How to Add Mindfulness to Your Day
Mindfulness is currently the cool kid on the block with the best outfit and car and that gets invited to all the parties. Everyone wants to learn about mindfulness, practice mindfulness, and say they know mindfulness. But what is mindfulness and how does get more of it?
Here’s the thing that many people profiting off mindfulness won’t tell you - you don’t need to buy anything to become more mindful. And while it may be helpful to deepen your practice, you don’t even need to go to a workshop or retreat or even buy a book. You simply need to practice. And that takes time.
If you want a Quick Guide to Mindfulness, you’re out of luck. You don’t get to buy your way to the front of the line. You simply need to make mindfulness a habit. Like going to the gym or drinking half your body weight in ounces of water a day. It’s something you’re going to need to commit to practicing daily.
As a beginner, there are some easy (and free) ways to remind yourself to be more mindful. But, before I get to those, let’s define mindfulness so we’re all on the same page.
Mindfulness is both the awareness and nonjudgment of your thoughts, feelings and emotions in the present moment. The awareness part if pretty simple when you think of it as an awareness of your physical sensations.
Right now, feel where your legs are touching. Notice any sounds around you. What’s that smell? Is someone cooking something in the kitchen? Awareness of all that is mindfulness. Or at least the first half of it.
That brings us to the second half: nonjudgment. I like to use the word acceptance here too because nonjudgment is a little sticky for me. Nonjudgment means we notice our perception and we allow it to be as it is, without and attempt or desire to change it. This acceptance is what allows us to reduce the tight grip we have on things in our lives and give up control. We allow that dog barking in the background to be as it is, instead of wishing for your annoying neighbor to finally train the dang thing! Release the control. Notice what’s going on in the here and now and accept it as it is - it’s not good or bad. It just is. Ahhh peace feels so good, doesn’t it?!
Now that we are through that briefing, let’s get to the practice! Here are two methods I use to bring mindfulness to my day. They’re easy and free. Wahoo!
When you’re first starting out with mindfulness, it’s kind of hard to remember to be mindful. So, set yourself up for success with some mindfulness cues. The easiest way to create a new habit is to couple it with something you already do regularly.
Do you make the best every morning? Try to use the act of making your bed as a cue to be mindful. Now, instead of making the bed and listening to the news, or thinking of what you have to do that day, use the act of bed-making to make some mindfulness! Think of how soft the sheets feel as you move them. How nice your freshly washed bedding smells. Notice the texture of your comforter as you smooth its surface.
This coupling can be done with anything you do daily: brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, putting on your socks, getting in the car, getting out of the car. The list is endless.
Start by picking one thing and committing to doing it every day for 1 week. Eventually, it will become second nature to be mindful while you make the bed. Only then should you add other actions to your coupling list. Baby steps. No need to rush the process.
I find triggers to be an awesome way to continue the practice of mindfulness throughout the day. Triggers are random cues that trigger you to stop what you were doing and bring awareness to that moment. I have an app called “mindfulness bell” that is exactly that - a mindfulness bell. It’s free and super simple. You set up a range of time you want the app to send you triggers. Say, 10 am to 10 pm. Then, you select how many bells per hour you’d like and if you want them at random or on the hour. I do one per hour at random in case you were wondering. Then you go live your life.
You’ll be at work, minding your own business, then *ding* the mindfulness bell will ring. It’s a pretty bell sound, so hopefully, it doesn’t annoy your fellow office-mates. And if it does, you can teach them the practice of mindfulness and nonjudgment. When the bell rings, let it be a trigger to notice your senses and emotions at that moment. Take a breath and give yourself a quiet time to allow yourself to focus on being present.
By now most of my friends and family are aware of my mindfulness bell and maybe even use it as a trigger when I’m around them, who knows. I have had only one person laugh at me after I explained it, but that’s totally his loss. So don’t be afraid, only 5-10% of the people in your life will judge you for this one (not based on scientific research, results may vary).
I hope these tools help you add the practice of mindfulness to your day! If you're interested in deepening your practice, online mindfulness training programs are becoming more popular and are a great way to learn the history of meditation and mindfulness. Let me know what YOU do to practice mindfulness. Shoot me an email, comment or DM on social.