We all know that taking a moment to breathe is good for us. We can clearly see a surge in public awareness through the emergence of prominent meditation apps like Headspace and Calm. But despite this new wave of self-improvement, the hardest part is still finding the time to do it.
Our incessant rushing around or planning for the next big task makes it almost impossible to just stop. We feel like when we are doing nothing, we are wasting time- there is so much to do and see after all. The aim of this guide is to give some suggestions of times that we can practice mindfulness that fit nicely into our daily schedule.
On the Daily Commute
Traveling to work gives us a chance to sit back and let ourselves reach our destination and can be the perfect time to check in with ourselves. How do you feel right now? What can you see and hear around you? Notice the feeling of the seat beneath you or how it feels to hold on for balance. Are you worried about your upcoming day at work? That’s okay, you don’t need to make any decisions in that moment. Instead, just observe how you feel.
One of the most popular methods of practicing mindfulness is body-scan. Focusing on the very top of your head, slowly bring your focus down all the way to your toes. Doing this can centralise your wandering thoughts and help you remain calm on the next step of your journey.
Morning Routine Meditation
Gradually integrating a few moments of mindfulness into your routine can help clear your head for the day to come. You can do this without even getting out of bed, simply focus on your five senses to get a clear picture of the world around you. This is an especially useful option if you are on a tight schedule because you can practice at times when you would already be relaxing. If the morning routine doesn’t work for you, you can always try the same method but just before you go to sleep. Establishing a way to centre yourself can either help kick start your day or switch off when your thoughts are a little too loud.
This is a great way to practice focusing on your five senses. Taste and smell are particularly effective here.
You can try this out as you prepare a meal. If you are chopping vegetables, try paying attention to the colours and smells as you work. When you eat, really savour it. You can always take a conscious look at the meal before you eat it, really try to bring your attention to the forefront. It may seem simple enough but getting into the habit of viewing your environment at its core essentials can help us appreciate them more.
On the Go
Bring yourself back to your body on the move. Walking is usually a task performed on autopilot so we can turn our attention to the sights and sounds around us. Next time you are out walking, try instead to notice the motion of your body as you move. The easy rhythm of your feet hitting the ground as you walk. What can you hear around you? You could pay attention to your breathing- are you breathing quickly or slowly? Noticing our breathing patterns often leads to us then steadying our breath, which helps us feel calm.
Looking in the mirror
One of the key pillars of mindfulness is nonjudgment, so practicing in the mirror is a great way to check-in with yourself. Start by scanning from the top of your head all the way down your body, just observing. Your brain will instinctively try to put forward opinions or judgments (because that's just what it does), the key here is to put those thoughts to one side for the moment.
If you do find yourself dealing with overly critical or negative feelings, take a moment to simply breathe and focus on your inhale and exhale, before trying again. Practicing this method can also be a way to help recognise how judgmental we can be to ourselves, far more than we would ever be to another person. The key is to acknowledge these thoughts without reacting to them, simply let them come and go.
Working on Yourself
This one can be especially useful considering how often we find ourselves sat at the desk. We might as well use this time to our advantage, right? Try adjusting your position so that your spine is straight and close your eyes for a moment. Feel where your body meets the chair, or where your hands are resting. Can you hear anything around you? If not, try listening to the sound of your breath as it comes and goes. Even when we finish up work for the day, it has a habit of following us home. Keeping an eye on our tendency to get ahead of ourselves can help us filter what is useful and what is for another time.
Healthy Body Healthy Mind
When working up the motivation to exercise is half the battle, mindfulness can be a way to work up the resolve to tackle it head-on. The best places in your routine to do this are the beginning and the end of a workout. Before really getting into it, make sure you have a clear goal and method in mind. Try to envision what you want your session to look like, and areas you want to focus on. As you work through your routine, try to keep an eye on your breathing and the sensation of your body working hard.
As you come to the end of your session, steadily slow your pace until you stop, then take a moment to assess how you feel. What is your breathing like? Does your body feel any different? What can you see around you now you’ve finished? You can try naming the sensations you feel to help really centre your focus.
And there you have it. The examples in this guide are only some suggestions of the many paths you can take to incorporate mindfulness and can be adapted however you need to make them work for you. There are clear benefits to working towards a healthier mind, but self-improvement is a reward that's entirely unique to you. Most importantly of all: remember you can take as little or as long as you need to get to where you want to be. Taking time for yourself will never be a waste.
Alicia Nortje (2021), How to practice Mindfulness, Positive Psychology, online, available: https://positivepsychology.com/how-to-practice-mindfulness/,
Courtney E. Ackerman (2020), 22 Mindfulness Exercises, Techniques and Activities for Adults, Positive Psychology, online, available: https://positivepsychology.com/mindfulness-exercises-techniques-activities/
Parpeet Pal, 5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life, Mindful, online, available: https://www.mindful.org/take-a-mindful-moment-5-simple-practices-for-daily-life/
Mind (2021) Mindfulness: What exercises can I try today? Mind, online, available: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/mindfulness-exercises-tips/