For many of us, living in a state of constant busyness through digital distractions, addiction to technology, lopsided work-life balance and heightened stress can lead to a sense of time bankruptcy, increasing the need for mindful living. But how can we find time to take on another task even if we know it will benefit us? Simple. We shift our focus.
Viewing mindfulness as another responsibility tacked on to an already full day will not add value to our existence. But appreciating it as an antidote to our already crammed lives will. By choosing to practice mindfulness as “maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions, or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis,”[i] we can tap into the power of mindfulness and reap the benefits as we go about our daily tasks.
The following are five ways we can seamlessly blend mindfulness into our daily activities:
Whether it is brushing our teeth, drinking our afternoon tea or taking a shower, these day-to-day activities can be our call to mindful action. Use folding laundry as a mindfulness exercise. Pay attention to the way the fabric feels. Do the clothes smell of sunshine and fresh air? Or do they smell like lavender with a soothing scent? What patterns exist and how do the colors make you feel? Even small routine tasks like gently folding clothes can become a sacred ritual if we accept it.
Most parents are familiar with rushing children from school to home, from home to soccer, from soccer to dinner, from dinner to bath and then to bed. While the logistics may not change, our interpretation of them can. While waiting for our children at the bus stop, we can leave our cell phones tucked away and instead focus on our breath. When we take our children to the park, we can choose to play and engage instead of sitting on the bench hunching over our laptops. When we tuck our children into bed, we can be fully present by reading a nighttime story and listening to our children’s questions or concerns instead of absentmindedly saying good night.
Many of us think technology is useful. Whether it is the ability to connect with other people across the globe or harnessing the internet to glean information, technology can add value to our lives. Yet our phones, computers and tablets can often be roadblocks to mindfulness. How about setting mini alarms, using a bell sound, to ring throughout the day? We can use these moments to close our eyes and bring our minds into present or take three deep, cleansing breaths when we hear them. What about taking five minutes of our lunch break to practice a guided meditation or unplugging every Saturday and using the saved time to spend with loved ones or in nature?
Practicing mindfulness does not mean we will always feel happy. It does mean we will be more in touch with our emotions and accept them without trying to control them. No one is happy 100 percent of the time. You will get angry. You will feel sad. You will be disappointed in others. Trying to be happy every moment can lead to negativity and irrational experiences. Instead, we can mindfully accept the negative and positive emotions and understand that they will often coexist. We can be positive in a negative situation and we can feel negative even when life seems to be going well. By fostering gratitude and mindfulness, we can accept life’s challenges in a more balanced way and keep our emotions more stable.
We do not have to be Stravinsky or Chopin to mindfully boost our piano skills. We can access the creative areas of our minds by allowing mindfulness to envelope us as we practice our scales. Feeling the keys beneath our fingers, bending into the music and permitting our physical beings to experience the joy of music as we play can be a simple way to make music mindfully. Any creative task we enjoy, whether it is sculpting, video editing or photography, can be an engaging, mindful flow if we let our minds wander and enjoy the experience.
Practicing mindfulness in our daily activities does not have to a chore tacked onto our overflowing to-do lists. Instead, it can be a stress-free solution to tuning in to present and captivating our minds with now. Since our present will become our future, why not value and mindfully appreciate now for what it is and create a more meaningful future? Take the challenge today and begin experiencing the perks of mindful living.
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