Mindfulness, a practice with roots in Buddhism but now being utilized in modern psychology, was introduced to me by my counselor as a method of dealing with anxiety, stress and anger. With the guidance of the NHS Day Hospital team, who kick off their group therapy sessions with the practice, I’ve incorporated 8 minutes of mindfulness into my daily routine. Over the last few weeks I’ve introduced some basics of the modern mindfulness movement and this week I’d like to share a few different ways to practice mindfulness.
Bringing Mindfulness into Daily Life
Each moment offers an opportunity to bring mindfulness into the hubbub of daily life.
Here are a few suggestions to help you move more mindfully through each day:
- Taking a few minutes in the morning to be quiet and meditate – sitting or lying down and being with yourself, gazing out the window, listening to the sounds of nature or taking a slow quiet walk.
- While driving, paying attention to your breathing and noticing signs of body tension, such as your hands gripping the steering wheel, your shoulders rising or your stomach tightening.
- Deciding not to turn on the radio and just being with yourself.
- Paying attention to the quality of your mind when stopped at a red light.
- Once you park your car at the work place, being mindful of your reactions to starting your workday. As you walk through the parking lot, taking in what you see.
- Many things happen in the day that you can use as bells of mindfulness: the telephone, sounds on your computer, turning on a light, walking through a door and so on. Letting each one be an occasion to notice your breathing and take some mindful in- and out-breaths. When the telephone rings, letting it ring two or three times before you answer it, thinking about how you will respond.
- While sitting at your desk, keyboard, etc., paying attention to bodily sensations. Closing your door (if you have one), taking a few deep breaths, dropping your shoulders and trying to relax and rid yourself of excess tension.
- If you work on a computer, creating a screen saver that encourages mindfulness – such as a serene photo or suggestive words like “breathe” or “mindful every moment”.
- Using your breaks to truly relax, to simply pause. For instance, instead of having coffee to re-energize yourself, taking a short walk or sitting somewhere quiet and soothing and b-r-e-a-t-h-i-n-g.
- Stopping for 1-2 minutes every hour during the workday to regroup and recoup. Becoming aware of your breathing and bodily sensations and allowing your mind to settle.
- Spending some of your meal in silence. Using this as a time to eat slowly and be with yourself. Taking a few mindful breaths before you start eating. During the meal, being aware of chewing your food. If you do have a conversation, keeping the topic light and supportive.
- At the end of the workday, acknowledging yourself for what you’ve accomplished and consciously leaving tomorrow’s list for tomorrow.
- When you leave work, breathing in the air. Paying attention to the walk to your car. Feeling the cold or warmth of your body. Taking in your surroundings. Consciously slowing yourself down, preparing to make the transition to home.
- Changing out of work clothes when you get home. This simple act might help you make a smoother transition. Saying “hello” to each of your family members or to the people you live with and taking a moment to look into their eyes. If possible, taking 5-10 minutes to be quiet and still. If you live alone, feeling what it is like to enter the quiet of your home.
- If you watch television at night, turning down the sound during commercials or between programs. Closing your eyes, and taking some mindful breaths. Walking with awareness to the kitchen or bathroom. If you’re reading, stopping every half-hour. Closing your eyes for a minute or so, and bringing your attention back to your breath. Becoming aware of the noises or silence of your home.
- As you go to bed and prepare for sleep, taking some deep breaths, becoming aware of the bed supporting you, and allowing yourself a smile. Feeling the muscles of your body relaxing as you sink into your bed. Letting go of the day’s activities and your anticipation of the next day by focusing on your breath and body.
Mindfulness and Mastery in the Workplace, Saki Santorelli, The Stress Reduction Practice Manual, Centre for Mindfulness, 2005 & Beginning Mindfulness, Andrew Weiss, 2004