In honor of World Mental Health Day today, here are a few simple mindfulness practices you can try if you have less than 30 minutes to spare. Try one or all of these mindful moments challenges during a break at work or once you come home – it’s up to you.
What is mindfulness, you might ask? For me, mindfulness is when I am aware of the present moment. I am gently focused on what I am feeling and sensing in the moment, without passing any judgment on those things as best I can. I am not overwhelmed by what is going on around me, and I neither dwell on the past nor try to anticipate the future. I say ‘I’ in all of this but – truth be told – my wandering, imaginative mind often finds it a bit of a challenge to achieve this state of being! But that’s OK – it just takes practice.
Anyway, without further ado, here are 3 little opportunities to practice a bit of mindfulness in our every day lives.
1 – Cuppa Comfort
At some point today, make yourself a cup of tea (…or hot cocoa. Or coffee.). Putting the kettle on is quite a common routine here in the UK, one I’d say most people do without even thinking about what it is they are doing. Don’t let that be the case this time. Treat your tea making like a mini meditation.
Notice the feel and weight of the kettle in your hand as you go to fill it. Be conscious of the act of turning on the tap and watching the water pour gently into the kettle. Give the tea leaves or tea bag a gentle sniff before placing them in your cup. Depending on what you’re brewing, let your attention linger on the scent of chamomile, peppermint, cardamom… When you pour in the hot water, just stand and observe what’s happening in your little cup of wonders. Watch as steam gently swirls and rises away from the surface. If you take milk with your tea, try adding your desired amount but then not stirring; simply watch for a few mindful moments as the milk swirls in little turbulent clouds and settles wherever it deems fit.
Now go get cozy and enjoy that cuppa!
2 – Minding the Path
If you can, go for a ten minute walk somewhere with a bit of green space and relatively little urban noise. You can try going for a short mindful walk pretty much anywhere though.
As you begin your walk, bring your attention to your feet and how they feel as they come into and out of contact with the ground. Walk at a natural pace, placing your hands wherever comfortable. After a minute or two, expand your attention outwards from your body and its movements. Perhaps bring your focus to your sense of smell first. Whether you can smell wood smoke in a forest park, your neighbor grilling steaks, or salty sea air, simply take notice. Try not to label smells as good or bad. Now move on to what you can hear. You might hear distant traffic or maybe birds singing. Again, as best you can, just notice the sounds without judging them. Next, move on to observing openly the colors and objects around you. Let your mind say a little ‘I see you’ to each thing that your attention comes to, but try not to get sucked into pondering each thing deeply. When it’s been nearly ten minutes or so, circle your attention back to your feet and legs and the act of gently moving around your environment before ending your practice.
3 – The Key to Calm
Here’s a nice simple one to wrap things up.
Ever left your car, put your keys away, sat down at your desk or on your couch and wondered if you locked your car door? Or your house door, for that matter? Unlocking and locking our vehicles, our houses, our businesses, etc. is something we do day in and day out automatically, without really thinking about it. We hardly ever actually forget to lock something, but we often can’t recall the moments of actually doing just that because we were on autopilot.
So here’s the simple challenge. The next time you go to lock a door, any door…pause. Maybe even think to yourself the sentence ‘I am now going to lock the door’ or something like it, just to be sure your brain is ready to focus on what you’re about to do. Feel the key in your hand. Watch as you slide it into the lock. Concentrate on the motion of turning the key in the lock. Give the door a gentle push or the handle a light tap to be sure the job is done. Were you mindful of each step as you did them? Each time I’ve closed my front door in this way, I’ve always been able to visualize everything later on, and I rest easy knowing for certain that I’ve done it.
Give it a try, and see if it works for you too.