Every moment of the day is an opportunity to practice mindfulness; that's part of its beauty.
Being mindful/practicing mindfulness means "maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations and surrounding environment." It is "the practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state of heightened or complete awareness of one's thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis."
Essentially, it's being in tune and fully focused only on what you're doing in the moment. It doesn't come naturally for most people, because our minds generally jump from one thought to another as we juggle several tasks at one time.
It's more difficult than one might think to give undivided attention to one action for more than a few minutes. Practicing mindfulness helps us train our brains to focus intently.
Without giving attention to the individual moments that make up this fleeting life, we are wasting it.
But we can easily start adding mindfulness into our daily routines. Here are a few suggestions. And click here for a preview of my next column.
My longtime friend and co-worker Sean Phipps selected my name in our office secret Santa, and he got me a coloring book for adults. It is a perfect gift and is comparable to the mindfulness coloring books that are becoming in vogue. (Apparently, there's also a swear word coloring book, if that is more appealing to you.)
I immediately started coloring, and it's amazingly soothing.
But the secret is to get lost in the act, which I found relatively easy to do, because it's such a simple, repetitive activity.
I suggest using colored pencils instead of crayons. Try it. You might like it.
If coloring doesn't sound appealing, try chopping vegetables.
Cooking and baking aren't my favorite activities, despite my efforts to be more domestic. But my aunt recently gave me a quality knife, and I've found joy and tranquility in chopping. (A positive byproduct is I'm eating more veggies.)
It's similar to the coloring in that it is an easy, repetitive action, and you can see progress, which is satisfying.
If you try it, remember to focus on the action. If your mind wanders, just redirect it back to what you're doing. Watch, feel and notice the work—every little detail of it.
Walking meditation is a great way to practice mindfulness, and don't let the word "meditation" put you off. (For some people, the idea of meditation can feel a little more intimidating, in my experience.)
But mindful walking is simple. When you're walking the dog or even if you're hurrying to a meeting, just make an effort not to let your mind wander and instead focus on what is happening in that very moment.
Notice what's around you. Take in tiny details without making judgments about what you're seeing.
Observe sounds and the way your body feels.
Take deep breaths and become aware of any smells that may waft your way, although maybe not if you're walking past the chicken plant on the Southside. (I kid. Mostly.)
Take advantage of all your senses as if you might never see, smell or breathe again.
Take a shower.
I often attract jest because I'm vocal about my disdain for the process of showering. It's just always seemed like such a hassle to me because it usually comes with a time crunch and a lot of other chores—shaving, drying my hair, putting on makeup.
This is not to say that I don't shower, mind you. I like to be clean. I just don't like the process of getting that way.
But I've been trying to use mindfulness to assuage those feelings, which usually come before I begin showering.
At that point, I'm not being mindful of the moment I'm in; I'm worrying about and dreading something that hasn't even happened. That is the antithesis of mindfulness and the ego's favorite ploy to draw us toward dissatisfaction.
So even if you are OK with showering, try to avoid doing it mindlessly.
Instead, bring your attention to the steam, to the temperature of the water, to the fleeting feeling of each individual droplet hitting your skin.
Ditch the distractions.
You can practice mindfulness in almost anything you do because it only requires that you focus on the very moment you are in.
When you're talking with someone, instead of thinking about what you will say next, just listen.
Move to your response only when it's time—when the other person has stopped talking. Then, take a moment to think and respond. And when you answer, try not to get distracted with other thoughts or the surrounding environment.
When you're working—perhaps writing an email, for example—focus only on writing that email. Don't write a few sentences and then check Facebook, write a few more words and take a call, write more and remember a chore and shift gears to that task.
I've always loved multitasking, but there's evidence suggesting that multitasking leads to lower productivity.
Basically, ditch the distractions.
Minimize all the open windows on your computer while you're working on one thing so you won't be tempted to take a social media or YouTube video break.
Notice if your mind wanders when you're listening to someone speak, and redirect it away from the distraction.
Redirect yourself to the current moment and current task as many times as it takes.
It gets easier, and some days I have more success with this than others.
Now, I think I shall go back to coloring.
The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.