7 Ways to Practice Mindfulness Every Day
We live in a fast-paced and busy world. We’re surrounded by technology and media at all times. I am a clinical social worker, and I work particularly with individuals suffering from mental illness and substance use disorders. My clients, family members, friends, and I struggle with invasive thoughts and overwhelming stress in their jobs and personal lives.
Mental health is not viewed as important as it should be, and as a clinician I think that everyone should develop a regular practice of mindfulness. Mindfulness is defined by Kabatt-Zinn (1990) as “a process of bringing a certain quality of attention to moment-by-moment experience.” We can use mindfulness to become aware of our thoughts and ground ourselves in our day. Here are seven easy ways to start incorporating mindful practices into your everyday life.
1. Five Senses
This is my favorite mindful practice. I started my career working with children and adolescents, and currently teach my adult clients this method all the time, as well as using it myself. You simply use your five senses to become aware of your surroundings. Go through each sense and state something you’re experiencing with that sense. For example, “Sight: blue sky, hearing: birds chirping, smell: fresh cut grass, touch: headphones in my ears, taste: the flavor of my toothpaste.”
2. Mindful Walking
This is an easy way to incorporate the practice into something you do all the time. Slow down and breathe deeply and fully as you walk. Notice how the ground feels against your feet. Are you holding any tension in your legs or your back? Notice it. For clients who are disabled or use a wheelchair or scooter to get around, I tell them to notice how your hands feel on the wheels or the controls. How is the ground affecting how your chair is moving?
3. Mindful Sitting
I use this method often since I sit in a chair a lot during my work day. Take a minute or two to sit up straight. Plant your feet firmly on the ground and observe how that feels. Lengthen your spine. Notice your breath and slow it down. Notice how your back and legs feel against the chair.
4. Body Scan
A body scan is a very common practice of mindfulness and meditation. I like to do a body scan before I go to sleep since it helps me to relax, but you can do it at any time. I like to start with my toes and move up to my head, but you can perform the practice in either direction. Go through each body part moving in one direction and notice any feelings of tension. If there’s a tense area, send your breath to that area. Move through your entire body. I like to look up guided body scans on YouTube and listen to someone else guide me through the practice.
There is a lot of scientific research that backs up practicing gratitude as a way to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety. I started a gratitude journal. Each night, I write down three things I’m thankful for. You don’t even have to do it in a physical journal. Simply take a minute of your day, maybe before going to sleep, and list a few things that you’re grateful for.
6. One-Minute Mindful Me
This is a technique that a professor in grad school suggested to me. I have a reminder in my phone for the same time every evening (7pm) that is titled “One Minute Mindful Me.” I take a minute (sometimes a few) to practice some mindfulness technique. There are also a ton of apps that have guided meditations as well as other activities. Headspace and Insight Timer are two of my favorites.
7. Neck Massage
This last one is quick and simple. Take a few seconds. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths while you roll your neck clockwise. After a few rounds, switch and go counterclockwise. If there’s a spot that you notice some tension, stay there for a little longer and send your breath to the area.