16 Ways To Be More Mindful

Image via Unsplash/Joshua Earle

“Mindfulness” might sound like a concept so loose as to be almost meaningless, but in actuality, it’s quite simple — boiled down to its most basic essence, it’s the art of living in the moment and accepting everything that happens. People who focus on the thoughts, feelings and events that are happening to them every day are being mindful, even if all they’re focusing on is brushing their teeth or eating cereal. If you’re interesting in finding new mindful habits other than thinking deep thoughts about toothpaste, here are some easy ways to bring more mindfulness into your life.

1. Take A Walk

Walking meditation is a method of meditating while active; it allows the walker to focus on nothing but the act of walking, which makes it a perfect mindfulness-related activity. When you walk, relax and think about where you’re going; smell the breeze; look at the sky; be aware of the soles of your feet and the way your legs move as you walk. Even something as simple as this is a way of being mindful, and the act of walking provides an easy focus for your thoughts.

2. Savor The Small Things

Even if it’s only a cup of coffee, think about how delicious that coffee is; take a few minutes to just sit and drink coffee instead of slurping it down while multi-tasking. If you see a gorgeous sunset, take the time to do nothing else other than watch it. Assigning more value to small things means you’ll appreciate the big ones even more.

3. Turn Off The Autopilot In Your Brain

Focus on the details of the ordinary activities you do every day, even if this literally means contemplating your cereal or the way it feels to wash your face. “Zero in on the sight, sound, smell, taste and feel of these activities,” says PsychCentral; this will get you in the moment and also help you start truly thinking about the sum of your daily routine.

4. Don’t Try To Be Mindful All The Time

This may seem contradictory, but apparently our brains respond better to “bursts” of mindfulness, according to PsychCentral. This means that attempting mindfulness for only a few minutes a day is still a great way to go; in fact, according to a recent Carnegie Mellon study, practicing 25 minutes of mindfulness meditation for three days in a row can alleviate psychological stress, so don’t feel like a slacker if you’re not being mindful every minute of every day.

5. Meditate

Sometimes the classics are the best. Several studies have shown that mindfulness meditation reduces stress and anxiety by allowing people to dismiss negative thoughts and focus on their breathing and awareness. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, though; even a few minutes of meditation a few days a week has proven health benefits.

6. Do Something That Makes You Happy

Being aware of the moment doesn’t mean that you’re not allowed to enjoy it. Make a little time each day for something that you like to do, whether it’s exercising, spending time with a friend or singing along to embarrassing music when no one else is around.

7. Listen When People Talk

Actively responding to other people is one of the best ways to really live in the moment. In addition to making the other person feel good that you’re really listening to them, it also makes you feel more engaged and empathetic.

8. Cook

Instead of making cooking just another obligation on your checklist for the day or neglecting to cook altogether and shoving takeout in your face as you rush to the next activity, try slowing down and paying attention to each movement you make as you cook. Don’t just robotically chop and sauté things; think about each activity that you’re doing and what the end result will be. Cooking is a very tactile experience, so go ahead and play with your food if you want to — it’ll make you more involved in the present moment.

9. Enjoy Food

Eating slowly and really paying attention to every bite will make a meal much more enjoyable than if you just suck it down like a glazed-eyed zombie dining on brains.

10. Take Time To Relax

Turn off electronics. Don’t check your email. Don’t stress out about the things that happened today and the things that are going to happen tomorrow; just think about where you are now and how it feels to slow down for a minute.

11. Accept Your Feelings — Even The Negative Ones

This is a major principle of mindfulness. Dr. Danny Penman, author of “Mindfulness: A Practical Guide To Finding Peace In A Frantic World,” tells the Huffington Post that mindfulness “essentially means awareness,” and that this translates to accepting the way you feel at all times. When you get stressed out, this can lead to “black-and-white thinking,” in which your brain makes a catastrophe out of everything and lead to greater stress. Penman advises not trying to force yourself to calm down or cheer up; accepting your actual feelings can help you return to equilibrium more than forced happiness can.

12. Don’t Try To Ignore Distractions

Just like you shouldn’t try to repress and ignore your feelings, you shouldn’t try to pretend that distractions don’t exist. If you do, they could actually end up stressing you out and distracting you even more than if you just acknowledged their existence, Dr. Penman tells the Huffington Post. Being mindful means paying attention to everything that’s going on in the moment, even if that includes one of your coworkers telling a detailed story about their latest invasive surgical procedure.

13. Be Grateful

Thinking about how grateful you are for just one thing each day will naturally lead you to think about other things you’re grateful for. Practicing gratitude can improve happiness and wellbeing, as well as encourage you to value the people and things in your life simply as they are, rather than as you wish they might be.

14. Try Yoga

Yoga boasts many of the same stress-reducing properties as meditation, but it’s a more physical practice, which often makes for an easier way to focus the mind. Connecting your breath to your movement is an important aspect of yoga that will help you get more in touch with your body and become more aware of both your insides and outsides.

15. Stretch

Stretching is another way to get in touch with your body after a long day of sitting, which can apparently kill you. So live in the moment by moving around, stretching regularly and acknowledging that your body isn’t made to sit for 8 hours a day.

16. Pay Attention To Your Breathing

Even without yoga you can still do some fancy breath work, which is actually not all that fancy. In fact, it’s one of the simplest ways to begin practicing mindfulness: Just focus on breathing in and out one time. If you’d like, focus on a few more breaths. Pausing for just this one moment (or a few moments, depending on how long you do it) will allow you to clear your mind and focus on whatever task is at hand, conquering stress one tiny step at a time.