without judgement. Enjoy the taste of our coffee while we gaze at the sky outside. Stay with the direct sensations we perceive from the world around us. If a colleague comes to talk, we can turn away from the screen and give them our full attention.
5. Balance periods of high-intensity and low-intensity. This is great tip, well-researched by Emma Seppala from Stanford in her book The Happiness Track. In a nutshell, the advice is to balance activities you find restorative and calming with activities you find exciting or stressful. So if you’ve had a busy morning, why not take a ten minute stroll around the local park at lunchtime? Or pop to the toilet for a five-minute mindfulness practice? I used to do this at lunchtime when I worked in schools and I found it a great way to de-stress and refresh during my day.
Why not pick one of the above and give it a try? It might make a refreshing difference to your mind, your body and your day.