You may have heard that practicing mindfulness can open doors to all sorts of new experiences—you can take in the world around you, eat less, exercise smarter and become a more compassionate person. Despite your best efforts to walk without looking at your smartphone, eat without watching TV, exercise without music or take time from your stressful day to silence your inner critic, though, your best efforts never quite seem to stick.
The good news is, making the most of your moments doesn't have to be an all-or-nothing deal. There are many smaller ways you can incorporate awareness into your daily life. Whether you practice one a day or 10, what matters is you take the time to stop and smell the roses—you'll be thankful that you did.
1. Set the tone for the day by waking up aware of how you feel as you rise, consciously trying to think positively about the day ahead. Stop. Smell the roses. Not to call out the obvious but when is the last time you stopped to smell the roses? Or your morning coffee? Or your baby's head? (Why do they always smell so. Darn. Good?)
2. Take a picture with a photo-sharing app such as Instagram. Aim for an artsy angle, looking at the tops of buildings instead of head-on or squat down to see what's hiding in those blades of grass. Sharing a photo makes you concentrate on looking at something from a unique perspective or capturing something you felt looked picturesque in the moment. You can always take the photo now and share it later.
3. Savor the taste of a meal, any meal. Try to taste, chew slowly and enjoy every bite from the first forkful to the last.
4. Forge a new path. No matter if you walk, bike or drive to work, try taking a different route to get to the office. Take a route that forces you to watch where you are going instead of just driving on autopilot.
5. Cook a meal. And no, that doesn't mean microwaving water for your oatmeal, but it doesn't have to mean a five-course menu either. Pick something you enjoy eating and while you're making it, pay attention to all the cutting, measuring, pouring, stirring and serving.
6. Use reminders to focus on the present throughout the day. Write a note to yourself on a Post-It and stick it to your phone, tie a ribbon on your wrist or write an "m" for "moment" on the back of your hand. When you see your reminder, pause and take a few seconds for yourself.
7. Change up your transportation. If you drive to work, walk or bike if you can.
8. Play reverse "I Spy" with yourself. Look for something green on your way to work, something red at the office or something yellow at the park.
9. Take the time to give someone a compliment. If you like your officemate's new haircut, say so.
10. Rearrange a room. Would your couch look better on the opposite wall? Can the chair in your bedroom be put to better use in your living room? Move it and see.
11. Buy flowers. Fresh flowers can brighten up a room and bring the outside in. Every time you walk into the room, you'll automatically pause to take in the beauty that wasn't there before.
12. Stay in the zone. Do you tend to zone out during mundane chores? Attempt to "zone in" while brushing your teeth, driving to work or sitting in another board meeting.
13. Play. Just play—with your spouse, kids or a friend. Play in a park, play a board game or even play a (harmless) prank to get everyone smiling.
14. Listen to your most favorite song and do nothing else. Sit or lay down and just listen to that beautiful piece of music from start to finish.
15. Read a book or an article. Reading forces you to take in what's on the page, and it's hard to do anything else when your mind is engaged in a good story.
16. Help someone. Don't hesitate—just jump in and help someone who looks like he or she could use a helping hand.
17. Draw, doodle, cut, paste or paint. Draw your frustrations, a happy face or a pretty design. Focus on the action of creating.
18. Take a bath. When was the last time you spent a half hour luxuriating in a nice, hot tub (bubbles optional)?
19. Try using your non-dominant hand. If you are right-handed, try to brush your teeth with your left hand. Boy, will you be forced to concentrate.
20. Breathe deep. You don't have to set aside 30 minutes for meditation—just concentrate on your breathing. Breathe deeply like your diaphragm is a balloon, filling it up all the way through your ribcage and stomach. Then exhale slowly. Count to three on the inhale and three on the exhale.
21. Say "no" to one or more tasks today. If you don't want to go to lunch with the girls because you'd rather read a book at the park, honor your wishes and focus on what you really want.
22. Listen more. Hone in on a conversation or listen to the birds chirping, the wind or the subway train rumbling in the distance. Make note of how it makes you feel in that moment.
23. Leave time in between tasks. Don't schedule everything back-to-back. Not only will this leave you feeling less rushed, you'll have more time to be in moment when you have more moments to choose from.
24. Feel your emotions. If you're sad, angry or overwhelmed, don't try to push the emotions away—just let them happen. The same goes if you're excited or happy.
25. Say "thank you," either in person or in a gratitude journal. If that sounds like too much work, even jotting down a few things you are grateful for today can raise your spirits and keep you in the moment.
26. Don’t try to be "first." If you're always speeding down the highway or trying to make it to the deli counter line before the lunch rush, consider letting everyone go ahead just this once instead. Take your time driving home, don't let rude drivers frazzle you and use your time in the lunch line to observe what's going on around you.
27. Do nothing. Take five to 10 minutes to just "be." You don't have to find a serene location (though that would be nice, too)—just find a place where you're comfortable and spend some time watching the world go by.
28. Forgive yourself if things don’t go as planned. If your sales report is late, you must cancel dinner plans or you say the wrong thing to your spouse, forgive yourself and promise to do better next time.
29. Let your worry go. Worrying isn't going to get you that new job or put money in your bank account. Accept your current situation as is and vow to let it go—even if it's only for the next hour.
30. Stop. Smell the roses. Not to call out the obvious but when is the last time you stopped to smell the roses? Or your morning coffee? Or your baby's head? (Why do they always smell so. Darn. Good?)
What are your tricks for being mindful throughout the day?
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