Have you ever had an a-ha moment washing the dishes? Or maybe during yoga class? Without knowing it, you were practicing mindfulness.
You may associate mindfulness with meditative practices that require you to sit and “be” with your breath. Yes, meditation of this sort cultivates mindfulness, but everyday activities can be conducted mindfully and bring you the same kind of benefits.
A Northern Arizona University study found mindfulness has positive health benefits, both for our physical and mental health.
The study, surveying Buddhist practitioners from all over the world, identified five ways in which we can benefit:
A stronger immune system and improved physiological responses to stress and negative emotions.
Improved social relationships with both family and strangers.
Reduced stress, depression and anxiety, and increased well-being and happiness.
Increased openness to experiences; more delight in life and less persistent worry.
Greater psychological mindfulness: awareness that is clear, nonconceptual and flexible; and attention to being “in the now.”
So, how to be mindful?
At its core, being mindful is about slowing down, unplugging and paying attention, and you can easily cultivate that mindfulness in everyday activities.
Start your day – The alarm rings and we’re automatically in a frantic rush. Try taking a minute to breathe deep, do a mental review of your day and set a positive intention.
During the day – Whether you’re at work or home doing dishes, take notice of your actions. Observe your emotions as you commute to work; appreciate the suds and warm water as you scrub a plate.
You can be mindful on your daily walk or run, too. This is especially enticing to those of us who can’t sit still. Try ditching the headphones for a few minutes so you can take in the nature around you.
At the end of the day – take some time to unplug. It’s hard to be in the moment with your partner or children when you’re playing on your smartphone. It also allows you the headspace to recharge your creative juices for the day ahead.
Virgin’s Richard Branson believes unplugging will benefit both you and your business: "When I went on holiday with my family recently, I wasn’t afraid to switch on my out-of-office email message. When was the last time you did the same? If you can’t recall, then maybe it’s time to slow down, switch off your phone and focus on the present. Your business will benefit as a result.”
Another positive result from unplugging: If you put away all screens 30 to 60 minutes before bed, you’ll also sleep better.
Need some help getting started in your mindfulness practice? Try checking into classes in you community to get a solid start in meditation techniques. This often stops the nagging “Am I doing this right?” voice beginners often hear when they first try a mindfulness/meditation practice.
And, yes, there’s an app for that. Download apps to help lead you through calming techniques and offer nuggets of wisdom from leading mindfulness gurus.
Now, take 10 minutes to start practicing mindfulness, and notice the immediate benefits!