Mindfulness is edging it's way into the mainstream as a method for dealing with everything from "the small stuff" to depression and anxiety. A regular mindfulness practice has been shown to increase immune function, help with stress management, and increase one's overall functioning socially, emotionally, and physically.*
Once aware of the process, it's easy to find ways to bring mindfulness into your daily routine. It's as simple as paying attention to what is going on, right now, in this very moment. Paying attention to sounds, smells, sensations in the body - your posture, level of comfort/discomfort, or mood. Mindfulness definitely shouldn't be stress-inducing or feel like a chore. Practicing bits of it here & there is a great place to start.
Here are 5 ways to bring mindfulness into your daily routine. After getting the hang of it, start watching your habits and responses to events in your life. You can then decide whether or not integrating mindfulness into your routine benefits you!
1. Pay attention to your breath. This is the single easiest way to be get in the moment. Our breath is controlled by our autonomic nervous system, the part of our body that functions involuntarily and is in charge of heart rate, digestion, perspiration, and respiration. Breathing happens whether we're aware of it or not, but focusing on it brings fourth many benefits. Being able to slow down the breath means slowing down the heart rate, decreasing stress and increasing relaxation. Next time you're having a difficult conversation or you're worked up emotionally, stop and pay attention to what your body is telling you via your breath. Are you taking short + quick inhales and exhales? That tells your body to stay amped up. Slow yourself down in the moment and try to take a few deep inhales and exhales. When you're really worked up, a good ratio is: Inhale for 4 seconds - Hold your breath for 4 seconds - Exhale for 6 seconds. Watch how your breath helps calm your body down. Seriously, it works.
2. Listen. Whether it's a conversation with a friend or a walk alone in the woods - listen to what's happening around you. If you're truly listening in a conversation, it's hard to be thinking about other things. Plus it's a good conversation skill (one that I'm still working on - it's not easy to be a great listener all the time!).
3. Be grateful. Stop and identify something you're grateful for right now. Gratitude is good energy to carry around - people like other people who can identify things in their life that they appreciate, enjoy and love. Example: Right now, I'm grateful for my success in making some delicious + nutritious breakfast muffins earlier (that are free of gluten, dairy + egg)...they are moist and taste like delicious cake. Recipe to follow SOON.)
4. Stretch. Everyone knows that amazing feeling that comes along with your first full body stretch of the day. We stretch because it feels good. Do it when you feel like you need to re-center and boost your energy by getting your circulation moving. Reach your arms up above your head and take a deep breath - appreciate the moment and yourself.
5. Chew your food. Seriously - it seems basic, but sometimes when food is so delicious, it's easy to almost literally inhale it (I am definitely guilty of this). If you slow down and chew your food completely before you swallow it, not only do you have more time to appreciate the flavor, but you're helping your digestive tract by saving it from having to break down big chunks of food. Seems like a win-win.
Make mindfulness fun and stay lighthearted about it. Give it a try!
Some good info on mindfulness:
The Heart and Science of How to Make Mindfulness Work
What are the benefits of mindfulness?