It can be difficult to stay mindful amid the to-dos of day-to-day life. In fact, a study at Harvard found that people spend 46.9 percent of their waking hours thinking about something other than what they are doing. This kind of mindlessness is the norm, as the mind tends to spend its time focused on the past, the future, and trying out should have’s and what if’s. The study also found that allowing the brain to run on auto-pilot like this can make people unhappy. “A wandering mind is an unhappy mind,” the researchers said.
What can you do to become more mindful in your daily life? You can start by incorporating easy ways to practice mindfulness during the routine activities you’re already doing every day, like brushing your teeth and walking the dog. Here are 11 ways to practice mindfulness in your everyday life … and don’t stop here, these are just ideas and thought-starters. You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere, and with anyone by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now. Mindfulness is the simple act of paying attention and noticing and being present in whatever you’re doing. When most people go about their daily lives, their minds wander from the actual activity they are participating in, to other thoughts or sensations. When you’re mindful, you are actively involved in the activity with all of your senses instead of allowing your mind to wander.
So try these out and watch your mundane daily to-dos turn into your mindfulness practice.
1. Waking Up
Morning is a special time of day, even if you’re not a morning person. How you start your day will set the tone for your entire day ahead.
Before you even get out of bed, consider how you would like your day to go. Visualize the day ahead and get a sense for what the ideal version of your day looks like. Then set an intention for how you’d like the day to go. This could be as simple as “May this day be calm,” “May I feel light and ease throughout the day,” “May I overcome the challenges ahead with grace,” “May I feel healthy and vibrant,” or “May I be mindful and notice my states throughout the day.” Beginning your day with conscious attention and intention sets a conscious tone to your day ahead!
For more ideas on how to design a morning routine for success, check out my post on morning routines.
2. Making Your Bed
Tim Ferriss, author and podcast host (The Tim Ferriss Show) has interviewed more than a hundred highly successful people with diverse backgrounds and skillsets, and in a variety of industries. He always asks, “What’s your morning routine?” Along the way, he has collected five habits that he has incorporated into his morning routine, and one of them is making his bed.
It may seem like a childhood chore that’s a waste of time, unimportant, or unnecessary (you’re just going to use it again at night), but making your bed is a simple action you can take in the morning that makes you start your day feeling accomplished—and what better tone to set than a sense of pride and accomplishment? Taking charge and completing simple tasks will give you a foundation to take on more and more throughout the day.
3. Brushing Your Teeth
If you’re brushing like the dentist tells you to, you’re spending about two minutes every morning and evening brushing your teeth. Why not use it as a mindfulness practice?
Pay attention to the minty smell of the paste, the coolness as it touches your teeth, the feeling and sound of brushing, and the refreshing sense you get when you’re finished.
4. Taking a Shower
Your shower may be a time where you rush through the motions in an effort to get clean and ready for the day ahead. However, when you tune into your senses in a mindful way, you can gain a lot of access to the present moment. Next time you’re in the shower, really enjoy the feeling of washing your hair, feeling the soap on your skin, and soaking in the warmth. Notice the sounds and sensations of the water and how it makes you feel. Observe it all with mindful attention as you lather up and rinse!
5. Walking the Dog
You could think of walking the dog as another activity that you “just have to do before work,” OR, you could turn it into a mindfulness practice. As you walk Fido, pay attention to the details around you and focus on your breathing.
Don’t miss that your pawed pal is a powerful teacher of mindfulness. Ever notice how present Spot can be? Animals are extremely present, providing a role model for present-moment awareness. Really connect with your furry friend by noticing what they notice, paying attention to how much they love and need you, and noticing the details in the environment as you walk the neighborhood. Chances are, you’ll notice something new even if you’ve taken the same route every morning for years.
6. Eating Breakfast
Instead of eating your breakfast on the go, or skipping it entirely, plan to take adequate time for a mindful eating practice. As you eat your cereal, smoothie, or eggs and toast, really experience the flavors and textures of your morning meal. Notice the smell, the ways in which your food hits your tongue, and how the flavor affects different areas of your mouth. Also, notice the feelings of hunger you may experience before you eat and the feelings of satisfaction or fullness when you are finished.
7. Driving to Work
Ever notice a feeling of “auto-pilot” when you’re commuting in the morning? Instead of tuning into the radio or the mind chatter, tune into the present moment. Your time in traffic or in transition is an excellent opportunity to practice mindfulness.
As you drive, notice the sounds, people, buildings, and sights as you pass them. If your window is open, notice the wind in your face and the temperature in the air. Even if you have driven that same route a million times prior, if you drive it in a mindful way, you will surely notice something new. Count how many new things you can notice each time you drive to work to ensure your attention is on the road.
8. Starting Your Computer
It takes a moment or two for your computer to wake up in the morning. Instead of impatiently waiting, close your eyes and do a body scan to discover where you might be holding tension. Bring your attention to one body part at a time and observe any sensations, sending breath into any areas of tension and tightness. You can do this in just a couple of minutes—your computer will be ready to go when you are.
9. Eating Lunch
Instead of eating at your desk or multi-tasking, take a time-out to eat lunch and follow the steps in #6.
10. Waiting in Line at the Grocery Store
Waiting in a checkout line is often a time to get annoyed, impatient, or reach for your phone. Next time you find yourself becoming annoyed at the cashier for moving too slow or mindlessly checking your email again for the 23rdtime in the day, use that extra moment to practice mindfulness instead of impatience. Close your eyes and take five deep breaths, then identify five new sounds you hadn’t heard before, then open your eyes and notice five new things around you that you hadn’t noticed before. By the time you’re finished, you’ll be that much closer to the finish line.
11. Getting Ready for Bed
Having the right wind-down routine is critical to a good night’s sleep. You can design your own nighttime ritual that includes some gentle stretching, meditation, soothing music, sweet-smelling candles or incense, or reading. Before shutting your eyes, spend a few moments reflecting on your day: What you accomplished and what you’re grateful for. You can write it down in a journal, share it with your partner, or just close your eyes and reflect, for the perfect way to seal your day.
It’s important to remember that you can practice mindfulness in any activities you’re involved in throughout your days. This list is meant just to give you some ideas of things you might already be doing in your life, and how to transform them into a mindfulness practice. When you experience the mundane activities in life as mindful, you can begin to transform your entire way of being to more present and attentive.