When we think of mindfulness, we often think of someone meditating, in stillness and silence. And meditation is certainly a form of mindfulness. But it is so much more and can be an easy addition to your life.
When I mention being mindful, people often tell me they don’t have time or the discipline in their lives to do it. But being mindful simply means being present at this time, in this moment with what you are doing.
Are You Being Mindful Right Now?
You could mindfully be reading this article or letting your mind wander to what is for dinner or why the person next to you is making that obnoxious noise.
Or you might get to the end of this article and realize you saw the words but didn’t absorb a single word of them. That is doing something mindlessly.
We’ve all found ourselves on the freeway where we’ve suddenly “come to” and realized we’ve passed our exit…or have we?
Related: 9 Benefits of Meditation
So, being mindful is just being present with whatever you happen to be doing. In fact, if you can be mindful of the mundane daily tasks you have to do, then you’re really making progress.
Two Simple Steps to Being Mindful
So, here are two mindfulness exercises. The first is about eating.
1. Mindful Eating
Often times we eat quickly, unconsciously, barely tasting our food. There are certainly times that we are rushed and the food is just fuel. But take at least one meal a week where you eat mindfully.
First, really look at the food. Let’s say it’s broccoli. Look at the color, the texture, the pattern that the light makes on it. Think about where that broccoli came from. From a seed that someone planted (maybe even you), to the water, the sunlight, the soil.
Someone harvested it, cared for it, packaged it and it ended up in your house. Everything is a gift from the universe if you break it down to its most basic origins. Then after you’ve looked at it and thought about it, smell it. Really breathe it in.
We have more receptors in our noses than in our tongues. Take in every aroma. Then put it in your mouth, but don’t chew yet. How does it feel and taste? What is the texture in your mouth? Give it a minute. Then really chew it, slowly and deliberately. What does it taste like? Then after chewing about 35 times, swallow and rest with it for a minute before moving on to the next bite of food, repeating the process.
Will there be moments during this activity where your mind wanders? Possibly. Just bring it back to the task at hand. Fully immerse yourself in it. Make sure you set enough time aside to do this.
It took me 30 minutes to eat half a sandwich the last time I did this. What you’ve just done with this exercise is to live fully in the present for the meal. It was basically an eating meditation.
Related: 3 Surprising Ways to Fight Stress
As I said, that can be a time-consuming process, but well worth it as an activity. You could certainly incorporate a component of it into your day, maybe taking the first 5 minutes of a meal to eat mindfully and silently.
2. Mindful Activities
To add this to a different aspect of your life, choose an activity that you do daily, like brushing your teeth, showering, doing the dishes, preparing the meal, or cleaning the cat box (maybe skip the smelling for that one) and do it with mindful consciousness.
When doing the dishes feel the water on your hands. What is the temperature? How does if feel going over your skin? What is the weight of the plate in your hand? What is the texture of the dish? How does the soap feel? What does it smell like? Lemons? How does the water look as it fills the sink? Does the bubble reflect the light forming little rainbows in every sphere? Where did the dish come from? A gift? Think about the person that made that dish, packaged it, sold it to you?
What does the process of doing the dishes sound like? Are the bubbles crackling? Is the water dripping or slightly leaking down the drain?
Again, immerse yourself in this activity and repeat with every plate, fork, and glass. At the end of this, you will have spent time in a focused relaxed state and I guarantee you’ll have darn clean dishes. Mindfulness is about focusing concentration with curiosity.
You can do this with any activity, walking the dog, gardening, intimacy…you’ll find yourself more relaxed and more present even when you aren’t consciously doing this exercise. Since most of our stress is out in the future somewhere, staying in the moment with mindfulness is just one of the ways we can reduce our stress response. Enjoy the moment.
Kathy Gruver, Ph.D. is the author of The Alternative Medicine Cabinet and Body-Mind Therapies for the Bodyworker. She is the host of the TV series, The Alternative Medicine Cabinet and lectures on health nationwide. You can check out her latest book Conquer Your Stress with Mind/Body Techniques to learn practical tips to decrease your body’s reaction to stress.