‘Mindfulness’ has become a bit of a buzz word, and seems to be gaining in popularity every day. It’s easy to see why.
Unlike a formal meditation practice, which requires a commitment to retreat from the world, sit still, and be quiet for a period of time, mindfulness is a technique that can be practiced throughout the day as you go about your life. This makes the technique especially appealing for people who are busy, or feel daunted by a more formal meditation practice.
So what exactly is mindfulness? According to mindfulness teacher and writer, Jon Kabat Zinn, “Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” In other words, mindfulness involves consciously directing your attention onto what you’re doing, feeling, thinking, or experiencing in the present moment.
As Kabat Zinn says, to practice mindfulness, we must, “watch this moment, without trying to change it at all. What is happening? What do you feel? What do you see? What do you hear?” Many people find that practicing short, mindful moments of this nature regularly throughout the day to be an effective way to relax, refocus attention, and reconnect with the present moment.
Mindfulness can be practiced at literally any time throughout the day, during any activity. However, sometimes when we are first starting to practice, we forget to be mindful. For this reason, it can be useful to incorporate some mindfulness exercises into our day that allow us to get used to the practice.
Here are 5 mindfulness exercises that take one minute or less.
Before answering the phone, take a breath.
Mindfulness teacher and monk, Thich Naht Hanh, advises to use the ring of the telephone as a ‘bell of mindfulness.’ Instead jumping up in instinctively to answer it, take a deep, mindful breath before you respond to the sound. The same can be done with text messages, emails or other notifications that we tend to react to immediately.
Walking is a great opportunity to incorporate mindfulness throughout your day. Whether you’re walking to a meeting, the bathroom, or the fridge, take that short amount of time to notice and be thankful for every step your feet take, or as Thich Naht Hanh says: “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”
Whenever you find yourself ruminating on the past or worrying about the future, you can connect with the present moment through your breath. Notice the way it feels entering your nostrils, and how your chest and belly rise with your inhales, and fall with your exhales. Say to yourself: “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in,” and “Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.”
Take one minute to scan your body from head to toe, noticing any sensations you discover along the way, pleasant or unpleasant, without judgment. You might have a headache, tension in your neck, an itch on your cheek, a pleasant tingling or warmth in your fingers—anything. Don’t react or judge.
After scanning, take another minute to focus your mind on consciously relaxing the areas where you experienced tension or pain, and then again, notice any changes or differences.
Take two mindful bites.
Although many teachers suggest making every bite mindful, this can be hard to practice in our day-to-day lives, as meal times are often social times, full of conversation. Instead, try to make the first two bites or swallows of any eating or drinking you do, mindful.
Notice the taste, texture, appearance, smell, and temperature of the food or drink, the sounds you make and the sensations in your mouth and throat as you chew and swallow. You may notice that after starting your meal times this way, you naturally become more mindful throughout the eating process.
Practice regularly and eventually you will see, as Thich Naht Hanh says:
“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”