Our lives are busier than ever. With technology everywhere we go, it's easy to be constantly multitasking—reading documents on your tablet while you wait to pick up the kids from carpool, or sending emails from your smartphone while you jog on the treadmill. While being constantly connected is convenient, it has its downsides. Leading consistently busy lives is not only stressful, but it removes you from the present moment.
One helpful way to experience and enjoy more of your life is by practicing mindfulness. Not sure how to start being mindful? A great way is to practice. The following 10 exercises can help you ground yourself in the present and make your life both more manageable and more gratifying.
1. Brush Your Teeth
Brushing your teeth is probably a simple part of your morning routine. However, it's a great opportunity for you to ground yourself in the present at the start of your day. While you brush your teeth, focus on the actual act of brushing, not what lies ahead. Think about what the toothpaste tastes like, how it feels to run a brush over your gums and the actual sensations you are experiencing. Starting off with this early in the day can help you get in the mood for mindfulness all day long.
2. Take a Break at Work
When you're at work, medical expert Dr. Darria Gillespie recommends taking regular, short 5-10 minute breaks in order to stay present. When you're in the middle of a long project or staring at the same document for hours, it's easy to lose track of time. Set an alarm to go off every hour, then take the next five minutes to pause and clear your head. You can spend this time meditating at your desk, or you can go outside and take a walk in the fresh air. This will help your brain stay fog-free and focused on the task at hand.
3. Think About Your Own Breath
Eckhart Tolle, famed spiritual teacher, focuses much of his work around the idea that staying present in our fast-paced culture can be a challenge. Tolle has a quick, foolproof method to check in with yourself. He recommends that you simply ask yourself, "Am I still breathing?" This simple question can draw your focus to the air flowing in and out of your body, pulling you back into the present moment.
4. Put Away the Phone.
Designate some time each day where you put away all smart and Internet-connected devices. A great time to be phone-free is during the time you spend with your kids or family. Having no devices on hand will help keep your focus on what is present in front of you, not what your phone is buzzing about.
5. Meditate—and Let Your Mind Wander
Find 3-5 minutes each day to sit with yourself in silence, focusing on your own breath. This will help you filter out all the noise and chaos going on around you. While you sit, it's natural that your mind may wander. Allow it to, and follow your train of thought non-judgmentally. Once you've traced what you are thinking, bring your thoughts back to your breath. By allowing your mind to wander, you may just discover new creative ideas or a solution to a problem you've been having.
6. Take Mindful Bites
Alice Boyes, author of The Anxiety Toolkit, recommends grounding yourself in each meal you eat by taking two mindful bites at the start of each meal. When you take a bite of food, think about how it tastes, how it smells and how it feels in your mouth. Do this at the start of each meal for just two bites, and you may find that you enjoy food more and end up eating just the right amount to fill you up.
7. Be Spontaneous
If you have a free afternoon or weekend day, try going out into the world ready for spontaneity instead of having a plan for what you will do. By going out without knowing where you're headed or what you're planning to do, you will be more focused on the things going around you and in what direction they might be pulling you.
8. Keep an Observation Journal
Try keeping a pen and small notebook in your purse or pocket to write down snippets of conversation you hear each day. If you take public transportation to work, listen to people talk around you. If you eat lunch out, record what you hear people discussing over their food. Doing this can keep your mind focused on what is around you, and it can also give you great fodder for creative story ideas.
9. Practice Mindful Waiting
There's a good chance you spend some time each day or week waiting in a line. If you do, make it your routine to practice mindful waiting. Focus on how your body feels while you wait in line, if your feet or back ache and if your emotions change. Do you feel annoyed? Impatient?
10. Re-examine Familiar Objects.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend revisiting old, familiar objects to make things seem fresh and new again. Find routine items in your office, like a pen or stapler, and try to look at them with new eyes. Come up with details you'd never seen before and think about how they feel when you hold or touch them. Re-examining familiar objects will help you be more aware of the world and more appreciative of what is around you.
In the movie Ferris Bueller's Day Off, lead character Ferris may have been on to something when he advised, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might just miss it." By taking some time each day to work on mindfulness, meditation, and just being present, you can ensure that you actually get to experience your life—something that can help both reduce your overall stress levels, and increase your happiness.