How to: Include Mindfulness in Your Life
Practicing mindfulness varies based on preferences and interests. Some may prefer to sit alone, while others may find it comforting to get together with a group of friends and experience mindfulness all in the same space. Even others may seek out classes or directed meditations, where a professional coaches you through staying in the present. As mentioned earlier, there are a number of mindfulness apps, books, and podcasts dedicated to teaching you about the practice or offering techniques and tips. The variety does not end there. Individuals can practice mindfulness in a number of modes- while laying down, sitting upright, standing, stretching, walking, eating, exercising, or even doing a rhythmic task like cooking or painting. Here’s an example of unorthodox mindfulness in the form of mindful baking:
Say you’ve been having a stressful day and need to fill the hours before bed. Instead of turning to social media, which could raise instead of lower your stress, you decide to practice that mindfulness thing you’ve heard so much about. However, maybe you’re hesitant to cross your legs and say “om,” because you’re thinking that’s something black girls don’t do, or maybe you’re afraid to close your eyes and be with your thoughts because you think you’ll fall asleep. You decide to put your nerves and restless energy to use and bake a batch of banana muffins, which turns out to be the perfect ground for mindful thinking. You mash the banana and feel your grip on the cold metal fork, taking note of the stress you’ve been holding in your shoulders that fades away with each rhythmic motion. Feel the powdery flour, the grainy sugar. Get lost in your thoughts- maybe you reflect on the day you’ve had, maybe you think about what you need to do tomorrow. Before you know it, the ingredients have been mixed and the pan is in the oven.
At the end of this process, you have tasty muffins and a calmed mind! This is just one example of many. Leave a comment about a hobby of yours that is a good time to be mindful.
Just like there are many ways to include mindfulness in your life, as seen above, there are many techniques as well. As you are mindful, here are some different ways to fill your mind:
Breath awareness- simply focus on your breathing and let your thoughts come and go
Intentional breathing- similar to breath awareness; take deep, slow breaths and focus on where the air is coming from (learn more here)
Gratitude practice- let the things you’re grateful for come to mind
Naming emotions- sit try to “un-mix” and label your feelings. Joy? Contempt? Anger? Fear? Giddiness?
Five senses- observe the things you can see, hear, smell, feel, and taste
Mindful eating- eat with intentionality, taking time to enjoy your food fully
Music and mindfulness- play a song and spend time focusing on all the different aspects of the sounds you hear
Body scan- imagine scanning your body parts, from bottom to top, and acknowledging how everything feels
Walking mindfulness- pay attention to your breathing, your surroundings, and sensations you feel (for example, how your feet feel on the ground or how the sweat feels on your forehead)
These are only a couple of the many, many mindfulness exercises, and you should now have a variety of techniques at your disposal. Test them out to see which work for you and which ones don’t.Don’t get frustrated if you don’t “click” with a method right away. Discovering what you like and don’t like, what works and doesn’t work, is expected when starting practicing mindfulness. This post concludes the mindfulness series, but that doesn’t mean that you need to abandon the practice just yet! The concept of mindfulness is ever-evolving, and it’s a practice there’s never a shortage of new things to learn and try.