We’ve all had workdays that seem to pass by in a blur; we woke up, travelled, worked through the day, commuted home, had dinner, went to the gym, or took the dog for a walk, watched the news, went to bed and fell asleep. The next day we can’t easily remember what happened the day before.
Time is precious; life is short, and we get so busy that time itself seems to have accelerated. Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of Mindfulness-based Stress Reduction, jokes paradoxically, “Practising mindfulness can extend your life”. Apart from the physical health benefits of reducing stress, what he means is that being more aware of what is going on in the present, increases our actual lived experience. We are only alive to our experience in the flowing now of the present. If we drift off in thought, we disconnect from the richness and wonder of this unique moment of experience. Research on mind-wandering tells us that we can be offline for almost half of our waking lives. So how can we improve our attention and awareness and embed mindfulness into our day?
Here are some suggestions.
One thing that makes a big difference to daily well-being is to find somewhere undisturbed to meditate for ten to fifteen minutes, before the main activities of the day. Simply sit quietly following your breath, allowing your mind to become quieter and your body to relax. If it helps, use an app like the Insight Timer to time the duration of your meditation.
A typical workday is naturally punctuated by activities that have a beginning, middle, and end, which we can use to help embed mindfulness.
- Before: See if you can find time before the activity starts to take a minute or two to bring yourself into the moment by connecting your attention to your body, breath, and senses.
- During: Acknowledge and work with the flow of any emotions that arise. If you feel stress, tightness or limitation, connect with your breath, body, and senses, then relax and release.
- After: Let go and release any mental and emotional noise or agitation that remains after the activity finishes so you can start the next activity with mental clarity, emotional calm and physically relaxed.
Over the day
Here are some other suggestions for weaving mindfulness into your day:
- Waking: After the alarm goes off, connect your awareness with your body and consider three, or more, things that you can be grateful for in your life.
- Bathroom: Aware of how your mind can drift off in thought, see if you can hold your attention on your senses and sensations as you clean your teeth, bath or shower.
- Eating: Try eating a piece of fruit and bring your senses to the experience; really appreciating the smells, tastes, textures, and vitality of the food.
- Walking: Choose to walk mindfully, open to the sensations of your body walking and noticing the sights and sounds of the world around you.
- Sleeping: Before you go to sleep take a moment to reflect on the day, acknowledging any thoughts and feelings that are around. Bring to mind three things to be grateful for and relax and release any tension in your body.
Embedding mindfulness into our day helps us work more skilfully with our present-moment experience. We’ll be less reactive and more responsive, have greater cognitive clarity, work more effectively with others, experience greater emotional stability, reduced stress and tension and flow through the day with greater ease. Ultimately, we’ll appreciate another precious day of our lived experience.
Suggested weekly practice
- If you have not already done so, establish a 10-15-minute formal meditation at the beginning of your day and see what difference that makes.
- Use natural breaks between activities to mindfully return to the body and senses and connect with the present moment.
- Remember to bring mindfulness into work activities like in meetings, watching out for physical tension and feelings as they arise and working skilfully with your present-moment experience. [/private]
Find somewhere undisturbed and sit in a comfortable, dignified, and upright posture, where you can remain alert and aware.
- Play the first mindful mantra practice, then read through the session content, which you can print off if that helps.
- Then play the second practice, which takes you through an extended breathing space.
Both of these guided practices can be used to help embed mindfulness into your day.