By: Amber Battishill
So many days we run on autopilot as we cruise through our busy days only partially aware of the world and moments going on around us. These moments are essentially the opposite of mindfulness, but instead is mindlessness.
That feeling of go-go-go can be exhausting and cause us to feel disconnected from ourselves and those around us. Fortunately taking a few moments of mindfulness daily can be a wonderful way to breathe calm, ease and energy into our lives.
What is Mindfulness and Why is it Important?
Mindfulness is the opposite of autopilot. It is the practice of intentionally bringing our attention to the present moment and being fully immersed and present in our lives. A daily practice of mindfulness can have a wonderful, positive effect on our physical and mental health, and allows us to mitigate stress in more healthy and helpful ways.
Through a mindfulness practice, you are more present to the “here and now” while letting go of the feeling of needing to change anything. This awareness allows you to tune into your feelings, senses and savor moments in your life. There are so many different types of mindfulness practices and endless ways to weave them into your daily routine. Adding even just a few minutes of mindfulness practices into your everyday routine can lead to decreased stress, more awareness and a deeper understanding and connection to yourself.
Keep reading below as I share seven ways to be more present in your life! These practices are wonderful ways to breathe space, cultivate calm and awareness while weaving mindfulness into your daily routine.
1. Good Morning Gratitude
Practicing gratitude in the morning is a wonderful way to set the tone of your day. Whether in a comfy nest of your bed and blankets, with a hot cup of coffee or after tending to the kids, take a moment to pause and take a deep breath. In that moment, make a mental list or start a gratitude journal of things, people and moments that you are grateful for. Whether you’re grateful for family, your favorite meal, or a roof over your head, finding moments to be joyous about helps to facilitate a great sense of appreciation and find perspective.
2. To-Do List
For many of us, to-do lists are part of our everyday routine. It allows us to get all thoughts and items out and onto paper, so we don’t inadvertently forget something important. A monstrous list can often take you away from what you’re currently working on to frantically attempt to move onto another item. That rushing feeling disconnects you from the present and makes living mindfully incredibly difficult.
The next time you look at your list, stop and take a pause. Take in a deep breath and notice the feelings that arise in your body from examining your list. Are you overwhelmed or excited? Feeling productive? Is your heart rate increasing or are your shoulders tensing? These moments to pause and check-in allow you to prioritize what is really necessary and determine what can be moved to another day.
3. Mindful Snacking
Taking a moment with a favorite snack is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness. To begin, take away all distractions (phone, computer, TV, etc.) to focus on the experience of eating your food. In this exercise, take advantage of your five senses (smell, touch, taste, hearing, sight). Tune into your curiosity, and really look at your food – the shapes, colors, smells, textures. Eat slowly with small bites and really hone in on the flavors and textures of your foods. I love to take it a step further and look at it from a big picture/community aspect by thinking about the path of your food from farm to plate and how others have been involved along the way.
4. Mindful Movement
Mindful movement is a great way to connect to yourself and your body. With so much time spent at our computers and phones, we often get so dialed in on our tasks at hand that we lose touch with how we are feeling physically and mentally. Taking a few moments to do some gentle stretching or chair yoga (you can find lots of chair yoga ideas here) allows us to tune in and focus on the present. As you move, notice the sensations arising in your body. Are muscles tense? Do you feel calmer or more energized? Is your heart rate increasing or decreasing? Link your breath with the movement to further facilitate mindfulness.
5. Hug It Out
Human connection has immense powers in bringing us back to the present. The three-breath mindful hug break is something that I’ve often used with my children when they were feeling overwhelmed or upset, but I find that it works when used with a partner and is a wonderful way to end your day with connection to others while also bringing on a sense of calm and connection for all that are involved. To begin, hug your child/partner and as you do, take in three long, slow and mindful breaths together. Feel your bodies calm and shoulders drop down your back as tension and anxiety releases.
6. Bedtime Body Scan
If you’re one of those people who toss and turn when they get into bed or have thoughts floating around, a body scan is a wonderful way to bring calm, tune into your body and find relaxation to allow you to fall asleep quicker. To begin, lie on your back in a comfortable position. Take several intentional breaths to check into your body. Then, tense all the muscles in your body (flex feet, pull shoulders tight to ears, hands into fists, etc.) on a long inhale and on an exhale release your muscles.
Beginning at the feet, envision and relax the tensed muscles. You can envision the muscles relaxing as the oxygen flows to those areas. Notice any sensations that you may have in those areas whether it is tightness, aches, or warm, and continue to relax muscles throughout the scan. Keep moving upwards in your body, to your calf, knees, thighs, hips, and so on until you reach the top of your head. The visualization and deep breaths often can bring on a sense of calm while also allowing you to thoroughly check into your body.
7. Breath Awareness
Breath awareness practices are my favorite as they can be done anywhere and anytime and are great opportunities to practice mindfulness during everyday chaos. To begin, sit tall in your seat, close your eyes and take a few slow inhales and exhales. Feel your shoulders release and fall down your back and unclench your jaw and continue to focus on the breath for several minutes. Thoughts will creep in, so acknowledge them and let them go as you refocus back on the breath. Continue for as long as time allows.
About the Author: Amber Battishill is a wife and mom of two living in Southeast Michigan. She is the creator of Mommy Gone Healthy, a healthy living and lifestyle blog for the modern mom and is also a certified yoga and mindfulness teacher. When she’s not playing with her active kiddos, you can find Amber diving into a book, practicing yoga, gardening, or getting creative in the kitchen.