Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating nonjudgmental awareness in day-to-day life. Have you ever noticed when driving your car on a very familiar route that once you arrive, you don’t remember anything about your trip? That is referred to as being on “automatic pilot.” Mindfulness is the opposite experience. It is about experiencing your life fully, befriending and inhabiting the present moment , and participating intimately in life as it is unfolding. Mindfulness involves being grounded in the body, and bringing a kind, gentle and nonjudgmental curiosity to your current experience, whether positive, negative, or neutral.
Numerous studies have found that mindfulness has many positive effects. It can boost the immune response, decrease emotional reactivity, and improve critical reasoning and decision making. Further, mindfulness seems to increase emotional balance, compassion and genuine happiness, as well as buffer effects of stressful and traumatic experiences.
So how to begin?
While a formal sitting meditation is a great way to begin a mindfulness practice, you can also take opportunities to weave mindfulness throughout your day. From the moment we wake up to the minute we fall asleep, we have continual opportunities to engage life with openness. By choosing to be mindful throughout your day, you can bring more fullness and authenticity to whatever activity you are involved in. You will also find yourself more calm and peaceful. Here are some suggestions to begin:
- When you wake up in the morning , instead of jumping out of bed immediately, take a few minutes to do a mindful check-in. Scan your body, listen to the sounds of the morning and take your “emotional temperature.”
- As you bathe or shower, attend to the sound of the water, the scent of the soap, and the way the light plays in the room instead of thinking and planning for your day.
- Eating a meal in silence, eating slightly slower than you usually do and paying particular attention to the flavors, textures and smells as you eat.
- Try driving home mindfully and slightly slower than usual. Turn off the radio, feel your hands on the steering wheel, and tune in to the sights and sounds around you.
- While driving, use red lights as a reminder to notice your breathing.
- Throughout the day, do mindful check-ins from time to time. You can use routine events, like eating a meal or entering a meeting, as cues to check in prior to proceeding.
- If you live with others, take a few moments to listen and connect with them each day.
- When doing tasks at work or school, do one thing at a time, slowly and with your full attention. Don’t interrupt your focus to respond to texts or check your email until you are at a stopping point.
Best wishes on your journey to a more centered and peaceful life!