I’m often asked how we can bring mindfulness into our everyday lives. Mindfulness means deliberately bringing awareness to what we are doing, while we are doing it. Which sounds simple enough, but can be much harder to put into practice.
September always feels more like the real New Year to me than January 1st and I often enjoy taking stock of and revising my routines and habits at this time of year. Jan 1st often sneaks up on me at the end of the long festive period as an afterthought and I never quite feel prepared for it!
New Year in September makes way more sense to me. It’s part of an organic process of endings and beginnings, with nature marking its farewell to summer and welcoming in autumn. The signs of change are clear and tangible, as the leaves begin to change colour, evenings start to draw in a little, the air is cooler and smells deliciously autumnal.
Also society marks changes; saying farewell to freer summer holiday time and welcoming in the new school year. I think the going-back-to-school feeling is engrained in us from such a young age, that even those who aren’t a part of a school system, often still feel it. That time of buying new school shoes, new pencils, wondering what the new teachers and classes will bring. The chance to start afresh.
So I thought that Alternative New Year would be a good time to share some simple and easy ways to invite mindfulness into your everyday, as perhaps some of you also are reviewing your habits and looking for new ideas. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions as such, (as I think they can easily become too ambitious and then too hard to maintain), but I am a huge fan of what I call Small Tweaks. I believe it’s the small tweaks we make to our everyday lives and habits, that can make the long term differences we seek. And the key is to make them small enough and doable .
So without further delay, here are 5 small, doable tweak suggestions you can use to invite more mindfulness into your everyday:
1. Stop for 1 minute
Take one minute to stop and focus on your breath. as it moves in and out of your body. Don’t worry if your mind wanders; it probably will! Just bring your attention back to your breath as many times as you need. Counting your breaths can also help you to focus, if that feels easier. This short practice can be done once or as many times as you like during the day and can make a huge difference. It helps us reground ourselves; like a personal reset button.
2. Do an everyday activity mindfully
We often do our daily activities on automatic pilot. Our minds are scattered, we’re multi-tasking and we’re not really present or noticing what we’re doing. Choose an everyday activity like brushing your teeth, putting on your shoes, having a shower, making a cup of tea, eating and practice doing it mindfully. Remembering that being mindful simply means being aware of what you’re doing, while you’re doing it. So, feeling the toothbrush on your gums, tasting the toothpaste, feeling the warm the water on your skin, really tasting and savouring the food.
3. Practice listening
Often when we talk with others, we’re not really listening fully. Our minds are elsewhere. Perhaps we’re busy working out what to say next, judging what is being said, or maybe our thoughts are miles away trying to fix a completely different matter. So practice really listening to someone for a few minutes a day. Especially try it with loved ones. They will really appreciate it, I’m sure!
4. Use waiting time to be mindful
We often have to spend our time waiting for things. Shopping queues, traffic queues, traffic lights, children putting their shoes on, the list is endless. And so often we get irritated, focusing on wanting whatever’s holding us back to hurry up and resenting the time we feel we’re wasting. This leaves us agitated and stressed. However, while we often can’t change the length of the waiting time, we can change how we respond to it. We can practice accepting the need to wait and even use it as an opportunity to take a moment. To rest, to breathe, to just be.
5. Compassion, compassion, compassion
Practice being kind to yourself. We all have an inner voice, so start to notice what yours is like. Is it kind? Is it critical? Does it have high expectations? Is it patient? Is it judgemental? Is it fun? Just noticing and being mindful of the tone of your inner voice and thoughts, can be really helpful. Awareness can lead to new choices and ways of being kinder to ourselves.
I hope you find these 5 ideas useful. I’d love to hear, so do please let me know in the comments below. Also if you have any questions or would like to share any ideas of your own.
Happy Alternative New Year!