“Do every act of your life as though it were the very last act of your life.” – Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

You cannot change the past and you cannot decide your future. These are the two principles I always apply when I have to remind myself to practice mindfulness. The present is what matters, what I am experiencing NOW. It can be a taste, smell, sight, feeling, physical sensation, or emotion. Once I start doing that without criticizing myself or being judgmental, then I am practicing mindfulness. I always tell myself that I will never have this moment again so I must enjoy it to the full.

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.”- Thich Nhat Hanh, Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life

Here are 13 daily habits to help you practice mindfulness.

1. Start when you wake up

Start early. As soon as you are wake up, begin reflecting on the pleasure of waking, stretching your limbs and thinking about all the great things you are going to achieve today. Forget about checking email and turning on the TV news till later in the day. Who wants to ruin such an awesome start?

2. Enjoy the physical sensations

As you start your morning routine, savor the moments in the shower as the water cascades down and enjoy the drying sensation the towel gives you. Delight in the warmth of the familiar material on your skin as you get dressed. Admire yourself in the mirror.

3. Keep mindfulness in check

If you savor every moment of the day, nothing will get done and you will certainly not arrive in time for work! Apart from these practical considerations, the brain does better on short bursts of mindfulness, rather than longer sessions. This is the advice given by Marsha Lucas in her excellent book, Rewire Your Brain For Love

4. Go for a walk

“Solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking.” – Latin proverb.

Once you get into contact with nature, you will be better able to experience the wonder of nature, reflect on the beauty of it and calm your mind. Even a five minute walk, preferably in a garden or park, can do the trick.

5. Get in the flow

Some people may experience difficulty in getting into the zone because of distracting thoughts, worries and regrets. How can you quieten your thoughts? The best way is to do your favorite creative activity such as writing, drawing, cooking or playing the piano. Once you get in the flow, your thoughts are calmer and you feel more relaxed.

6. Breathe deeply

A great habit to get into is to concentrate on your breathing. Get in touch with it. As your lungs fill, remind yourself of what is happening and then when you breathe out, focus on that too. All the mental chatter just stops and this is a great mindfulness technique we should practice often during the day.

7. Focus and stop multi tasking

Did you know that multi tasking takes up 50% more of your time? Switching between tasks and never finishing them interrupts the flow, and you spend ages getting back on track again. The other downside is that errors and distractions are likely to occur. A much better idea is to focus on a single task and switch off distractions such as iPhones and emails.

8. Switch off and connect

Have you noticed how nobody looks you in the eyes anymore? That is because they are all attached to their devices – connected to the world but not to people around them. Another mindfulness technique to adopt is to switch off devices and really talk to a person, smile at them, look into their eyes as you do so. Now that is really connecting. Children, couples, and colleagues feel more accepted and closer to each other.

“I realized several years ago that I had stopped looking in my children’s eyes. And it was shocking to me.”- Pat Christen, Hope Lab CEO and parent.

9. Accept the negative feelings too

Accept the moment you are in – that is the key element in mindfulness. This also includes those negative thoughts, feelings and moods we are experiencing. Recognizing negative emotions without resisting them or trying to control them is crucial. They do not define you nor your existence.

10. Enjoy food

Mindfulness is now regarded as a possible aid in helping to reduce obesity and overeating. The secret is to be aware of all the sensations as we eat. Think about how food is the gift of the universe brought to us by an incredible network of people and natural forces working together. We can enjoy the food and pay closer attention to the smells, textures, tastes and colors of what we are eating. Try imagining that this is the first time you have tasted it! This slows the whole process, we eat less and our digestion will thank us.

Researchers at Vanderbilt University are studying how mindfulness while eating may help to reduce obesity in children and adults.

11. Try raisin meditation

Here, you use all your senses to look at a raisin and start meditating on it. Watch the video below to get a better idea of how to actually do this. This also helps to make meditation more accessible to everyone.

12. Listen to music mindfully

Music transcends all borders and is a powerful means of connecting the human race. Listening can stir powerful emotions in us and can be a healing, positive force. Before listening, relax in a comfortable position and do some breathing exercises. Relish the sounds and rhythms, get inside the track and imagine yourself dancing or waltzing to the sound waves.

“Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the [Bach’s] B Minor Mass?” — Michael Torke, composer

13. Practice loving kindness

There is now some research that shows that simply directing well-wishes and kind thoughts towards ourselves and other people can be incredibly beneficial. Read the article here to see 18 scientific reasons why this is so valuable in providing relief from suffering and cultivating compassion.

Spend some time thinking what you wish for yourself and what you want for others close to you. Try doing this for about 30 seconds before you fall asleep every night. This is much more effective than worrying whether your sleep aid is going to work or not!

Featured photo credit: Be mindful/David Davies via flickr.com

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