As I have been going through my own well-being journey over the last 3 months, I have been more intentional about practicing mindfulness. This practice helps us train ourselves to be present in the moment that we’re in, so that we can fully experience life in that particular moment, and drown out unwelcome thoughts that are often derived from stress and anxiety. But mindfulness as it is often advertised is pretty hard. If you’re anything like me, you’ll find sitting down and meditating difficult. Listening to an app on my phone instructing me on my breathing and on which muscles to tense up and subsequently relax is the last thing I want to do (although these are an excellent resource).
But I feel like mindfulness is something that you can practice everyday without it being a chore; without it being something that requires you to set aside time to do. We can practice mindfulness in the things that we do everyday, but which we often don’t fully ‘experience’.
Eating: How many of us just eat without really tasting our food? How many of us eat in front of a screen, mindlessly feeding ourselves so that we can rush to whatever we’re supposed to be doing next. Or what about mindlessly snacking? We eat because we’re bored, because we want something to do, because we want to feel good. What I have been making an effort to do (and recommending to my patients) is trying to fully experience my food. To really have my food in front of me- tasting every bite, experiencing every texture, and appreciating the flavours of the food and reflecting on where it has come from and how it is made. And if I want a treat? I’m not going to deprive myself of that. But I ask myself if it’s really what I want, or if I just want it because I’m bored. And if I do eat it, I try to make sure I eat it mindfully– perhaps at night- I’ll light a candle, make myself a cup of tea and eat it then. To me this makes eating what it is supposed to be: an experience, rather than a means to an end. And I feel like this practice has resulted in me eating better, rather than eating for the sake of eating.
Showering: If there’s anything that’s a means to an end it is showering. You have a shower just to get clean. But do you really experience how it feels when the water touches your skin? Or how your shampoo smells and feels as you lather it upon your scalp? Or how about how calming the water sounds as it splashes on the floor? These are all things that we usually miss because our minds are preoccupied with other thoughts when we are showering. But if we had thoughts about showering in general? We might think about how having access to a shower is a luxury. We take that for granted because in the developed world it is so commonplace to have a shower right? But approximately 3.6 billion people (or half the world’s population) don’t even have access to basic sanitation. If we reminded ourselves of this fact on a regular basis we might appreciate having access to a shower more, and be internally motivated to shower mindfully.
I think you catch my drift. You can pretty much make anything a ‘mindful’ experience. You just have to be present. That’s all.