Adding Mindfulness to Everyday Life
When you first wake up in the morning, before you get out of bed, bring your attention to your breathing. Take three deep, slow breaths, letting your belly rise. Then let your body breath at its own pace and be present with the inflow and outflow of five breaths.
When you shift your posture (sitting, lying down, standing), bring your attention to the sensations in your body as it moves. There are internal sensation in the joints and muscles as well as the external sensations such as changes in pressure and the feeling of clothing against the skin.
Drive mindfully. This is fun because it demonstrates how active and engaged mindfulness is. We are often practicing mindfulness with activities that are more subtle, such as the breath, the sounds around us or the sensations of walking. Mindful driving involves being engaged with noticing the cars around you, the noises of traffic the sensation of the car moving, shifting ones gaze from the front to the side mirrors to the rear view mirror. When I took flying lessons, I was taught to constantly scan both the instruments and the sky. This same degree of awareness of one’s surroundings makes for engaged and safer driving. Turn off the music and listen to the sounds around you. When stopped at a light, notice the colors of the cars around you, the feeling of the steering wheel in your hands, the sensations of your body sitting in that posture.
Sit down to eat and, when you eat, only eat. Take a few mindful breaths before taking the first bite. While eating, put the food or utensils down while you’re chewing and pay full attention to the flavors of the food. Notice stomach sensations of hunger or fullness and how these change over time.
When in conversation with someone, slow things down. Bring your full attention to what the other is saying, disengage from the internal commentary and planning for how you will respond. At first, it might help to use your breath as an anchor as you are listening. Before you speak, give yourself a moment to think of how you want to reply. Is what you are about to say reflective of how you want to be in the relationship? Interrupting and talking over people has become common in our society. Sometimes it can be the only way to get a word in edgewise. In light, social situations, that’s fine, but if you are having a more personal conversation with someone, slow things down.
What do you usually do when you take a shower? Do you plan the day or listen to the news? Try turning off distractions and immersing yourself in the sensations of the shower: the smell of shampoo and soap, the spray of water as it hits your body, the difference in temperature of the skin that is exposed to water compared to the skin that is exposed to the air.
When you get into bed, take a moment to scan your body from your toes up. Briefly notice the sensations in each part of your body and thank it for the work it did for you today.