5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness
A Guide for People Who Don’t Like to Meditate
Everyone from your doctor to retail marketing departments are telling you to practice mindfulness. By now you likely are familiar with the endless list of benefits to a mindful life, but you’re feeling stuck because you tried it and hate it.
You’re not alone. This was me one day. Then I realized it wasn’t mindfulness that bothered me.
There’s a pretty big chance that what you actually hate is meditation, not mindfulness. The terms are often used interchangeably and while we won’t get into the specifics here, what you need to know is that mindfulness is more of a state of being; while meditation is a practice.
You need mindfulness to meditate but you can be mindful without meditation.
Mindfulness – A state of being
We spend most of our lives mindlessly engaging in tasks while entrenched in the thoughts in our mind. You’ve likely had the sensation of stopping at a red light and thinking “how the heck did I get here” because you realize that you’ve been paying attention to something that happened when you were 10, instead of actively watching the road.
Our minds ability to easily focus on things that happened in the past or future prevents us from living the life that is currently in front of us.
Mindfulness is a skill that will hopefully one day become a habit that you can use to break out of the past or future and get you reconnected with your current life. With the present moment.
Mindfulness is actually quite simple – be present by being aware of the current moment.
We become present by tuning into our 5 senses:
With this in mind, any day-to-day activity can become a mindfulness activity simply by tuning into your senses while doing it.
5 Ways to Practice Mindfulness
Here are 5 of my favorite ways that to bring mindfulness into my daily life
1. Go for a walk
Hear me out!
Most of us walk everyday. We pass the same buildings, the same trees, the same cars – yet if asked, you’d probably have a hard time describing your street in enough detail for someone to be able to draw it.
A mindful walk involves tuning into:
- What are you seeing around you?
- How do the leaves move in the wind? How does light reflect off the grass? What is the color of the brick on the houses that you’re passing? Is the road straight or bumpy?
- You can choose to attend to different sights each time (eg. nature focused walk, building focused walk, etc.)
- What do you hear?
- Rustling leaves? Chirping birds? Honking in the distance? A street car passing by? A pop can rolling in the wind?
- Pay attention to any and all sounds without getting preoccupied in finding the soothing sounds.
- What do you touch or feel in this moment?
- What is the sensation of walking? What does it feel like to have your heel hit the pavement and rock towards your toes? How does it feel to bend at your knee and swing from your hip? What is the temperature? How does the wind or sun feel against your skin?
- Pay attention to different sensations as they arise
I promise – this will be a very different walk from what you’re used to.
Tip 1: head out during or immediately after a snowfall or rain and pay attention to the elements
Tip 2: head to a cool spot like a holiday light display, botanical garden, or touristy attraction and take in your city like a tourist.
2. Take a mindful shower
Showering is an incredibly sensory experience that most of us spend our lives missing out on.
A mindful shower involves paying attention to sound, vision, touch, and scent.
- Observe the water droplets collecting on your skin, shower wall or curtain. How long does it take for them to pool before they slide down the wall? Focus on the rainbows forming inside the tiny little soap suds from your body wash or shampoo.
- What is the sound of the water running from the pipes? Shampoo being massaged through your hair? Your feet shifting against the porcelain or tiles?
- How does your body feel when the water hits it? How does the texture of your hair change as you apply different products?
- Tune into the various scents of each of the products that you use. How do the scents change as you use different items?
3. Listen to a song mindfully
This can be a new song or a favorite song – both are completely different experiences and I encourage you to try both.
Here you’ll want to focus on hearing and touch.
- What are the various sounds being paired together? Can you make out specific instruments? Try listening to the song while only listening to one of those sounds (eg. the guitar, drums or vocalist ONLY). What are the words that are being said.
- Notice the different sensations in your body in response to the music. Is there an urge to tap your foot, move your head or sway to the music? Is there an emotional experience? Do you notice your body tighten or relax to different parts of the song?
4. Have a mindful conversation
This one comes with the added benefit of strengthening our social connections because we’re giving someone our full and undivided connection.
You’ll really want to tune into hearing and vision here.
- Listen to what the person is saying – the actual words that are coming out of their mouth as well as how they are saying it. What is their tone and inflection?
- How is their body posture? What does it say about their mood or emotional experience? Notice shifts in their body as they speak – how do their hand movements connect with their words?
5. Reframe a judgment to an observation
Humans are judgy. It’s not shameful – it’s quite instinctual. However, it interferes with our relationships and can cause daily problems because judgments aren’t facts.
An important way to infuse your days with mindfulness is to pay attention to when you are judging and if you happen to catch it happening, drop the judgment an replace it with a factual description.
When describing, describe it as though you are trying to explain this to someone who has no idea what you’re talking about. Stick to the facts – facts are the things that are observable. You cannot observe others’ thoughts and intentions.
You can use all of the senses for this mindfulness task but it will vary from experience to experience.
Two examples of mindfully describing vs. judging.
Instead of: it was a beautiful sunset
Try: tuning into vision 👀 to describe:
I was sitting on a dock and when I looked up I noticed that there were strokes of pink and purple mixed in with the light blue sky. Within minutes the blue was almost entirely gone and so was the daylight sun. It was still light enough that you didn’t need a flashlight but dark enough that you knew it was night. The sky was mostly orange and red as though the sky was on fire. As the sun continued to set, the vibrant colors faded and were replaced with darkness. That happened until all the colors were completely dark and only the night sky remained.
Instead of: “They’re so rude!”
Try: tuning into vision 👀 and hearing 👂 to describe:
I was in line at the customer service desk. When it was my turn I approached the associate who was looking down. I smiled and said hello and they did not look up at me or acknowledge me. They then said “what do you need?” When I started to tell them that I had lost my wallet they said “happens a lot here” and gave me a form to fill out.
These are just 5 examples but the possibilities are endless! See – no relaxing music, no visualization, no manipulating your breath, and no trying to keep your mind still.
Simply paying attention to the here and now to the tasks that you already do every day.
Give these a try and I challenge you to use these ideas to find other ways that you like to bring mindfulness into your day!