Mindfulness has entered our everyday conversations in a powerful way. “Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally,” explains Jon Kabbat-Zinn, the creator of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.
In essence, it means being aware of and attentive to what’s going on inside and outside of your body. It means not being on “autopilot,” going through the motions of life without a clear connection to what you’re feeling or doing.
It takes some measure of self-reflection to recognize whether you’re being mindful or not. It’s also a continuous endeavor, meaning that life’s circumstances make it hard to maintain for extended periods of time, so it’s important to regularly refocus our attention when it wanders.
As for its benefits, according to the American Psychological Association, empirical evidence suggests mindfulness helps reduce stress, improve focus and working memory, lower emotional reactivity, increase cognitive flexibility, and improve relationship satisfaction, to name a few.
How you can apply mindfulness to everyday life
Decide to be more mindful
This may sound obvious, but intention is everything. By simply making the commitment to be more mindful, you prime your mind for being more attentive and aware of what’s going on around you. You’re also more likely to recognize when you’re not being mindful and shift your awareness.
Leverage moments of “waiting”
Whether you’re waiting for a train, are in an elevator, or at your desk waiting for a slow web page to load, our days are filled with moments of waiting. Use those moments as triggers for tuning in. You can close your eyes and take a deep breath, look more thoroughly at the space around you, or simply check in with how you’re feeling at the moment.
Listen closely when people speak
How much of what others say do you think really gets through? How often do you find yourself consumed with thoughts or seeking distraction while someone else is speaking? Listening is a great anchor to mindfulness. Whenever you're in conversation, aim to pay closer attention, make eye contact, and ask questions to fully take in what the speaker is saying. You’ll gain more insights and form a deeper bond.
Notice the senses
Your senses offer constant invitations to mindfulness because they’re always attentive to the stimuli of the present moment. Linger over a delicious bite of food as you taste it, appreciate the smell of essential oils, gaze at the interesting views of your daily commute, touch someone in a loving and appropriate way, and hear the murmur of sounds outside your window. If you’re not sure where to start, feel your own heartbeat or the rise and fall of your breath.
Seek out nature
There is something awe-inspiring about nature that easily quiets the mind. Going on hikes to watch the sunset is nice, but you can still experience the mindful benefits of nature almost any day. Look out the window and see the trees swaying in the breeze or step outside for a brief walk during your lunch break. You can even pull up beautiful photos of nature online. Seek out nature as much as you can and observe it closely.
The Bottom Line
Mindfulness is a crucial component of what IIN calls primary food, which consists of everything that feeds your life off your plate, such as your career, relationships, physical activity, and spirituality. Being mindful is something we can all do regardless of the day or what we’re doing and can have major influence on how we show up in the world. It can enhance your relationships, your career, and everything else in your life so that you can live a life you love.