Have you ever been told mindfulness will make you happier, so you put ‘be more mindful’ on your to-do list only to brush it off because it seems too complex a task to tackle? You’re certainly not alone. The reality is though, while mindfulness might sound hard to achieve, it’s actually as simple as taking a deep breath or two… or three.
Taking deep breaths activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which looks after rest and recuperation in your body. Plus, it can help instantly boost your mood. The next time you’re feeling stressed, take three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to help your cortisol levels (the stress hormone) drop.
Looking for even more ways to be mindful without changing your lifestyle? Try some of these:
1. Pay attention
It’s not about switching your brain off, but instead becoming intensely present to the task at hand. Take cooking a meal from your meal plan, for example. Focus on how the knife feels when you chop vegetables or the sound of the sizzle in the pan. Then when it comes to eating the dish focus on that too – but more on that next.
BREATHE IN, BREATHE OUT AND NOTICE THE WORLD AROUND YOU.
You can apply this approach to many small tasks throughout your day. As mindful master Ekhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, says: “When you wash your hands, when you make a cup of coffee, when you’re waiting for the elevator – instead of indulging in thinking, these are all opportunities for being there as a still, alert presence.”
2. Appreciate every bite
Try not to scarf down your meal without appreciating it. Instead, stop. Take a breath. Look at your food. Think about the labor that went into every single element of what’s on your plate. Not just your cooking but before that in the growing and transport of each ingredient. Isn’t that incredible? Appreciate that every bite of this food will nourish your body and give you the energy to function. Notice the tastes, aromas and textures.
If you can do this every meal for two minutes, you’re adding over 40 minutes of mindfulness to your week. According to Fabrice Midal, meditation expert, this is the secret to incorporating mindfulness in your life – just to do a little each day. Doing so, he says, “is so powerful and it works.”
3. Set your day up mindfully
How you start the morning sets the tone for the rest of the day. So put yourself on track for a mindful day with some stillness in the morning. Take a few minutes and a few deep breaths to focus on where you are and the present moment. Notice how your body feels in the morning.
Then, when you do reach for your phone, don’t bounce between apps. Instead, focus on reading something that is going to help you for your day ahead – like mindfulness articles chosen just for you.
4. Practice while you wait
Waiting in line? Sitting in a conference room? At a red light in traffic? Put the phone down.
Be present. Breathe and be grateful. As Alexis Naim says, “what we mean by mindfulness is actually the capacity to feel and to be in the here and now.” Breathe in, breathe out and notice the world around you. Even if you feel uneasy or irritated – notice that feeling.
Once you start to incorporate some of these tactics into your life you might just find yourself getting happier and healthier. As Alexis says, “these practices bring us more into the capacity to solve our daily problems, relate meaningfully and contribute to the world we live in.” But don’t worry if you can’t do all four, or if you forget some days, it’s just about doing what you can and appreciating the now.