When you pay attention to the present moment—without getting distracted by “what’s next?”—you’re practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness can have lots of benefits, from increased immunity and improved memory to steadier moods and greater concentration.
So what’s the catch? Nothing, except that mindfulness is a practice that requires, well, practice. Get started with this plan.
Appreciate humdrum tasks
Paying attention while taking out the trash might actually offer you unexpected pleasures: the stillness of the night air on your skin, the stars in the sky. Ask yourself, “How can I reframe the present moment so I feel a sense of joy or gratitude?” Quit waiting for the good part and seize the moment—this one.
Do less, get more done
Engage fully in what you’re doing while you’re doing it—regardless of what it is. Multitasking doesn’t make anything go faster, but it can make things more confusing. Sit down and make a to-do list with purpose, instead of mentally cataloging tasks while reading a story to your kids or while grocery shopping, when you probably won’t be effective at either thing you’re trying to achieve.
You know that feeling of eating potato chips—when you’ve got a mouthful of them but your hand is already back in the bag? We all want to hurry into the future at a moment like this, but it’s also a wonderful moment to practice slowing down. Try approaching meals with greater focus. It’ll help you eat more slowly, so you eat less and enjoy your meal more.
Take a deep breath
Literally. Breathing deeply can reduce your blood pressure, give you more energy-boosting oxygen, connect you to your body, and relax you. Best of all, you always have time to take a deep breath.
In our culture of instant messaging and “I need it yesterday!” it can be hard to remember to focus on the journey as well as the destination. Technology is great for staying in touch with far-away loved ones. But for the near and dear who are actually near? Be with them when you can.
Try smiling when stressed
It’s easy to stop and smell the roses when you’ve got plenty of time to kill. But try it when you’re frantic, late, or bored. As your stress ramps up, tune in, breathe deeply, and do your best to smile. Your heart is beating and you’re alive on the planet—gifts that are easy to take for granted when you’re thinking only “get me out of here.”
Let yourself be happy
Sometimes all we can hear is the loud drumbeat of dissatisfaction, even if the rest of our life offers a constant and beautiful melody. If you’re always wanting what you don’t have, try homing in on just one thing you’re grateful for—no matter how small. It will remind you of what you do have—and that it’s likely all you need. In other words, be mindful to get back to what matters: human contact, meaningful relationships, living kindly, consideration, and gratitude.
© Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved. Used with permission.