While mindful meditation is a great way to practise mindfulness, it is not the only way we can practise mindfulness. We can bring mindfulness principles into almost any area of our lives, however there are some areas in our daily lives where it is easier to integrate “pockets” of mindfulness within our day.
Mindfulness is bringing a present-focused awareness to our current experience without judgment, rejection, or attachment.
When practising mindfulness, we attempt to be curious, accepting, and an observer of our experience, and we suspend self-judgement when our attention wanes.
Below you will find some techniques, ideas, metaphors, and visualization exercises that might help you being more mindfulness into your daily life. A couple of these techniques encourage us to turn our awareness and focus to our external worlds, and some encourage us to pay further attention to our internal worlds.
This technique focuses on paying attention to sensation and allows us to take a mindful break when we are feeling stressed, anxious, or find ourselves being “in our heads” (aka, not in the present moment). Look around the room and name: 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch or feel (actually touch or feel that object and pay attention to the sensation), 3 things you can hear (pay attention to the sound), 2 things you can smell (actually smell the thing), and 1 thing you can taste/looking forward to tasting.
Being in Nature
When we are in nature, we are usually so enamoured by the beauty around us, that it forces us to be attention and be more present-focused. The next time you are in nature, really pay attention to the details around you! Stop and feel the wind and sun on your skin. What does the air feel like? Smell like? Sound like? Watch how the trees move in the wind and watch the pattern the light makes on the ground. Listen for the various sounds you can hear. Watch how the moss grows on the rock. Get really curious about the pattern in the bark on a tree and feel the texture of it. There are so many wonderful ways to pay attention to sensation and be mindful in nature; explore what feels right for you!
Mindful movement is when we can be full engrossed in moving our bodies and be present with that activity! This could include taking a walk, a run, stretching, dancing, etc. Yoga is a great way to practise mindfulness as it often focuses on paying attention to how our body feels during the various poses. Mindful movement can be an easy way to incorporate more mindfulness into your day; whatever movement you are already doing, see if you can bring more awareness to how your body feels!
Creating “Mindful Moments”
We can create “mindful moments” in activities we are already doing by paying attention to our senses in those moment. Activities like showering (paying attention to how the water feels, the steam, the smell of the soap, the sensation on your skin, etc.), drinking coffee or tea (the sensation of the warm mug in our hands, the way the coffee/tea swirls in our mug, the smell, the taste, the sensation of swallowing, etc.), petting a pet (the softness of their fur, the colour, the emotions we experience in that moment, etc.) and climbing into bed at the end of the day (the feelings of the blankets, the emotions we feel, how our body relaxes, etc.) can all be used to create mindful moments.
Taking “Breathing Breaks”
Set a timer on your phone throughout your work or school day that reminds you to take a “breathing break.” During this breathing break, take three deep breaths, and see if you can keep your attention focused on the sensation of the breath, wherever you feel it most strongly. Some people might notice the breath the most in the expanding and resting back in the chest or diaphragm, some might notice it the most as the air moves through the throat, and some might notice it the most as the air flows past the nostrils. If you notice your attention wandering away from your breath during your breathing break, that is okay and expected; simply return your attention gently, in a non-judgemental way, to your breath.
Minding our Mind
Our brain is a thought-generating machine, and not all thoughts that we generate are gems. Most are based solely on interpretation, so many are not true and can cause us a lot of distress. We tend to become “fused” or “identify” with more distressing thoughts and they can carry us away with them. We can practise mindfulness with our thoughts by trying not to become too attached to them. Visualization and metaphor can be great ways to practise this.
Imagine your thoughts flowing down over a waterfall, and you are standing beneath it. It hurts being hit by so much water at once! Imagine stepping behind the waterfall and the thoughts can just continue to flow and be washed away in the water.
Leaves on a River
Visualize sitting next to a river, and the leaves floating on the rover each represent a thought. We might have an urge to pick up a leaf and look at it closely but see if you can let the leaves continue to float on by. We can also imagine picking up a thought/leaf and placing it on the river to float away.
Imagine you are sitting beside a busy road, and you see an intriguing car and you try to run along the road to be able to take a photo of it. The car is going too fast, and all the cars are intriguing, so we end up running back and forth. Imagine instead, that you can sit on the side of the road, and just let the traffic go by.
Stone in the Water
If you ever sat at the bottom of a pool or lake as a kid, this metaphor might be for you. It can be so peaceful under the water, when all the chaos, splashing and waves is near the surface. Imagine you are a stone, and you get to sink below all the chaos and waves (your thoughts), to peacefully drift to the bottom of the pool while all the noise (thoughts) happens above you. Watch the waves coming and going from below, without trying to follow each individual wave.
Feeling (& Accepting) All The Feels
Emotions can be very uncomfortable. Many people often either reject their emotions (push down or push away), attach strongly to their emotions (“become” their emotions, or “wallow” in their emotions), or judge their emotions (“I shouldn’t feel this way!”). Just like with our thoughts, metaphor and visualization can be great ways to help us cope with our uncomfortable emotions in more mindful way.
Treating our Emotions like the Weather
Treating our emotions like the weather helps us to accept our emotions, feel our feelings without attaching, and to practise non-judgment. Imagine it’s a rainy day. We can’t judge the rain and yell at the sky “why is it raining, it shouldn’t be raining!!”, we also can’t lie in a puddle until the rain stops, and we can’t pretend like it’s not raining (we will get very wet). If we pretend our emotions are like a rainy day, we can, for example, feel and acknowledge an emotion like sadness without judging the sadness, becoming the sadness, or trying to push it away. When we accept and acknowledge the emotion/rain for what it is, we can then use coping skills/umbrella to make it easier to get through the day.
Surfing Our Emotions
Imagine you are in the ocean, and a wave (which represent an emotion) is coming towards you. You can’t pretend like it’s not approaching (because it will crash over you), and you also can’t fight against the wave (you will lose). Instead, we can accept the approaching wave, without judgement or rejection, and learn to surf. We can use coping skills to help us effectively “ride out” the emotion, because just like waves, the emotion will come, and it will go.
I hope you have been able to find one or two techniques in this list that are helpful and/or resonate with you. Think of this list like a menu, choose what sounds good for you, and leave the rest! You might want to give a couple a try before you find the one that works the best.