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Mindfulness Practices to Incorporate into Everyday Life

These days are marked by a steady stream of difficult headlines in mainstream media and weekly, if not daily struggles of making it through this beautiful gift of life. If you are someone who wakes up and dreads the day before it has already begun, I invite you to keep reading. I would also invite you to continue reading if you are someone who pounces out of bed with vigor, excitement flowing through you with the eagerness to receive whatever miracles are coming your way. These mindfulness practices can be completely eye-opening for those who are familiar with mindfulness and meditation and for those who are just starting to dip their toes in the water.

With all of the unknowns that the future holds, it is all too easy to get stuck in negative feedback loops which ultimately breed stress in the body, which then manifests itself into how we perceive our outside life circumstances, which is oftentimes negative. So, in this blog post, I would like to talk about how you can train your brain with intentional mindfulness practices that help you stay focused on the positive so that you may have more control over your stress levels and maintain physical and mental health.

So, Shea, What is Mindfulness?

I am so glad you asked! I specialize in mindfulness and meditation, providing these services both in-person in Denver and virtually! But I won’t make you sign up for an appointment to learn what mindfulness is. Mindfulness is the ability to stay in the present moment and focus your thoughts on what is happening in the here and now. You’re probably thinking “Shea, I spend all day focusing on the here and now. I work all day and then make sure I take my kids to soccer practice before cooking dinner.”

Well, I would invite you to look at it from a different perspective. How long do you actually spend with yourself in those moments, ebbing and flowing with the ever-abundant eternity that we live in? How much of that time do you actually spend thinking about the past or future instead of observing what is happening at the moment? The answer might surprise you.

It Starts When You Wake Up

You want to start your day off mindfully as soon as your conscious mind is lifted from the fog of unconscious slumber. Mindfulness in the morning helps set the “tone” of your nervous system for the rest of the day, increasing the likelihood of other mindful moments.

Your first instinct may be to grab your phone for a quick scroll on Facebook or Instagram. Maybe the first thing you do is swing your feet over the bed, sit up and drink some water. Well, no matter what the case is, try bringing awareness to the daily activities that you usually do on autopilot.

Pay more attention to the actions you perform when you first get up — as you’re brushing your teeth, taking a shower, eating your breakfast, or taking a walk. Zero in on the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, and most importantly, how these activities feel to you. You might find that the routine is more interesting than you thought.

Your morning routine might start to change as you may feel compelled to not check your phone or email first thing, as those practices aren’t really mindful, and distract us from the ever-present. You may start to gravitate naturally toward other practices, like noticing how the sunlight through your windows makes you feel.

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Let Your Mind Wander

Your mind and brain are natural wanderers. Think of an excited puppy or a crawling baby — your mind is that, and that’s not a bad thing! It’s pretty darn natural for our brains to wander from one thought to the next at an alarming speed. Rather than criticizing yourself for letting your mind wander (you didn’t really “let” it, it just kind of happens), mindfully become aware that your thoughts have shifted from resting in the present moment and gently invite yourself to come back to the now.

The key here is to simply notice what has happened before non-judgmentally and lovingly becoming rooted in the present again. The funny thing is that once you start to practice this, you will notice just how often your mind wanders!

Check in With Your Body

The body functions without much thought or focused participation from us. Breathing comes naturally, your body tells you when it’s hungry and full, and lets you know when you have to pay a visit to the toilet. Your heart beats automatically and everything continues like clockwork. It’s nothing short of a miracle when you think about it!

Take a moment and check in with your body. This could be difficult at first, so I recommend that you start out when you are completely relaxed, either lying or sitting down. Take the time to think about every body part, muscle, and joint. Work from your feet upwards, intentionally focusing energy on those areas. Are you holding any tension? Do you have any aches or pains? Do you feel heavy or light?

Bringing attention to our body can help us realign our attention to the present and can be very useful in helping us get the information we need to take better care of our body. Maybe your ankle has been in pain for a few days but you brush it off because you need it for running or working out, working through the pain. This is a great time to acknowledge any messages your body is trying to send you and act accordingly.

Give More Awareness to What You Eat

Eating mindfully helps us reclaim the pleasure of food. Now, what I am about to say is not an attack or an insult, but for many people, food is something that we turn to when we feel bored or emotionally empty. For many of us, eating is something we do on autopilot — we don’t pay attention to what we’re eating and we don’t listen to the signals our stomach is sending us, if it’s full or if it doesn’t agree with what we are eating.

We have become largely out of touch with eating, and thus, out of touch with our bodies. Eating has been shown to aid in weight loss and healthy digestion, and we can use eating as a practice to bring us closer to ourselves, which can be done by turning off all distractions and focusing our attention on our immediate thoughts and feelings. Taking extra attention to how the food tastes, smells, or feels in your mouth is also an excellent way of shifting more awareness to eating as a practice.

Try also eating in smaller bites or eating more slowly. Be more present in the moment with your experience and you may find out a few things about yourself.

Slow the Heck Down

Our culture is one big mess of hurry and rush. Whether people are driving, waiting in line for coffee, or walking down the street, everyone seems like they’re in one big rush to get somewhere. Not to mention, everyone is in the “go” mode of meeting deadlines, striving, and achieving.

We blaze through life at a pace that would make our forefathers’ heads spin, but do we ever actually find ourselves happier because of it? I strongly feel that the answer is no. Many of us rarely allow ourselves to slow down, and it’s not really our fault. We live in a society that more or less looks down upon rest, relaxation, and leisure. If you aren’t moving, you aren’t achieving. This mindset can be quite toxic, as we are shortchanging our lives and missing many precious moments that move at 0mph.

I recommend physically slowing down, and then bringing awareness to your thoughts to slow those down too. Take more time and pleasure in the activities that you enjoy but always zoom through. Enjoy every sip of coffee in the morning. Walk barefoot on the grass. Take time to connect with your customers instead of trying to sell them on something. Try driving the speed limit while commuting to work. I’m willing to bet it’ll improve your mood.

Most importantly, do one thing at a time and be there, fully.

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Observe Your Thoughts

I left this one last because even though it is the bedrock of mindfulness, it does take some practice to achieve, and I say “achieve” rather loosely, as mindfulness is life-long work. Through self-observation, mindfulness automatically streams into your life. The moment you realize you are not being mindful, you are mindful! How funny is that? The second you realize you are not present, you become present again in the now.

Throughout your day, you step in and out of the continuous dialog, oscillating between observing our thoughts and becoming absorbed in them. The ultimate goal here is to watch your thoughts and be mindful of them. Give your thoughts attention, but not too much. Observe them without analyzing them. Giving them too much attention gives them more energy, giving them more power.

Recognize any thought patterns as an impartial witness. You will soon realize that there is a voice and you are here listening to it. You are not your mind and you certainly aren’t your thoughts. What a relief, right? To know that we have no attachment to the constant stream of thoughts that run in and out of our heads is nothing short of life-changing.

Final Thoughts

There are about a dozen more ways you can practice mindfulness in your daily life, and my goodness, this short list doesn’t even begin to cover the majority of them! I highly recommend you do your own research if any of this resonated with you. You can also schedule a mindfulness and mediation session with me, Dr. Shea Kamlet. My passion is helping people find inner peace by tapping into mindfulness, and I would be honored to assist you as well. To learn more, simply fill out a contact form or give my office a call. I look forward to working with you!