3 Simple Mindfulness exercises for everyday life
If I say Mindfulness, what comes to your mind?
Probably someone sitting cross-legged on a pillow, with eyes closed and a relaxed and focused expression.
Mindfulness is, among other things, an oriental meditative practice. For several decades it has been used as a therapeutic tool in third generation cognitve therapy.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the pioneers of this approach defines it as follows: “Pay attention with intention, at present, in a non-judgmental way”
Leaving aside the theory of Mindfulness applied to the field of psychotherapy, I would like to propose three ways to integrate it into daily life, day after day, and begin immediately to notice the beneficial effects on personal equilibrium, in the ability to concentrate, in the management of difficult emotions. And much more.
These are informal practices: unlike formal ones, for which a time and a place must be derived. The pillow to which you had thought a few moments ago, to be understood.
A formal practice is certainly very effective, if repeated with constancy, but often it is not accessible to all because of the commitments, the job, the children etc…
But we can also cultivate attention and awareness at the present time in any activity of the day. With a good deal of commitment and perseverance, even the most frantic and stressed can learn to let go of the thoughts, without getting entangled!
In this article I want to offer you 3 different ways to do mindfulness while you are doing something else. It may seem like a nonsense, a trivialization too, but it is not so.
It basically involves practicing to build small islands of quietness and awareness during the day while we are engaged in daily activities.
First exercise: Mindfulness in the shower
Showering is a necessity, but for many also a moment of pleasant moment of relaxation. Under the jet of hot water while the bath fills with steam and the scent of the shower.
But what does the mind do? Keep wandering. The shopping list, the dentist appointment, the discussion with the friend…
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Indeed, sometimes, letting the mind wander in a moment of relaxation can happen to find original solutions to some problem.
Often, however, our mind more than wandering freely is put to overthinking, reiterate the same worried thought, without solution. We rethink the usual problem of work, or that fellow unbearable.
The mind works like this, she’s used to trying to sort out her thoughts to solve problems. has evolved for this purpose. But if in the age when we lived in herds in the forests this way of thinking was useful and served to our survival, today, in most cases it is a useless and exhausting activity.
Much better to shower in a conscious way.
Here’s how to do it:
Focus on your body and your sensations. Feel the heat of the water jet on the head, on the shoulders, on the trunk, and widen the perception to each body district. In addition to heat, we may bring attention to the tactile sensation of the water that comes on the skin, and flows down to the feet. We listen to the noise water makes as it comes out of the showerhead, bounces on the body and ends up on the shower tray. And there in the drain. Put your attention to the scent of bubble bath; To the texture on the palm of the hand. Then bring your attention to the hand movements while you’re soaping.
Try to broaden the field of your awareness gradually, including more than one of the sensations listed.
It’s not easy, this is totally normal. You are not used to bring attention to the present moment, in the here and now. From time to time the mind will present a thought, an image, a concern, or maybe even just something to do next.
Notice where the mind goes. Then, kindly, bring your attention to the here and now.
This can happen several times, it’s normal. S
imply, every time the mind wanders, bring the attention back to the here and now, to the noise of the water flowing, to the warmth, to the tactile sensation of the soap etc…
If you have managed to do this exercise for a few minutes, and if you can repeat it daily, you will already be at a good point to notice its beneficial effects.
Second exercise: Mindfulness in line
For most people nothing is more nerve-wracking than expecting. Wait for the turn to come at the post office, or waiting for the bus to arrive. Still worse being in line at the doctor’s office. Or get stuck in traffic. We start with the snorting, then we become intolerant, or tense and agitated.
For some, the situation of waiting in a row represents the trigger of a state of anxiety.
It is possible to reverse this state of stress by taking advantage of the forced break to do some informal mindfulness while we wait.
Also in this example, informal practice does not require you to sit quietly and with your eyes closed, because the situation is not appropriate.
Simply turn the attention gently to the breath, without forcing it, letting the body adjust the frequency, and the depth, trying only to train awareness to the feeling of air coming from the nostrils, and the air coming out of the nostrils. Breath after breath.
In the present moment.
What are we feeling? How does our body react to the unexpected? Is there a feeling of boredom, restlessness in the body? And in thoughts? Our mind wanders?
Then we notice where the mind takes us, and kindly bring attention to the breath.
This breath. This breath. This breath. Learning to be with what’s at that moment.
It can take a few minutes to regain your composure. And then it becomes pleasant to take advantage of that forced pause to observe the world around us: the environment, the people, their speeches.
Or if you’re outdoors: How is the sky right now? How do I feel about my face? The warmth of sunbeams? The cold of the wind on the skin?
3rd Exercise: Mindfulness while brushing your teeth
Brushing your teeth is something we all do, several times a day, for a few minutes. Or so they recommend the dentists. This moment is perfect for cropping two or three minutes of informal mindfulness practice.
Let’s begin by bringing our attention to the here and now, starting from our breath and the sensation of our body breathing. The air that passes through the nose and ends up in the lungs, and then again comes out.
Putting the toothpaste over the toothbrush, let’s note the consistency, the lucidity, the colour, the perfume. Now let’s start brushing our teeth, one after the other. Like we’ve never done that before. Let’s focus on the sensations of the body, the temperature, the taste, the feel of the bristles on the teeth and gums.
In doing this, sometimes it can happen that you get distracted, that the mind goes to a thought, maybe only one thing to do later. Or it may happen to fall into a judgement: “What am I doing? I look like a fool and am too late! “
Kindly, we notice where the mind goes, let go of the judgement, and we bring the attention to the sensations of the body, to our movements while we brush our teeth.
By opening the water, we notice the noise as it slips into the sink. Then while rinse, we notice the sensations of the water inside the mouth, the temperature, the touch, the movements that it makes through the teeth.
Then, kindly we bring to conclusion the exercise.
Every occasion is good
The four informal meditations that I proposed here are just examples of what you can do with the intention of cultivating awareness on several occasions during the day. Practically every moment (or almost) can become an opportunity to train the ability to be fully present here and now. Just apply to the task that we are carrying out these four principles:
- Pay attention moment by moment to what you are experiencing. Listening in particular to the sensations of the body.
- Recognize the activity of your mind and try not to get stuck in thoughts that affect the past or the future. Just treat thoughts as thoughts, without identifying you with them.
- Every time your mind distracts you, kindly bring your attention to the present moment.
- Look at your experience trying not to judge, not to evaluate. Record what you feel trying not to box everything as good or bad, nice or unpleasant, fair or unfair. Accommodate more than reject, open rather than close.
Informal practice is a good start, especially for skeptics. Certainly can not replace a more complete path, nor a psychotherapy oriented to mindfulness, such as the ACT for example.
But if you just can’t sit and listen to your breath, or you don’t find the time, you get sleepy… You can always fall back on these simple practices of mindfulness.
Maybe you’ll find that after a few tries you can better stay in the present moment. Maybe even being not so stressed as you were before you started. Maybe you can handle difficult emotions better. Maybe then you will be spontaneous deepen the concepts and practice.