When you’re looking to take a break, the default option is a “mindless” activity like scrolling through TikTok or binge-watching that TV series you’ve been meaning to check out.
But learning how to practice mindfulness could give our brains what we need to recharge, reset, and feel less stress.
“Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating awareness for the present moment,” explains Jenna Monaco, a certified meditation and mindfulness teacher, and stress coach.
You can practice mindfulness throughout your day, whether it’s tasks like walking to the store or parenting, or set activities such as meditation and yoga.
The most fundamental goal of any mindfulness exercise is to connect with your bodily senses, explains Monaco.
You want to tune into what you’re seeing, hearing, feeling, smelling, and even tasting without distraction.
Here are some tips for mindfulness exercises anyone can do.
1. Leave judgment at the door
“Mindfulness is an attitude of paying attention,” explains Catherine Tingey, E-RYT 200. However, it differs from observation because it’s inherently neutral.
Meaning you’re not scrutinizing your every move but instead accepting actions or sensations as they unfold and noticing them.
(Then again, not judging yourself or anyone else is a generally good idea.)
“When we practice mindfulness, we refrain from judging our observations.” So if you’re thinking, “I suck at being mindful,” let that go immediately and move on.
2. Try a basic mindful meditation
“Any activity can be done mindfully, but to begin your practice of mindfulness, a mindfulness meditation is one of my favorites,” says Monaco.
To start, find a comfortable seated position, close or lower your eyes, and bring your awareness to your breath.
“Notice the gentle, natural rhythm. Then take inventory of where there is tightness or tension in your body, and practice breathing into those areas,” she says. “If your thoughts stray, gently bring yourself back to your breath.”
3. Eat and drink mindfully
Among its benefits, mindful eating can help you eat smarter and lose weight.
“A great ritual to infuse mindfulness into your day is the preparation of your morning beverage,” says Tingey.
“When you’re making tea or coffee, pay close attention to the sounds of boiling water, the first taste of liquid, and any sensations that arise in the body like your heartbeat and breath while drinking,” she explains.
“Eat without a TV, book, magazine, or phone near you,” adds Monaco. “Just enjoy the sensation of eating.”
4. Rework what you already do
Practicing mindfulness does not require significant life changes or big purchases.
“My biggest tip for integrating mindfulness is to tweak what we already do to support a more mindful way of living,” says Monaco.
It could be as simple as skipping listening to music or podcasts while you’re working out or outside in nature.
“Go for a walk or run without music and take in your environment through all of your senses,” says Monaco.
Tune in to the sounds around you instead of blocking them out.
5. Try a body scan meditation before bed
“This is an easy intro to mindfulness meditation that also helps you relax into sleep,” says Monaco. “Start by bringing awareness to your feet, then your ankles, and move up until you’ve worked your awareness all the way to the top of your head.”
6. Make checking your phone the second thing you do after waking up
“Don’t check your phone in the morning until you’ve completed your morning routine, whatever that looks like for you,” says Monaco.
So have a relaxing breakfast, stretch, or even head out for a run. “When you start the day off putting your needs first, you tend to stay more present and grounded throughout the day.”
“The popularity of mindfulness is a reaction to our increasingly technocratic world which separates us from ourselves and nature,” adds Tingey.
So go ahead and see what happens when you put your mind to it!