How often have you driven somewhere, only to arrive at your destination with no recollection of how you got there? Or found yourself in the midst of a conversation with someone and suddenly realize you have no idea what was just said? Most people have! In today’s busy world, we often have a tendency to slip into a mindless autopilot mode—only half-aware (at best) of what we are thinking, feeling, and doing at any given time. Mindfulness practice can help us reset.
We feel overwhelmed, stressed, and anxious, trying to juggle the demands of work, school, family, household chores, social obligations, and other responsibilities. Our minds become easily distracted. We habitually fixate on the past and/or anticipate the future. And in the process, we lose touch with the only thing that is real—the present moment.
The practice of mindfulness, defined by John Kabat-Zinn as “paying attention in a particular way; On purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally”, may seem like a daunting and challenging task to incorporate into an already busy and chaotic lifestyle. But not only is it possible, cultivating mindfulness will actually help you better achieve your goals and enjoy a more satisfying, enjoyable, healthy life.
Here are a few simple, practical mindfulness exercises that will help you build present moment awareness, achieve a centering of self, and find peace and clarity amidst a hectic world. All in one minute or less.
1. Two mindful bites
Fully savor the first two bites of any meal of your choosing. Start by observing the appearance of the food, the colors, the way it looks sitting on the plate or on your fork. Then, before taking the first bite, close your eyes. Experience the flavors, the texture, the saltiness, sweetness, bitterness, etc. of what you’re eating. Be mindful of the sensation of taste and texture in your mouth as you slowly chew, and how it may change from one moment to the next. See how long you can chew each bite of food before swallowing.
2. Awareness of breath
Begin by gently yet intentionally shifting your attention to your breathing. Simply observe each breath as it happens, whether you focus on the rise and fall of your chest or abdomen, or on the sensation of the breath coming out of your nostrils. Truly experience what it feels like to breathe in and breathe out, without trying to alter your breath in any way. Just simply observe it as it happens. If you find your mind wandering away from your breath at any point, that’s okay. Try not to judge your judging. Instead, just gently guide your attention back to your breath.
3. Use your non-dominant hand
Try using your non-dominant hand for an ordinary daily task, such as brushing your hair, pouring a drink, washing the windows, sweeping the floor, or eating with your non-dominant hand for at least a part of each meal. Pay attention to what you observe. If you are up for an even bigger challenge, try using your non-dominant hand while writing a letter or eating with chopsticks.
4. Fully experiencing a regular routine
Choose a regular routine or chore that you perform often, but usually do while in “autopilot” mode, such as brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, or taking a shower. For one minute, cultivate an intentional awareness to every detail of the activity. Instead of viewing it as a routine chore or activity, create an entirely new experience by noticing every aspect you can. Taste the flavor of the toothpaste in your mouth and on your tongue, notice the muscles you use when scrubbing the dishes, be mindful of the wave of pleasure you feel when the warm shower water washes over you. Be aware of every step, in the moment. Fully participate in the experience—physically and mentally.
5. Body scan
Check in with your body just as it is in the present moment. From the top of your crown to the tips of your toes, scan your entire body, sweeping your awareness through every part of your physical being. Feel the energy of life flowing through you. Notice any sensations, tingling, numbness, tightness, or relaxation you are experiencing. Be mindful of any non-acceptance you may feel towards certain parts of your body and see if you can cultivate compassion for any judgments or for any tensions or pain that might be present.
6. Game of fives
All you have to do is find five things in your daily life that usually go unnoticed and unappreciated. These could be things you hear, smell, feel or see. Look around you. Open up your senses. What do you observe that perhaps would have gone unnoticed without an intentional awareness of your surroundings in the present moment? Can you feel the snap of the cold winter air on your cheeks? Hear the faint laughter of young children playing in the distance? Notice unfolding patterns in the clouds in the sky overhead? Allow yourself to fully experience your environment and the world around you.
When we are able to incorporate mindfulness practices into our daily lives, we are giving ourselves perhaps the greatest gift of all—the gift of time. By allowing ourselves permission to slow down and truly experience life and the world around us intentionally, we will be able to achieve a deeper understanding of ourselves and our experiences and respond to events and others around us with greater awareness and appreciation.