Mindfulness Is More Than Meditation
You can practice without sitting still
At any point in the day, mindfulness activities can be useful to help us pause and regroup. You don’t need any special music, quiet space, or incense. These are practical things you can do any time and anywhere. Try out one or more of these activities and let me know what you think in the comments!
You don’t need an adult coloring book to start coloring. You can type “Adult Coloring Pages” into google and print one out and dive in. Coloring is therapeutic. Since the design is already done for you, it isn’t as overwhelming as a blank page. Choosing a color and filling in space is the only task, so don’t get overwhelmed by the end result. Just enjoy the journey and see where it takes you.
Some mindfulness activities don’t require you to set aside any time at all; they can take place slowly throughout the day.
In the morning, set yourself the intention to notice five things that usually go unnoticed in your general day and to be grateful for them. This may mean appreciating that your mail arrives, or that the electricity is allowing you to have light and heat.
It may mean saying thank you to the person cleaning up the tables in the cafeteria or taking out the trash. Throughout your day, keep a note of the things you notice that you appreciate but aren’t usually aware of.
The next time you try it, increase your number from 5 to 7 things. Then go for 10. See how many items are all around you that go entirely unnoticed.
This can also lead to a more defined gratitude practice if you enjoy it.
First Experience Mindfulness
Do you remember the first time you ever ate a strawberry? How about the first time you rode in a car or a bus? A fun exercise I like to do is to imagine what something would be like if I were doing it for the very first time. This could be walking down a particular street I see every day, eating food I frequently eat or swimming, for example. I try to recreate the newness of the situation and feel and the experience the same way I would as a child, or an alien, whichever you can relate to more.
If you want to take it a step farther, you can write about this experience. Use all of your senses to describe the experience as vividly as possible.
Whether you need to walk to get from point A to point B or you want to take some time for mindfulness activities, walking is a great way to be in the moment.
Find a place to walk, or use a route you are familiar with. If you are outdoors, make sure you are staying safe and aware. You can do this on a walking track, a treadmill, or even in hallways if you don’t have a good outdoor place to practice it.
While you are walking, pay attention to the lifting and falling of your feet. Notice any sensations in your body or shifting from side to side. Notice where your hands naturally fall, and if your shoulders are relaxed.
If your mind wanders, you can count steps up to ten and then start back at the beginning. Guide your attention back to the sensation of walking whenever your thoughts take over.
For alternative mindfulness activities where you pay attention to your surroundings, I have a whole post about mindful photography here.
Using the Five Senses
We all know we have five senses, but how often do we put them all to use intentionally? Let’s try it! Get comfortable and start by noticing your breath.
Then begin with your ears.
Pay attention to the sounds around you. What can you hear? Try to identify five noises, tones, or vibrations. Don’t judge them as bad or good, just notice them. It may be your breathing, traffic outside, air conditioner, or something completely different depending on where you are. Continue until you have identified five different sounds.
Then move on to your nose.
Pay attention to the smells around you. At first, you may think there aren’t any, but if you slow down your thoughts and pay attention, you should be able to pick some out. It may be a cup of coffee, newspaper print, or food from the kitchen. Notice the smells but don’t worry about classifying them as good or bad.
Once you identify three smells, move on to your eyes.
Look in front of you and notice five objects. They may be things that you “see” every day, but now take the time to look at them. Notice the color, texture, shape, and anything else that is interesting to your eyes in this meditative moment.
Notice their size and any angles or corners they have. Trace the shapes with your gaze, notice how they are placed and any shadows they make. Then, when you are satisfied, move on to your mouth.
Taste the inside of your mouth.
Can you still taste something you ate or drank before you began this exercise? Maybe there is an aftertaste of coffee or that delicious breakfast you ate. Focus in on that taste.
You may want to move your tongue around inside your mouth and see if there are other tastes inside your mouth. Just pay attention to the sensation when you are fully focused on your sense of taste inside of your mouth. Finally, shift your attention to your skin.
What can you feel?
Maybe it’s your clothing on your skin, perhaps you are laying on silky sheets, or sitting in a supportive chair that feels firm and hard against your skin. Notice five different sensations on your skin.
If you have trouble identifying them, start with your feet, and work your way up noticing different areas of your body. You can also try this part of the exercise when you are in the shower or the pool for an unusual mindfulness activity.
You can do senses mindfulness activities anywhere at any time and experiment with how they differ in each place. If you tend to get lost in meditation, just set the alarm for the amount of time you have available and explore where this goes! Give yourself 5 to 10 minutes minimum but don’t limit it if you don’t need to.