These days, it might seem like everyone around you is raving about mindfulness. But what does it mean, exactly? Do you have to meditate swaddled in a terrycloth robe, rise before the sun to do yoga each day, and practice intricate, ancient breathing exercises in order to become your most mindful self?
Not exactly. The strict definition of mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” So, though mindfulness at first glance might seem intimidating and ornate, it’s important to remember that the practice comes down to presence and awareness — nothing more.
Mindfulness is lucid and beginner-friendly — and still, the practice is abundantly powerful. Multiple studies involving older adults have shown mindfulness to increase longevity, ease depression after loss, and improve overall quality of life in people with congestive heart failure.
Mindfulness is a practice that has unparalleled health benefits, and it’s exceedingly simple to incorporate into your daily routine. Here are 11 tangible ways to start being more mindful now.
Unitasking simply means performing one task at a time: giving that task your full attention. This is a great way to be more mindful and reduce brain clutter.
The reality is that, though multitasking is seductive, only 2% of us are actually capable of doing it. The rest of us simply try to juggle multiple tasks, but actually end up stressing ourselves out further.
Mindful unitasking is easy. When you’re doing the dishes, focus on doing the dishes; when you’re taking a shower, pay attention to the feeling of the water against your skin; when you’re on your daily commute, allow yourself to be in the moment, without needing to do or be anywhere else.
2. Walk with intention
When walking from one place to another, a lot of us are distracted by our phones. And while it’s completely fine to send that text message or call a friend to catch up, there’s a lot of benefit to walking mindfully.
Mindful walking means noticing your feet as they connect with the ground and feeling the subtle nuances in your muscles as they work to support and guide you. Walking is a thing that is easy to take for granted, so bringing intention to it anchors us to the present moment.
3. Eat with awareness
It’s easy to scarf down your food in a hurry and move on to the next thing. Or perhaps you’re guilty of multitasking yet again — watching TV while munching on snacks or eating your lunch while responding to emails. Perhaps experiment with one mindful meal a week, to start.
This means focusing your undivided attention on what’s in front of you: the food you’re eating, the act of chewing, and the flavorful experience it all brings. You can try this with your morning coffee, an afternoon snack, or a heartier meal — anything you can turn your attention to and, tangentially, fully enjoy.
The next time you’re talking to someone, make it a point to really listen. Though many of us don’t mean to, a lot of the time it’s easy to get lost in our own thoughts while someone else is speaking to us.
Mindfulness can simply be looking someone in the eye and hearing what they’re saying. This is also a great practice to increase your emotional intelligence, a highly valuable skill in handling interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.
5. Pause between action
Before you get out of bed, pause and feel the softness of the comforter against your skin. Before you take your dog for a walk, pause and give him a gentle rub on the belly or a pat on the head.
Pausing between action is a lovely way to slow down and be mindful.
6. Put your phone down
Setting time aside each day to put your phone down is one of the most effective ways to be more present. Studies have shown too much screen time negatively affecting your focus and mental health.
Make it a point to take an extended break from technology every now and then, or (more simply) trying it intermittently. For example, don’t check social media while you’re in line at the grocery store. It’ll be sure to reduce stress levels and benefit you holistically.
7. Take a moment to stretch
Taking just a few moments to stretch whenever you’re feeling achy is a wonderful way to be mindful. “When you stretch, you elongate your muscles around the joints, which helps to increase the range of motion and in turn helps to avoid injury,” fitness trainer Joel Harper, author of Mind Your Body, and creator of the “You” workouts with Dr. Oz told Considerable.
Try these eight stretches for older adults that will reduce stress, improve your range of motion, and make you feel better overall.
8. Practice gratitude
What are five things you’re grateful for today? Is it your family? Your resilient body? The nourishing food you eat? Your home?
Take a moment to make a gratitude list as an act of mindfulness. It’s a quick and surefire way to boost happiness and contentment.
Taking a deep, long breath in through your nose and into your belly, and a slow, deliberate exhale through your nose will immediately make you feel more at ease wherever you are.
Try three deep breaths if you’re admittedly an overachiever. Look at you: you’re a mindfulness master already.
Studies have documented meditation as a practice that increases gray matter and helps slow some of the natural age-related atrophy of the brain. Moreover, regular meditators report feeling happier, less stressed and having a calmer disposition overall.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complex: Start with two minutes of close-eyed silence in the morning and tune into how your body feels. If this is manageable for you, you can increase your meditative mindfulness sessions slowly over time.
11. Ask yourself how you’re really doing
Finally, ask yourself how you’re really doing. Observe those feelings without judgement. You don’t have to do anything to change them. Mindfulness is accepting that whatever you feel is OK and ephemeral — it is being here now.