Maybe you’ve never tried meditation. (Maybe that’s because you’re the fidgety type who can’t sit still, and if you were going to sit still you’d rather collapse onto your comfy couch for a Netflix binge.) Or… you’ve dipped a toe in the water, thanks to one of Coach Dyan’s relaxing singing bowl meditations or Kristin’s 5 Min Meditation for Tranquility. But you haven’t worked your way up to a regular practice.
Don’t let the idea of meditation intimidate you. Mindfulness meditation is simply an exercise, or activity, we do to cultivate awareness, so we can be more present in our life. The more time we spend sitting with the mind, allowing thoughts to come and go and not getting caught up in them, the more open and at ease we’ll feel in the world.
Mindfulness isn’t something you have to do sitting on a couch or a chair or a cushion. The quality of being present is something we can practice throughout our day, while we go about our daily life. The more mindful moments we can add to our day, the greater the calm, clarity, and contentment we’ll feel. And, same as with exercise, small amounts add up. The more you flex that “mindfulness muscle” throughout the day, the stronger it becomes.
Here are 4 times during your day that you can practice being present, just doing the things you do.
Before a workout
Meditating before a workout increases your focus and centers the mind for your sweat session. There are no hard and fast rules; the idea is to bring your attention to the present, in this case by following your breath. Try this one-minute exercise.
Take a moment to check in with yourself. Sitting down and closing the eyes, take a deep breath, in through the nose and out through the mouth. With the exhale, let go of any distractions, and allow the breath to return to its natural rhythm. Keeping the eyes closed simply follow the breath, your inhales and your exhales. Notice how the body feels, just becoming more aware of any sense of heaviness or lightness. Breathing naturally, sit for a minute or so. When you’re ready, open the eyes. You’re ready to roll!
Incorporating mindfulness into your fitness training will put you in good company: Many of the greatest athletes and teams meditate to strengthen their mindfulness skills. As tennis champ Novak Djokovic put it: “At this level everyone knows how to play tennis. The thing that separates the best from the rest is just the mindset.”
With your morning cup of coffee
Most of us look forward to our morning coffee (or tea), and it’s a great opportunity to start your day off centered and calm.
After pouring your coffee or brewing your tea, take your cup and sit for a minute or two. Rather than letting your mind run off to the day’s to-do list, focus your attention on the present moment. Inhale the aroma. How does the cup feel in your hands? Take a sip, and notice the taste of your coffee or tea. Feel the warmth travel down your throat and into your belly. Take another sip. Breathe. Savor the moment of not feeling frantic or rushed, simply being aware and present.
We’ve all experienced the benefits of taking a nice walk: the fresh air, the sunshine, clearing our head. But the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, even if it’s just to the grocery store, is a great opportunity to quiet the mind.
Start by bringing your awareness to your feet in your shoes, your shoes on the ground, and the ground supporting your weight. Feel the way your body holds itself upright and balanced. As you begin to walk, notice how your feet make contact with the ground, heel, ball of the foot; one foot, then the other. Focus on your changing footsteps as you shift your weight from one foot to the other.
When your mind wanders, which it will, gently bring your attention back to your steps, and continue walking with an awareness of your body in motion.
Your evening (or morning) shower
A daily shower is the perfect time to practice mindfulness meditation. The length of your shower isn’t important. Just make sure to leave your phone in another room so it won’t disturb you. As you step into the shower, be aware of how the water feels as it hits your head, your back, your arms. Is it hot enough? Too hot? Does it feel relaxing? Notice the scent of your soap or body wash, and which part of the body you lather up first.
Routine habits like showering or brushing our teeth usually put us on autopilot, going through the motions we know so well while the mind drifts off. If your thoughts wander, gently bring your attention back to the present moment and to all the sensations of your shower— or the feeling of the towel on your body as you’re drying off, getting ready for the rest of your night, or day.