Ways to Bring Mindfulness into Everyday Life

Take a deep breath.

Inhale through your nose, and gently exhale through your mouth.

When was the last time you welcomed space to simply sit, breathe, and be with yourself for a moment?

Every day we absorb the message that to be successful we need to pack our daily routines full of meetings, activities, and endless to-do lists. We wear our dense, color-coded calendars like badges of honor. But the busier we become, the less time we have to slow down and listen to our thoughts, emotions, and even our bodies.

Mindfulness is essential to our wellbeing. Instead of moving forward toward progress and productivity, mindfulness asks us to pause.

To notice our breath.

To check in with our thoughts and feelings.

Mindfulness helps to restore us, mentally and physically, to be able to move throughout our day with more gratitude, awareness, and ultimately joy.

Cultivating a habit of mindfulness takes practice and intention to step back from the daily grind and invite ourselves to encounter a new way of being.

What is Mindfulness?

Awareness and acceptance of your thoughts and emotions are central to mindfulness practices. As your mind enters the present and the bustling world around you begins to slow, you may notice some unfamiliar thoughts or emotions rising to the surface. Mindfulness asks us to identify them without judgment.

Anger, for instance, can be an unpleasant emotion. Mindfulness allows us to name the anger and look at it from a new perspective. Instead of avoiding the emotion, we become curious about how it feels in our bodies and how we can choose to react differently.

Mindfulness does not seek to change our present circumstances or even our emotions. It allows us to tune into our inner being, name what arises, and move on.

Every small, intentional moment of mindfulness increases your capacity and capability to hold your awareness in the present. Pausing to take a breath. Noticing the sights, sounds, and smells that surround you.

And the more you engage in mindfulness practices, the more you will notice benefits to both your mental and physical health.

Mindfulness can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety

In a comprehensive review of Meditation Programs for Psychological Stress and Well-being, researchers determined mindfulness meditation programs helped to decrease both anxiety and depression. Instead of ruminating on past regrets or future worries that increase symptoms of anxiety and depression, mindfulness brings awareness to the present moment and helps to stop the cycle of negative thinking.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers brought our attention to the potential benefits of mindfulness practices in the midst of sudden change. Increased anxiety and overwhelm were common symptoms of many individuals facing loss, higher stress, and less support. A review of the current literature on mindfulness meditation showed strong benefits of adding a daily practice to help us adapt and to better “sit with our fears and our circumstances.”

Mindfulness can help improve our physical health

Mindfulness exercises can also improve our physical health. The less stress we experience, the stronger our immune system becomes and is more capable of fighting off viruses and bacteria. Evidence also suggests that while mindfulness may not be able to reverse physical conditions in and of themselves, regular practice can lead to improved heart function and mental cognition over time.

How To Bring Mindfulness Into Your Daily Life

Mindfulness practices look different from person to person. What works best for you may not for your family member, coworker, or friend.

As you begin to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine, know that you may forget for a day or two, and that’s alright. Each day is a new day to begin again. If you tried a breathing practice the first time, think about trying a body scan or setting your phone aside.

Remember, you don’t have to jump in all at once. Listen to your body and start with a small, intentional step that brings you joy and work up to longer practices.

Take notice of your breathing

Breathing is part of our body’s autonomic nervous system. It happens without thought and without prompting. Turning our attention to our breath, its pace, and its depth can help bring our minds into the present moment.

Notice how air flows into your nose and how your diaphragm helps you push it out through your mouth. You can also deepen your breath, holding it for a few seconds longer each time you inhale and exhale. How does your breath feel as it enters your body, and how is it different as it exits?

When you find yourself in a quiet moment or you feel your thoughts begin to wander, pause and breathe with intention. Not only can your breath help ground you but deep, intentional breathing can also help to lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

Focus on your senses

Each of our five senses—taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight—has the power to still our bodies and bring our minds to the present. Whether you’re outside walking the dog or inside making dinner, pick a sense to bring into focus.

As you walk, what do you hear? As you chop vegetables or heat leftovers in the microwave, what do you smell? Try not to rush through the sensations but turn them over in your mind and recognize their differences from one another.

Take a break from your phone and other distractions

Oftentimes if we’re not working, exercising, or in meetings, we’re on our phones, scrolling through social media feeds or refreshing our inbox. Set aside time during the day that is not in front of a screen, be it a phone or computer, and notice what thoughts and emotions begin to surface. This could be while you’re eating dinner, waiting in line at the grocery store, or walking down the street.

Sometimes we distract ourselves with technology to not think or feel complex emotions. By giving your thoughts space, you are bringing yourself into the present which can feel uncomfortable at first. Instead, ask yourself how you can be curious about what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling. Curiosity in and of itself is a valuable tool to view your thoughts and feelings from a neutral space, which over time can allow you to encounter difficult emotions with ease and let them go.

Practice mindful movement

Each day our bodies move in a variety of ways, from waking up in the morning to walking down the street or dancing when a favorite song comes on the radio.

As you wake, pay attention to how your body feels before you open your eyes and the sensation of your feet landing on the floor. Notice each movement, no matter how fast or slow, big or small, and be curious about the capabilities of your body.

Try not to confuse mindful movement with regular exercise. Remember the focus is on bringing attention to the present moment of your movement, what you are doing right now, whenever that may be.

Try a guided mindfulness meditation

Some people prefer guided meditation as a way to incorporate mindfulness practices into their day. The Healthy Minds Program App has a plethora of pre-recorded meditations that are as short as five minutes and go up to thirty minutes as well as lessons by neuroscientists and mindfulness teachers.

Awaken Pittsburgh also offers a variety of open meditation videos that include practices such as breath counting and tensing and relaxing to help you get started.

One of the more popular guided meditations that you can practice while using an app or by yourself is a body scan. It helps if you are able to lie down, but you can also practice sitting up.

Start by bringing your attention to the very top of your head and slowly work your way down, noticing each part of your body and how it feels, all the way to your toes. Pay attention to your mind and bring it back to the present if it begins to wander.

Turn everyday activities into mindful moments

Consider what activities are already part of your daily routine. In what ways can you bring more awareness to the task at hand? Brushing your teeth, taking a shower, and cleaning the kitchen are tasks we often do without a second thought.

Mindfulness invites you to become aware of the sensation of the bristles against your teeth, of the movement of your hands as they scrub against the counter or a dish in the sink. Notice how the soap foams and how the temperature of the water fluctuates as you increase your awareness of the moment.

Awaken Can Help You Get Started

If you are new to the practice of mindfulness, you may find that your mind begins to wander. Allow these thoughts to come and bring them to your attention before guiding your focus back to the present. Mindfulness is just like a muscle that needs regular exercise to build its strength.

You may also find it helps to practice mindfulness at certain times of the day, to write down your daily mindfulness habits, or to invite a friend to help hold you accountable.

Awaken Pittsburgh offers mindfulness training for all skill levels, including beginners just like you.

Check out our free online mindfulness training resources

Join our online mindfulness community where you can find support and begin your mindfulness journey alongside like-minded people.

Mindful Connections™

Through our proprietary curriculum, Mindful Connections™, we offer essential, evidence-based mindfulness training designed to meet many needs—from individuals looking to deepen their practice, to educators, to public safety teams and others working in high-stress professions.

Led by experts in their fields and grounded in the latest findings in neuroscience and dialectical behavioral therapy, Mindful Connections™ programs are a proven path to powerful and lasting transformation.

Our introductory series is geared towards beginners, introducing a spectrum of practices that can benefit all levels. In addition, we offer programs specific to intermediate and advanced practitioners.

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