From the moment you wake up to the moment you lay your head on the pillow at the end of your day, you have the opportunity to engage mindfulness as a way of life. However, if you’re like most people, as soon as you awaken, the mind is already busy compiling to-do lists and thinking about how you’ll accomplish everything. When you’re at work, you may find yourself thinking about your next task rather than what’s before you, or just wishing the workday was over. A feeling of being rushed or overwhelmed may follow you into your household tasks, relationships, and even recreation, so that no matter what you’re doing, part of your mind is thinking about other things you need to do or rehashing what has occurred.
By choosing to become mindful throughout the day, you can bring greater focus and appreciation to whatever situation you find yourself in. You’ll also feel more calm and at peace. As you continue to grow in mindfulness, you’ll see the potential for informal practice in any situation. If you need some help getting started, here are some suggestions for informal ways to weave mindfulness into your day:
As you open your eyes in the morning, instead of jumping out of bed, take a few moments to do a mindful check-in. By starting the day with greater present moment awareness, you’ll set the stage for a greater sense of calm and equanimity during challenging moments throughout your day.
As you bathe, notice if your mind is already thinking, planning, and rehearsing for the day ahead. When you become aware of this, gently bring your mind back to the moment: being in the shower, smelling the soap, feeling the sensation of the water on your body, listening to the sound of it in the shower.
If you live with others, try taking a few moments to listen and connect with them mindfully before you head out for the day.
As you approach your car, walk more slowly, check in with your body, and notice any tension. Try to soften it before you begin your drive.
When you drive, find opportunities to try driving a little slower. Use red lights as a reminder to notice your breathing.
Walking is something we definitely tend to do on autopilot. As you walk to your office or to run errands, walk differently. For example, you might walk more slowly, or you could breathe in for three steps, then breathe out for three steps. Notice the sensations of walking—in your feet and throughout your body.
When doing tasks at work, block out time to focus on a group of similar tasks. For example, block out time just for planning and don’t attend to other tasks during that time. If you can, turn off your e-mail during times when you’re focusing on other tasks.
If possible, maybe once a week, have a meal by yourself in silence, eating slightly slower than you usually do and really tuning in to flavors and textures as you eat.
Throughout the day, do mindful check-ins from time to time. You can schedule them on your calendar, or you can link them to certain activities, such as prior to checking your email or before
you drive in rush hour traffic.
It’s counterproductive to rush home to relax, so try driving home mindfully and slightly slower. Feel your hands on the steering wheel, and mindfully take in each moment. You could turn off the radio and reflect on what you did that day. What was positive, and what would you like to do better? Another possibility is to intentionally plan how you would like to be when you get home, perhaps putting mindful listening on the agenda.
When you get home, do a mindful check-in before you walk in the door, noticing if your body is tense. If it is, try to soften those muscles by breathing into them with awareness and just letting them be.
As you begin to integrate informal practice into your daily life, take some time to reflect on your experiences. What did you do? What did you notice about yourself before and after the practice? How did you act or react to others? What are you learning from informal practice? If you like, you can write about this in your journal.
JUST DO IT!
Take a moment right now to notice the connection between what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling physically and emotionally. Spend a few moments observing your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations and considering how they may relate to one another. Then take this practice with you into your daily life. For example, notice your initial reactions when you’re stuck in line or in traffic, and how bringing mindfulness to the situation offers you the opportunity to respond differently.
Practicing alone can be difficult. We encourage you to connect with others for support and motivation and to benefit from their insights. If you haven’t already spent some time at www.mbsrworkbook.com, go ahead and try it now. See what others are saying about their practice. Sometimes sharing with others and understanding their experience can help you maintain and deepen your practice.