You’ve probably heard about the benefits of mindfulness—in fact, it’s hard to avoid it these days. But what can you do if a daily meditation always seems to turn into a mental grocery list, or ruminating over what else you’ve got to get done today?
If you’re less of a “guided chakra meditation” and more of a “long walk in the park” kind of person, don’t despair. There are plenty of ways that you can stay mindful in everyday life. Here’s a look at 10 of them.
- Run a body scan. One of the simplest ways to be more mindful is to stop and consider how your body feels at any given moment. In fact, stop reading right now and sit quietly for a moment. Is your jaw tight? Are your shoulders up around your ears? How’s your posture? Are you hungry, thirsty, fatigued or sore? By scanning through each body part, one by one, you can be more in the moment.
- Explore the five senses. One common anxiety-slaying trick is to focus on your five senses: five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste. This is helpful because it forces you to be mindful, rather than letting your brain run wild with other thoughts.
- Observe your thoughts. Speaking of thoughts, you can always observe what’s going on in that noggin of yours. Instead of blindly flitting from topic to topic, slow down and think about what you’re thinking. There’s no need for judgement—just notice whether your mind keeps drifting back to certain subjects.
- Focus on your breathing. Of course, the power of deep breathing is one of the most oft-recommended mindfulness tools around. Simply taking a moment to focus on what it’s like to breathe—cool air in your nose, warm air exhaled through the mouth—forces you to stay in the moment. Notice how your chest or stomach rise and fall, how your lungs fill with air and the effect your deep breaths have on the rest of your body.
- Slow your roll. If you like to take a daily walk, that’s great for your mind and your body. You can employ mindfulness by slowing the walk down. Really take your time and notice your surroundings. Are there any interesting plants? Will your neighbors ever take down their holiday lights? Are the clouds forming any cool shapes? Noticing these details is another way to be in the moment.
- Look for tiny details. Similarly, you can be mindful by zeroing in on your surroundings, indoors and out. Count how many swirls are in your bedspread pattern or how many seeds are in a strawberry. The more detail you notice, the less likely you’ll fall into anxious mental patterns.
- Change your perspective. One great way to get out of your own head is to change your perspective—literally. If you take walks and look at the ground, look up instead. Hang upside down off the monkey bars (or the side of your bed). Lay on your stomach on a pool diving board and watch how the light hits the water. Changing the way you look at something can be a powerful mindfulness tool.
- Cook and eat mindfully. Sometimes it’s hard to find time to be mindful—after all, the kids need attention and you need to finish off your to-do list. There’s always something. But everyone has to eat, so make cooking—and eating—your next mindfulness tool. Instead of preparing dinner on autopilot or eating in front of the TV, pay attention to every knife chop, every bite and every flavor or texture that you’re enjoying.
- Actively listen to others. Ever have a conversation where you couldn’t wait for the other person to shut up, so that you could jump in with an anecdote of your own? Banish that impulse and actively listen to others, instead. This is not only great when you’re having tough discussions, it also makes your everyday conversations a little more intimate and rewarding.
- Practice gratitude. Finally, practice gratitude whenever you can. Forcing yourself to think of all your blessings is a great way to snap yourself out of an anxiety spiral—and it’ll help you enjoy your life more, too.
These are 10 mindfulness exercises anyone can do. Find ways to incorporate these practices into your everyday life and you’ll quickly find yourself living more mindfully each and every day. They’re also great for stressful moments or anxious feelings, and can help you get your feet back on solid ground when you’re feeling pushed to the edge.