Inside: Mindfulness offers many incredible and far-reaching benefits: here are 5 simple ways to practice mindfulness (no meditation required).
Mindfulness can make you happier. It is an essential part of learning to live with freedom, health, and joy. And it’s very possible that you already have a practice of mindfulness without realizing it!
Mindfulness is, simply, a quality or way of being. John Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program (MBSR), defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”
Mindfulness is your awareness of what’s going on in the present moment without any judgment. Meditation is the training of attention which cultivates that mindfulness.Tara Brach
some of the (many!) benefits of cultivating Mindfulness
I love that mindfulness is a simple, free, and portable resource. We can practice anywhere, any time of day, whatever is happening around us. And the benefits are significant and far-reaching.
For example, mindfulness boosts working memory, focus, and cognitive flexibility. It reduces stress, rumination, and emotional reactivity. It lowers blood pressure, improves pain management, boosts the immune system and relationship satisfaction. (1, 2)
In the context of my work and community, a practice of mindfulness helps us notice when we have a leaky boundary, it supports building/maintaining healthy boundaries, and supports deeper listening which in turn helps us build healthy relationships and communities.
It supports nervous system regulation, emotional intelligence, and attuning to our body and building self-trust. It helps us hear the stories circulating in our mind so that we can choose our response. And a practice of mindfulness helps us clearly name the truth of what we want and need for our lives so that we can live less on autopilot and more on purpose.
But it also simply helps us live fully present and willing in today. To pull our minds and hearts back from tomorrow and yesterday so that we can enjoy the gifts of today – and not run from the painful parts. Mindfulness equips us to mine for the beauty and wisdom in every season so that we don’t miss our very real, imperfect and beautiful lives.
take a quiz to better understand your level of mindfulness
You can take a quiz from the Greater Good Science Center, measuring your level of mindfulness. The short quiz, “based on work by researchers at Drexel University and LaSalle University, gauges how much you maintain a moment-to-moment awareness of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment; it also examines how much you can accept these things without judgment—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” thing to be thinking or feeling in a given moment.”
Reciprocity is resistance. Mindfulness is resistance. Paying attention to the land is resistance, and it leads us deeper into relationship with all things and all beings.Kaitlin B. Curtice
how to practice mindfulness in simple ways
Some people avoid the practice of mindfulness because they immediately associate it with specific forms of meditation that they aren’t interested in. And while meditation has many evidence-based benefits and there are so many less traditional ways to explore it, like Yoga Nidra, loving-kindness meditation, or even gardening, it’s only one way to cultivate mindfulness. Definitely not the only way.
Slowly and simply we can weave a practice of mindfulness into our every day life. The mindfulness muscle, like any other, strengthens as we exercise it. Letting mindfulness feel simple and easy increases the likelihood that we’ll show up and practice.
1. get into nature
Sit near water watching the waves, putter in your backyard listening to the birds, go for a hike in the woods, or play in the dirt. The important thing is to allow yourself a pocket of spaciousness to just be. No pressure, agenda, or rushing.
But to make this a mindful practice, you need to turn off the podcasts and news to look around and really see the world around you. Notice the different patterns on the leaves, hear the birdsong, enjoy the way the long grass sways in the wind. Touch bark, step on moss, go for a dip in the water, bundle up and walk in the biting cold. Let your body feel fully alive.
Physical limitations need not hold you back. Whether you walk with a cane, love to run, or sit in a cozy, light-filled spot of your home overlooking trees or near a single potted-plant, you can reap the benefits. If we don’t live near green spaces or cannot easily get outside, we can bring nature into our home. If you were to visit me, you’d discover rocks, pussy willows, plants, and sometimes a favourite stick or pinecone decorating my shelves.
Food is also about pleasure, about community, about family and spirituality, about our relationship to the natural world, and about expressing our identity. As long as humans have been taking meals together, eating has been as much about culture as it has been about biology.Michael Pollan
2. EAT WITH YOUR SENSES
You may not want to do this every time you eat, but once in a while take a minute to ‘eat with your senses’ before turning on Netflix or engaging in conversation. Notice the color of your food, smell it, notice the mouth-feel, savor the taste – good or bad.
If you enjoy cooking or baking, mindfully notice the pleasure it gives you in progress and as you share it with others. Order a weekly veggie box from a local farm and take pleasure in using every beautiful bit of produce as an act of creativity. Watch cooking shows for inspiration and then run your own experiment – garam masala, onions and garlic, Thai chili paste, lime and cilantro offer a feast for the senses.
Food can be a difficult subject for some. Internal or external judgment, eating disorders, tight budgets, etc., all bring their own unique challenges. Yet we must eat for survival and mindful eating can support a healthy relationship with food including allowing food to be a source of pleasure. Naming our beliefs about food, sharing our food stories, honouring the small steps we’re taking to love ourselves well, celebrating a simple meal shared with friends, a cup of coffee in a special mug, a humble menu planned with love – these are all opportunities to build a mindfulness practice by meeting ourselves where we’re at.
3. slow down
There’s so much noise in the world vying for our attention. Simply slowing down to really listen and notice can make a huge difference in our experience of life. When someone is speaking, try to be truly present to what they are saying and how they are saying it rather than thinking about your reply. When you read an email from someone you care about, read it slowly. We’re conditioned to skim and flit across the highlights but can miss so much in people’s stories when we do this.
Once or twice a day, pause for a minute to listen inward to what you’re experiencing. Name the emotion(s), physical sensation(s), and thought(s) running through your mind and body. Ask yourself what you need in the moment to feel mind-body healthy and then respond in kind; this practice also builds self-trust.
We can choose to build a bit more spaciousness into our life – a bit more padding between events, fewer events. I don’t want to rush through my life, defer happiness, or wait for perfect circumstances to start living fully. This moment is my real life.
Seasons change, and so do we.Nikkiche
4. simple rituals
Anything can become a mindful ritual – brushing your teeth, hanging out laundry, evening cuddles with your cat. Simple rituals can feel anchoring, build a felt-sense of safety in our bodies and lives, and they invite us to really pay attention to the truth that we are alive here in this world, in this moment.
A soul-honouring morning and evening routine, a 3 pm rest and pot of your favourite tea to look forward to, a morning shower in which you quiet your mind long enough to truly feel the water on your body and notice the temperature and pressure. Making blueberry pancakes for your family every Saturday morning as an act of love. Savoring these simple rituals can boost happiness and lower stress.
Meaningful celebrations or thoughtful rituals to mark significant life transitions can also serve as mindful practices. The important thing is to focus on what feels life-giving and let go of old traditions or obligations that do not light us up. We are building a life. A one of a kind, handcrafted, right-sized life.
52 Mondays: Series of Seasonal Mindfulness Journals – learn more here.
5. seasonal living
Seasonal Living is a mindfulness practice that invites us to pay attention to what’s happening in the natural world around us and to listen inward to our internal landscape as well. My 52 Mondays: Seasonal Mindfulness Journals were designed with this in mind: they offer a short, weekly seasonal reflection along with three journaling prompts.
Harnessing the cyclical wisdom of nature, of our bodies and lives, helps us understand and love ourselves more fully as we work with instead of against our natural wiring. It teaches us to embrace (rather than rail against) the common gifts and challenges of each season and meet significant life transitions with courage and intention. And it allows us to show up fully to our messy and beautiful lives, including our creative work and relationships, in a soul-honouring way.
Consider joyful ways to lean into the current (physical) season more fully: like fairy lights in winter, long walks on colourful, crunchy leaves in autumn, roasted marshmallows on cool summer nights, or your weekend-getaway to the mountains each spring. Get curious about what foods are local and in-season. Explore lunar tracking as an invitation to regularly listen inwardly to what you want and need.
The Brave + Beautiful Community is for brave + curious women in the middle season of life committed to living with more freedom, health, and joy. We gather from different corners of the world to learn, practice new ways of being in our body and life, and build healthy community. Join the Autumn Session. We begin Oct 9th.