Mindfulness is definitely the latest buzzword in the psychology world…but also in the health and fitness realm. Recently I have been to a Yoga class where we focused on mindfulness, read a cover article on Time magazine about mindfulness and heard it discussed everywhere from Buzzfeed to Snapchat. But what exactly is “mindfulness” and how do we start actually practicing it?
Here is a quick breakdown:
If you want to understand what it means to be mind-FUL, then it might help to think about the opposite…living mind-LESS. We all have experienced this. Feeling like we are on autopilot, going through our day just going through the motions, not paying attention to the world around us. Mind-LESS-ness is just existing in life and not engaging actively in the moment with the world around us.
Thinking about that mind-LESS way of living, being mind-FUL means recognizing the sun shining on your skin, noticing the smell of fresh cut flowers in the morning or the taste of your almond milk latte. Being mindful means being present in THIS moment and noticing what the moment is offering you: whether good, bad, joyful or stressful.
Here are 10 ways YOU can start being more mindful today!
1. Take a Walk
Being out in nature is one of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness. Go for a walk (with or without a furry friend 🐶) and really pay attention to the beautiful world around you. Instead of being on your phone or social media – look at the leaves on the trees, feel the wind on your face, notice the people and places around you and be centered in the simple act of walking in nature.
2. Practice Art (even if you are not an artist)
The reason they make mindfulness coloring books, is creativity and art require your mind to be present and actively participate in the creative moment. Find a type of art that you love whether it is drawing, coloring in a coloring book, using water colors or pastels, or making a collage. Use this hobby to engage your mind in the moment. The amazing thing about art is it actually engages all different levels of the brain so your mind is intensely focused and integrated in the moment!
3. Deep Breathing
One of my favorite ways to connect back to the moment if I am feeling anxious or stressed is to practice the 4,5,8 breathing exercise. Inhale for 4 counts, hold for 5 at the top, and exhale slowly for 8 counts. Focus on your breath and notice it filling your lunges, expanding your chest. The slow exhale will bring you back to the moment and calm your nervous system. The extra long exhale is the KEY to this breathing exercise. The exhale is what activates the parasympathetic nervous system that helps relax and calm you…so making the exhale extra long signals to your body – relax, calm down, be centered! #magicbreathing (seriously though!)
4. Know when to put the phone away
As a lover of all things social media, and a perpetual multitasker, I know how hard it can be to try and tune out the 10,000 beeps and vibrations trying to pull our attention away from the moment. The best way I manage this is to schedule “tune out time” and put the phone AWAY to focus on what is around me and not on the screen. Whether that means putting all the phones away at the dinner table, reading at night with your phone in the other room, or making a bubble bath with candles that is a “no phone zone”. Find what works for you but recognize that sometimes to be PRESENT we need to shut out the technology that wants to distract us!
5. Feel What You Are Feeling
This might be my favorite mindfulness tip of all! Society today seems to have an intense fear of negative emotions. The minute we feel an inkling of anxiety, self doubt, stress, sadness – we want to find some way to STOP feeling it right away. This can often lead to stuffing emotions away in the recesses of our minds and relying on sugary foods, alcohol, drugs, smoking or other negative coping strategies to desperately try NOT feel our feelings. It can be very empowering and freeing to allow ourselves to stop and say “ok what am I feeling right now?” “I am feeling sad and disappointed….” and realize that is OK! When we recognize and accept our feelings, it is easier to let them go once we have given them space to feel heard. #FeelYourFeelings
So this one may seem kind of obvious, but I want to stress that there are SO many ways to meditate and they do not all have to look super ” eat pray love”. My favorite way to meditate is with guided meditations from youtube that take me on a visual walk along the beach. You can also meditate by listening to relaxing music or watching a sunset. Find a way to meditate that works for YOU and allows you relaxing time in the moment to focus on being present.
Nothing forces you to be more mindful of the moment then when you are in a group exercise class, trying to follow along with the instructor: listening to what she tells you to do, get your body to move that way, and make sure you are not bumping into the person next to you. Exercise is a mind and body experience that takes you right into the moment and keeps you there. If you are attempting a new yoga pose, lifting a heavy kettle bell or squeezing your abs in a V-sit your mind AND body has to be right in that moment to make it work. Exercise to keep your body strong but also allows you to practice mindfulness. 💪💪
8. Laugh A Lot
I love this tip because laughter can be underrated but is SO good for our mind, body and soul. Mindfulness practice tells us to enjoy the present moment whether that is dinner with friends or time with family. Laugh, love, enjoy the present and do not always be consumed with regret of the past or worry about the future. Take time to laugh…do not discount how valuable that is.
9. Practice Mindful Eating
One place in our lives where we often start to get mind-LESS is when it comes to food and eating. We sometimes reach for food when we are not even hungry but maybe feeling something else we are trying to cover up. Avoid this trap by practicing mindful eating. Pay attention to the hunger sensations you have, and to feelings of being full. Eat with care and taste each bite of food to enjoy what you are eating and the actual experience. Eating is a great way to practice mindfulness and to avoid the mindless traps.
10. Create Mini Mindfulness Exercises to Practice Daily
If you want to include more mindful moments in your day, think of a few daily tasks or times when you could practice mindfulness. Maybe it is drinking your morning coffee. Instead of drinking the coffee mindlessly while checking your email – drink your coffee with 10 extra minutes, at home sitting on your balcony. ☕ Take a few minutes to smell the coffee, taste it on your tonge, feel it running down your thoat. Experience the way the cup of coffee engages all your senses! Then take a couple 4,5,8 breathes. Make this a morning 10 minute ritual to start your day, and see how it could seriously CHANGE your life.
I hope you loved these mindfulness tips. What ideas do you have about practicing mindfulness? Comment below and let me know! Also head over to my instagram @SummerGirlFitness and tag a picture of your morning coffee if you try the mini mindfulness exercise! #StartYourDayRight