Being mindful in everyday life isn’t easy. Our hectic schedules have seen us become practically hardwired to be consistently running in stress mode.
Yet retraining our thoughts and actions to be mindful is a matter of simple, straightforward steps.
All you need to do is return your attention to the present moment throughout your day.
Here are 17 super simple tips for keeping you in the moment and making the most of being mindful from first thing in the morning to the time your head hits the pillow at night:
1. Start your day with a smile
Before you so much as venture a toe outside of your duvet take a moment to simply smile. Doing this one simple thing has scientifically proven benefits, activating super friendly neural messages within your brain and releasing those awesome feeling, happy hormones – endorphins, which are powerful pain relievers and depression beaters.
Notice how your smile instantly lifts your mood and changes your mental state. You don’t need to think of anything, just be, and be happy.
2. Drink your cup of tea as if for the first time
Being mindful is very much about appreciating the moment, whatever the moment may be. So with your first few sips of your tea take your time to taste it as though you’ve never drunk it before. Sip slowly. Notice how warm or cold it may be. Take in the smell.
Also, key to remaining in the moment rather than drifting off is to get into the practice of asking yourself certain questions. In this instance, these may be: Can you feel the liquid travelling down inside you? How does it smell? What does it look like?
Focus on drinking, and only drinking, nothing else.
3. Notice how you are being
Wherever you are in your daily routine and whatever you may be doing you can always take a moment to ground yourself. Ask: what qualities of yourself are you bringing to this moment, right now? Are you experiencing stress? Are you bored? Perhaps you’re happy.
Process these questions without getting stuck into the why and without drifting off down a negative thought path. Notice what your mind is saying to you, rather than why it is saying what it is. Are you being self-critical, worried or judgemental? Honing in on these forms of negative thought processes is key to re-training your mind, yet they can be the hardest to break. For this, repeated practice is all that matters.
4. Pay attention to your walking
You may go from A to B without ever realising how you really got there, having not taken in any sights or sounds along the way – operating purely on autopilot stuck in your own thoughts. Yet just as our brain has been programmed to move you from one point to another without paying attention, so too can you use the same repetitive movements to become deeply within the moment, laying the tracks for a mind that doesn’t wander.
As you walk pay complete attention to your arms and legs. Feel the contact that your feet make as they take each step: with one rising, falling and then the other rising and falling. Ask yourself: how fast am I walking? How long are my paces? How do my legs feel as they swing forward from the hip?
5. Look up from your screen
Screens have become more and more ingrained within our daily lives. From our Smartphones upon which we message, scroll through social media and keep up with the world around us; to our in-office workstations into which we may become immersed, our bodies slumped.
So let’s switch things up a bit by switching off for a bit.
So just take the time to take a moment from the screen. Look around. See what is going on around you. Pay attention to the way in which you’re sitting, whether you are tense and notice your facial expression, which will more often than not be set into a deep, concentrative frown. Pause, reset, take a few breaths.
6. Be mindful of your words
We live in an instant world. Where patience is no longer just a virtue, but a seemingly non-existent value. And within this world we converse, chat and communicate faster than ever.
Make a change by becoming mindful over the words that you speak.
Truly listen to what someone is saying by taking a second to digest all that they have spoken. Be aware of what you’re saying, choose your words carefully and transform to talking consciously, rather than reacting with words without your mind in gear.
7. Take a breathing space
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, focus on your breathing for 3 breaths in and out.
Just… stop. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.
Focus on these three breaths and these three breaths alone. Think about the physical sensation of breathing, of the air travelling in and out of your body – your chest rising and falling
8. Notice a moment to be grateful for it
Every day there is at least one moment to be grateful for, it’s just that we’re so busy tidying, cleaning, organising kids, shopping, working… and well, you get the picture, to really notice them. So take a moment out of your day – and tell me, what can you be thankful for right now?
9. Look up at the sky
Our world is quite simply amazing. The fact that we’re all here is a miracle alone, yet we’ve become so used to it that it simply becomes part of the decidedly ordinary.
So take a moment to look up to the sky. Notice the colour, whether there are clouds and ponder just how vast the sky is, and how the never ending space beyond on is proof that miracles do indeed really happen.
10. Stop complaints, grumbles and negative talk.
Complaints are contagious and our brains can get stuck in a literal loop of negative thoughts without our even realising it. So begin noticing the comments you make and the thought processes you enter that are anything but helpful. Then stop. And start again from a fresh, positive perspective.
11. Watch the ebb and flow of your thoughts
One of the hardest concepts of being mindful is retraining our brains to stop entering into roads of thought chains. A simple tip to overcome this is to just say “thoughts” to yourself to literally interrupt the process.
Imagine your thoughts to be clouds that can drift toward and away from you, imagine them ebbing and flowing, never allowing yourself to hold on to them. Watch them leave as quickly as they arrive.
12. Be body aware and simply relax
If you collapse into your bed at night with aches and pains, or struggle to get off to sleep, chances are that your body has been tensed up all day. Taking time to frequently check in on your posture and body sensations gives you chance to redress unhealthy, unhelpful habits.
You can see for yourself just how effective this is right now by relaxing from your head, working your way down through your shoulders into your arms and legs and onto your toes. Try associating a number with each part, from 1 to 5, counting down slowly, and feel the wave of relaxation that sweeps over you.
13. Slow it all down
In the modern world we need to be superfast workers and insanely talented multi-taskers, with many things around us jostling for attention pulling us in different directions. This can all be seriously damaging for our mind, body and soul, where we operate within a permanent state of stress. Anyone for an ulcer or two?
So whatever you’re doing right now, focus on that alone, and slow it right down for at least a few minutes. Notice how different it feels and take note of any messages your brain may be sending as though it were your belligerent boss, telling you to speed back up. Overcome this production line psyche with regularly practising a little slow time.
14. Sit, wait and be (and resist the urge to grab your phone!)
If you’ve ever noticed a doctor’s waiting room or bus queue, you may well have noticed how about 90% of the people within these places are stuck steadfastly to their screens, even couples who may rarely venture a real word between them.
So break the habit of a digital lifetime by not turning to your phone when waiting. Simply sit and take in all that is around you – people watch as though you’re the alien answer to David Attenborough.
15. Listen … carefully
Sounds. They are all around us. Yet we barely notice them. Take the time to pause for a second and listen. Are these sounds quiet or loud? What feelings do they invoke? Do they change? Pay attention to how they rise, fall and become silent once more.
16. Let go of irritations
Pay some serious attention to your moments of agitation and irritability. Take the time to break it down and understand what has made you feel irritated and how your body is reacting toward it. Then imagine yourself writing the issue down on a piece of paper, then scrunching it up and throwing it away. Never stop learning to let go.
17. Pay it forward – Be kind
Pay yourself a compliment. Sounds easy, right? But we’re very often not naturally inclined to notice our strengths… of which you undoubtedly have many. It takes practice, and plenty of it.
Pay kindness forward with simple actions or words of appreciation – small acts such as holding a door, saying a “Hello” or smiling to another can all make for the world of difference to someone else. You never know what a rough day they’re having or how much they needed that compliment.
You needn’t do every item on this list every day.
Pick whichever one stands out and try it.
Start small. Start with one. Be mindful, just once, just for a moment.
Find out what works for you and get into the habit.