Have you ever noticed your day flying without anything going quite the way you thought it would? Or maybe you get to the end of a long week and find yourself feeling really tired, frustrated, or unhappy and having no idea why?
So many of us go through periods of life where we feel like we’re on autopilot. We make decisions that have nothing to do with our goals and interact with those around us out of frustration, impatience, or anger because we’ve fallen out of touch with ourselves and our values.
Mindfulness is the practice of being present on purpose and the posture of being curious without judgment. It’s a helpful tool we can use to stop living life on autopilot and take a few minutes throughout our day to tune back in with our bodies, minds, wants, and needs. If we slow down in this intentional way, we can expect our day to be more productive, restful, and in line with how we’d like it to be.
Here are some tips to easily integrate the practice of mindfulness into your daily routine.
1) Set an intention for the day. Starting your morning with purpose can impact every decision you make the rest of the day. So instead of multi-tasking while waiting for your coffee to brew, use those few minutes to pause, breathe deeply, relax your mind and body, and ask yourself a few internally focused questions.
Is there a quality or behavior of yours that you want to strengthen? Do you want to speak to or interact differently with yourself and others today? Is there something you can do to feel more connected, fulfilled and impactful today? What can you do to help yourself get through something difficult this week? Is there a phrase you can repeat to yourself today that reminds you of your worth or the things you value?
Choose one thing to focus on the rest of your day, week or month and break it down into a simple, easy-to-remember phrase like, “Today, I will [be patient, be generous, be confident, be kind to myself, be productive, stay grounded, stay focused on my goals, prioritize my family, make an impact, invest in a cause I care about, enjoy the little things, etc.]”
2) Engage with others mindfully. In relationships, we are so rarely present, curious, and non-judgmental. It makes sense. Mindfulness is a skill and it takes practice. So this week, practice staying in the present moment with the people in your life.
That can mean actively listening to them without letting your mind wander to things that have already happened or to all the things that you still need to get done. It can also mean noticing the way your mind and body is reacting to each interaction.
If any feelings or thoughts come up while you’re interacting with someone, just notice, validate, and breathe through them and then return to focusing on the present moment. Noticing and naming emotions without judgment as they come up can help us feel less overwhelmed by them and prevent us from reacting unconsciously to them with frustrated, anxious, or angry outbursts at the people around us.
3) Pause throughout the day. Mindfulness is the opposite of our typical autopilot routine. So it’s important to consciously remind your brain to slow down and focus on one thing at a time. You can do this in a few ways: setting a timer on your phone or placing sticky notes around your home or office to remind you to pause, breathe, and engage your body in some way a few times a day.
Engaging your body is an important part of mindfulness because it tunes you back into your present experience and helps you relax and reconnect with yourself. You can engage your body by stretching, walking, and scanning it for any tension or other physical sensations you may be feeling due to stress, anxiety, excitement, or pleasure. Ask yourself why you may be feeling this way and if you need anything in this present moment. Give yourself what you need and then reward yourself for being mindful in a way that’s meaningful to you.
Another way to pause is to reflect on your day before bed. Think about the things you accomplished and are grateful for. Ask yourself how your intention helped shape your day. Did any feelings surface that you need to process or validate? If you have trouble focusing your thoughts, try using a journal or discussing them with a partner.
Always remember, mindfulness is a skill that needs practice. It’s okay if you’re not great at it the first time you try, but the more time you put in, the better you’ll get and the more natural it will feel. Start small and celebrate every effort you make in turning off your autopilot and taking intentional actions in meaningful directions.