Everyday mindfulness is something you can practice at almost any time—including right now! Mindfulness is simply the act of being present. It’s being fully aware of what you’re experiencing in the moment without judgement. It takes practice to get the full benefits of mindfulness.
As you start practicing mindfulness, you might feel some immediate benefits such as feeling calm, relaxed, or compassionate. But keep in mind that, like any skill, results come with repetition.
You wouldn’t expect to become an excellent marksman in just one hour of training on the range. In the same way, it’s important to practice mindfulness consistently to experience lasting results.
You can practice mindfulness at any time.
One misconception about mindfulness is that you need to meditate for 20–30 minutes while focused on your breathing. In fact, you can take advantage of everyday events to practice mindfulness. Here are some routine opportunities you can use to practice mindfulness.
Mindful yard work or household chores.
Mowing the lawn, mopping the floor, or cleaning the dishes might not fit the picture of practicing mindfulness on a beach, but tasks like these are a great way to practice. Doing household chores mindfully also can help turn tasks you often rush to finish into new experiences—and might help you lose weight and be healthier. For example, one study showed when hotel housekeepers were made aware their work satisfied the Surgeon General’s recommendations for an active lifestyle, they a had decrease in weight, blood pressure, body fat, waist-to-hip ratio, and body mass index. You can practice mindful chores by focusing on each of your actions. Feel your muscles contract, move, and relax. Fully immerse yourself into the task, noticing your progress, and using all your senses to fully experience the process.
When you take a shower, are you present, or does your mind wander? Are you thinking about what you need to do that day, rehearsing conversations you might have, or remembering a recent argument? Showers (and baths) are a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. Shower time provides you with alone time and a whole host of sensations to focus your attention. Notice the hot water hitting your back, the steam foaming up the glass, the smell of the soap, and the feel of the bubbles. It’s fine if you mind returns to what you need to do later today; just be aware your mind is wandering and accept these thoughts without judgement. Each time you get in the shower, ask yourself, “am I fully here?” as a reminder to practice.
Whether it’s a holiday meal at Grandma’s, or a night out with friends, social gatherings are an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Take a moment to notice everyone present, what they’re doing, what brings them there, what they sound like, what they look like, how they’re different, and how they’re the same. Notice how you feel as you interact with others. What are you doing, what are you thinking? Notice what you smell, taste, and feel. Where is your mind? Is it focusing on future goals, past history, or are you fully aware of what you’re experiencing in the moment. All the options are fine, the key is simply being aware of your thoughts and surroundings. Try taking 5 mental photographs at social gatherings to remind yourself to make time to be fully in the moment and aware of all you’re experiencing. And if you’re eating or drinking, try practicing mindful eating.
Mindfulness is simple but not easy.
If you feel frustrated or unsure as to whether you’re practicing mindfulness correctly or whether it’s “working,” you’re not alone. You might even get angry and think, “This is stupid.” Remember, these thoughts are okay. As long as you’re aware of them and let them pass without judgment, you’re doing it right.
Mindfulness can help you cope with stress, lower your blood pressure, sleep better, become more focused and alert, and improve your relationships. Read HPRC’s article on mindfulness in military environments to learn more about how mindfulness can improve your performance.