Take Steps to Mindfulness

The practice of mindfulness is good for us in so many ways we can sometimes forget the absolute best thing about it; it’s accessible to everyone, every day, everywhere.

Whether you’re sitting down for 30 minutes of meditation or taking a moment to observe how you tie your shoes, you already have everything you really need, which is a brain and a desire to exert more control about where it takes you. 

That’s not to say it’s easy to do — “practice” is exactly what it takes to focus on your breath, mantra or surroundings for an extended period of time without worry or distraction sneaking in. Here are five simple daily exercises you can do to intentionally move toward that goal.

Mindful eating — Observe your food before eating it, whether it’s on a plate or resting in your hand. Notice its texture, temperature, color, smell, size and/or weight. When you proceed to eating your food, do it slowly and with concentration on how it tastes and makes you feel. This is a valuable step to bring our attention to one of our most automatic activities, to enjoy every moment without overindulging. 

Mindful workout — Before you begin, set an intention for what you want to notice about yourself and your activity. If you’re taking a hike, for example, you can say to yourself, “I will feel the muscles in my legs expand and contract with each step.”

Mindful yawning — Take 10 seconds every hour to yawn and stretch. If you start with a fake yawn, the real ones will follow and create a break in your thoughts. Observe how your stretched muscles are feeling. If there’s any tension or discomfort, you can simply acknowledge it or gently tell it to “ease,” or whatever word is helpful for you. 

Mindful pauses — Insert these at specific times of day, such as when you wake up, or in specific circumstances, such as every time you’re approaching a door. Take this moment to set your intention for what’s about to happen and remind yourself to be as present as possible. 

Mindful breathing — Get into a comfortable position where your breath won’t feel constricted, and set a timer if you need to. Begin to notice your breathing, taking note of how each inhalation and exhalation feels and affects your body. If (when) your mind starts to wander, take note and calmly come back to focusing on your breathing. When you’re finished, assess how this made you feel without judging yourself, as there is no right or wrong answer. 

This can take just a minute or as long as you need it to. Mindfulness meditation is essentially a form of mindful breathing. typically practiced for a specific length of time in a quiet, distraction-free setting.