What is mindfulness? You’ve probably heard about it over the past few years but what does “mindfulness” and living in the present moment really mean?
Mindfulness is all about paying attention and being present.
The Mayo Clinic has a great explanation. Mindfulness is when “you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment, without interpretation or judgement… to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.”
Living in the moment is especially helpful when we find ourselves ruminating over the past (“I can’t believe I said/did/thought that!”) or worrying about the future (“If I don’t do ____, then ____ could happen.”) Ruminating and worrying cause anxiety, stress, and depression. Practicing mindfulness, on the other hand, brings us back to present moment and the world we live in today.
Here are three simple tips to live more mindfully and in the present moment.
Try Yogic Eating
In my first yoga teacher training, one of the lessons we had to do was to eat yogic-ly (mindfully) for two meals. What did that mean? It meant eating without distraction. Eating without chitchatting with anyone, without watching a show or checking a device, and without daydreaming but, most importantly, it meant savoring every bite. I counted how many times I chewed each bite and how the tastes changed the longer I chewed. I noticed the textures and the temperature.
It was a hard assignment, but it taught me that food tastes better when we pay attention. It also taught me that it’s almost impossible to do daily so here’s my modification:
Savor the first few bites of every meal, snack, and dessert.
Research shows that our taste buds get desensitized as we eat so the first couple bites actually taste better than the last ones. Let’s savor those first few. Next time you eat, smell your food and then close your eyes and truly savor those first few bites.
Try it with your morning coffee or tea as well. Savoring that first sip will kick off your day in a more mindful and appreciative way.
Get Into Nature
Being in nature can lower our stress levels especially when we take time to really be in nature. Next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, get outside and be in the moment. Engage all five of your senses.
Years ago, I learned a mindfulness technique a therapist called “Coming to Your Senses,” and it’s beauty is in its simplicity. Here it is:
Look for five things you can see.
Count four things you can hear.
Notice three things that have an interesting texture you could touch.
Find two things you can smell.
And finally, spot one thing you could taste.
Breathe into the Present Moment
Another simple way to bring mindfulness into your day is by focusing on your breath. Noticing how it feels and sounds.
Your breath is always in the present moment so it can get you out of your head (especially when we’re stressing over something) and back into the here and now.
Try this breathing technique next time you’re feeling stressed.
Breathe in through your nose for the count of two and breathe out through your mouth for the count of four. Repeat.
Then switch your breath so that it is in and out through your nose, still keeping the exhale twice as long as the inhale.
Then take a breath and notice the sensations in your nose. Feel the coolness of the air at the tip of your nostrils as you breath in and how it’s warmer when you breath out.
For the next breath, bring your awareness to your clavicles and the front of your chest. Feel your chest expand as you inhale and slowly fall as you exhale.
Notice the sides of your rib cage during the next breath. Inhale and notice how the ribs spread away from each other. Exhale and feel them come closer together again.
Then shift your attention to your back. Feel it expand as you inhale and relax as you exhale.
Finally, bring your awareness to your belly. Allow your belly to expand and round as you breathe in. Gently pull your belly in as you breathe out.
Take two final breaths breathing in for two and out for four. Notice how it feels to completely pay attention your breath.
The beauty of this breathing technique is that you can do it anywhere. On an airplane, in a meeting, or at your kid’s soccer game. Odds are no one else will even notice but you’ll feel better.
Use these three mindfulness techniques to find peaceful moments throughout your day.
For more information, check out our monthly membership program where we focus on mindfulness and living in the present moment. And sign up for our newsletter to get free access to my Guided Gratitude Meditation, which will also bring you back from stress and overwhelm and into the present moment again.
Stay tuned for three more next week.