6 Simple Ways to Practice Mindfulness Throughout The Day (and Find Your Inner Peace)
Stress is an unavoidable part of life.
Our lives are filled with uncertainties, struggles, illness, death, and an inability to fully control life circumstances.
Stress, left unaddressed, may cause issues, such as anxiety, muscle tension, burnout, headaches, stomach distress, difficulty in concentrating, worry, sleep disturbances, or feeling overwhelmed.
This article will help you learn how to use mindfulness to reduce stress in your life.
Ready? Let’s get started!
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of cultivating awareness in the present moment.
Put simply, mindfulness consists of being fully aware of whatever is happening in the present moment.
Mindfulness isn’t just a practice related to ancient Buddhist meditative disciplines, it’s also a universal practice that anyone can benefit from.
Mindfulness helps you enhance your psychological and physical well-being through recognizing your habitual thinking patterns and other ingrained behaviors.
Once you become aware of your inner state—your thoughts, emotions, sensations — you’ll be more able to cope with stressful situations, renew your enthusiasm for life and work, and generally feel so much better.
Mindfulness helps you recognize that there are choices in how you respond to stressful situations. The key is awareness.
Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, states “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” (Pattakos 2008, p. viii).
Why Be Mindful?
You can only change that which you are aware of.
Mindfulness helps expand our awareness and offers freedom of choice.
Mindfulness is a powerful, scientifically proven medicine for breaking free from the daily stress of life.
Mindfulness helps balance bother the external world and our internal experience of body, feelings, and thoughts.
Thanks to the neuroplasticity theory, studies show that it is possible to change old behaviors and rewire the brain through focused attention and practices like mindfulness and meditation.
A growing body of evidence shows that mindfulness has many benefits including:
- Increases our ability to regulate and manage emotions,
- Decreases stress, anxiety, and depression, (1)
- Decreases the lure of instant gratification, (2)
- Reduces your fearful thoughts and panic attacks, (3)
- Increases your focus and make work and other tasks less stressful and smoother, (4)
- Reduces physical burnout. (5)
As we become more present in our lives and in relation to others, we become better at making decisions and managing our emotions, and we become more fully engaged in life in general.
These are five main mindfulness skills:
1. Mindfully attend to your experiences
Mindfully attend to something you’re experiencing in the moment without judgment. Pay attention to physical sensations, thoughts, or emotions.
2. Objectively label your experiences
Simply describe the facts of your experience without judging something as good or bad or right or wrong.
Don’t assume anything and stick to the facts.
3. Immersing yourself in the present activity
Fully immerse yourself into whatever you’re doing in the present moment and pay close attention to what you’re experiencing.
4. Do one thing at a time
Avoid multitasking and focus all of your attention on one activity at a time.
5. Do what works
Instead of wasting your time and energy feeling bad about your experience, learn from the past and do the things that help you reach your goals before.
Before You Begin
#1. Expand Your Mindfulness Vocabulary
If you have a religious background that constitutes for you a negative filter blocking you from opening up to practices like mindfulness, try exploring a broader and more expansive mindfulness vocabulary—one that includes words other than mindfulness or meditation.
Mindfulness is about noticing things (thoughts, sensations in the body, feelings, environment) for what they are without judging them as good or bad, right or wrong.
This vocabulary may include generic terms or metaphors such as:
- quieting the monkey mind
- hitting the pause button
- getting in the zone
- getting in touch
- observing with non-judgment
- paying attention
- being curious
- coming back to your senses
- opening to the what-is as rather than the what-if
- getting freed from reactivity
- be here now
- an open-hearted acceptance and letting-go
- surfing the moment
- noticing the moment
- cultivating awareness and clarity
- watching and observing
- tuning-in to the moment
- moment-to-moment awareness of the breath
- peace, calm, and stillness
- stop and listen
- leaving the busy mind by dropping into the body
- focusing on the moment
- non-dual awareness
- creating space
- impartial witness
- detached awareness
#2. Let Go of Self-Critical Thoughts
It is very common for anyone learning mindfulness to have thoughts like, I’m not doing this right, or, I’ll never be able to do this perfectly.
Mindfulness, like any skill, requires time and patience to learn it well.
That’s why mindfulness is more accurately described as re-focusing your attention. It’s totally normal to find yourself bringing your attention back to the mind and body and environment time and time again – there is no failure with it.
Mindfulness is not about stopping your thoughts, either. All you need to do is notice them.
#3. How to Use Mindfulness Practices?
When starting to practice mindfulness, one good idea is to start in small, realistic, and achievable ways.
This might mean, for example, practicing for one minute a day to begin.
It’s also helpful to schedule your mindfulness practices in advance. Try creating a back-up plan in case the initial practice time is missed.
If you find practice difficult, try asking yourself, “What obstacles might have made it difficult for me to do this practice?”
You might find it helpful to reach out to a supportive friend to bring some accountability to the practices.
#4. The Power of Diaphragmatic Breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing, is effective with anxiety and depression because it shifts attention away from unproductive mind wandering
Belly breathing also helps reduces anxious symptoms and activates the relaxation system by:
- Lowering blood pressure, pulse rate and respiration
- Increasing alpha brain waves (calm and alert state)
- Releasing the neurotransmitter serotonin
How to practice diaphragmatic breathing?
1. Sit back or lie down and relax your shoulders
2. Inhale through your nose for 4 seconds
3. Place one hand on your belly and feel it rising as you inhale
4. Hold your breath for 7 seconds
5. Breathe out for 8 seconds through pursed lips while pressing on your belly.
How to Practice Mindfulness?
Mindfulness can be practiced in two ways: formally and informally.
Formal practice means taking the time to intentionally sit, or lie down and focus on your breath, bodily sensations, or thoughts, and emotions.
Practical Exercise – Formal Practice
1. Take a few moments to be still and enter the world of being rather than doing.
2. Begin this exercise by focusing on your breath and feeling into your body and mind and simply allowing any thought, emotion, or physical sensation to just be.
3. You don’t need to judge, analyze, or figure things out. Spend about three minutes simply checking in with yourself.
Informal practice means bringing mindful awareness to daily activities, such as doing chores, eating, exercising, relating to others, and any other action, whether at work, at home, or anywhere else.
Practical Exercise – Informal Practice
1. Choose a task that you normally do on a daily basis, like brushing your teeth or taking a shower.
2. Try to focus your attention on the task, bringing all of your senses to the experience.
3. If you’re taking a shower, feel and listen to the water pouring against your skin, and smell the shampoo you’re using, and visual details you don’t usually notice, such as the iridescence of the bubbles.
#1. Practicing Mindfulness Throughout Your Day
You can practice mindfulness from the moment you wake up to the moment you lay your head on the pillow at the end of your day.
This will help you stay present, appreciate whatever situation you find yourself in, and feel calmer and at peace
1. As you open your eyes in the morning, stop yourself from checking your phone or jumping out of bed, and instead take a few moments to do a mindful check-in. Notice your thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.
2. As you shower, notice the smell of soap, feel the sensation of the water on your body, and listen to its sound.
3. If you live with others, take a few moments to listen and connect with them mindfully.
4. As you head for your car, walk more slowly, check in with your body sensations, and notice any tension. Try to soften it before you start your drive.
5. On your way to work, find opportunities to notice your breathing and body sensations.
6. Throughout your day at work, do mindful check-ins from time to time. If you can, turn off your email and social messaging as you focus on the task at hand.
7. If possible, have a meal by yourself in silence, try eating slower than you usually do, and tune in to the taste and texture of your food in your mouth.
8. When you get home, do a mindful check-in and notice if your body is tense. Soften those muscles by breathing deeply and bringing awareness to your muscles.
#2. Mindful Eating
Mindful eating has been shown to reduce stress and prevent weight gain even without dieting. (6)
It helps individuals recognize sensations of fullness and taste satisfaction, which helps you distinguish between emotional and real, physical hunger.
Mindful eating also helps increase your awareness of triggers that make you want to eat, even when you’re not hungry.
By becoming aware of your triggers, you can create a space between your response and them, which gives you the time and freedom to choose how to react.
1. Place a few blueberries in your hand, or any other kind of fruit.
2. Imagine looking at this fruit for the first time in your life and try to explore it with all of your senses.
3. Notice what color it is and where the surface reflects light or becomes darker.
4. Notice how its texture. Feel any softness, hardness, coarseness, or smoothness.
5. Acknowledge any thoughts you might have at this moment. You might find yourself thinking “Why am I doing this weird exercise?” or, “How will this ever help me?” Let these thoughts be and bring your attention back to the object.
6. Notice the smell of the object.
7. Bring the object to one ear. Roll it around or squeeze it and notice any sound that might come from it.
8. Take the object to your mouth and become aware of your mouth watering.
9. Explore the sensations of this object in your mouth, before biting down on it.
10. Notice the tastes it releases, while slowly chewing this object.
11. When you’re ready to swallow, notice the intention to swallow, then notice the sensations of swallowing the fruit, notice it moving down to your throat and into your esophagus on its way to your stomach.
Eating is something we do every day, yet most of us do it while distracted by something else, like reading, or watching TV.
Eating is a good way to practice mindfulness. You can extend the approach in the formal practice above to any eating experience.
All you need to do is to give the experience of eating your full, undivided attention and observe the mind and body with curiosity and objectivity, and without judgment.
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#3. Mindful Breathing
Your breath is the best way to bring your attention back to the present and become mindful.
To practice mindful breathing, there is no need to count, visualize, or manipulate the breath in any way. All you need to do is to be mindful when you breathe in and out – breathe naturally and be aware of breathing in and out.
You can notice your breath in your nose, chest, belly, or even your entire body as you breathe in and out.
Abdominal breathing refers to breathing from the belly, rather than only into the chest.
It is the way we all naturally breathe, especially when we’re lying down.
It helps calm anxiety and reduces stress and moderate irregular breathing patterns, as it represents the opposite of the shallow, upper chest breathing that is part of the typical stress response.
To practice abdominal breathing, place your hand on your belly and feel it expands as you inhale and contract as you exhale.
#4. Mindful Walking
Walking usually consists of going from point A to point B.
Mindful Walking, on the other hand, is deliberate and serves a different purpose. It is an excellent way to reduce stressful and anxious thoughts and feel your feet on the earth.
Mindful Walking involves slowing the process and noticing the movement of each foot as you lift it, move it forward, and place it back down with each step.
1. Begin by standing while you take a moment to feel your body. Feel the ground or the floor under your feet.
2. Become aware of your surroundings. Take in any sights, smells, tastes, sounds, or other sensations around you.
3. Notice any thoughts and emotions and let them be without judgment.
4. Begin to mindfully focus upon walking as you shift the weight to one leg and begin to lift the other foot up, move it forward, then place it back down on the ground.
5. Notice how your body moves as you walk with your arms swinging back and forth.
#5. Body Awareness
Body awareness refers to the body scan meditation in which you deeply observe the moment-to-moment experiences of the body.
By bringing awareness to whatever you feel or sense in the body along with any evoked thoughts and emotions, you reduce stress, anxiety, and physical pain.
These sensations and physical pain might be related to anxiety. You may notice tightness in the chest, tension in the shoulders or back, or cramping in the stomach.
Body awareness can help alert you that you might be anxious, allowing you to work with that emotion before it snowballs.
1. Gently begin to focus on your breath.
2. Breathe normally and naturally while focusing on the tip of the nose or the abdomen.
3. When your mind wanders away from awareness of breathing, acknowledge wherever you went and gently come back to the breath.
4. Gently withdraw awareness from mindful breathing and shift to the body scan. As you go through your body, allow tight or tense areas to soften. If you can’t, just let the sensations be. This also applies to emotions.
5. when you finish going through every area of your body, expand the field of awareness to the entire body from head to toe to fingertips.
6. Breathing in, feel the whole body rising and expanding on inhalation and falling and contracting on an exhalation.
Informal Practice: Minding Your Pain
When you experience tension or pain in any area of your body, instead of getting away from the unpleasant feeling, choose to adopt the attitude of mindfulness – ride the waves of sensations and let them be.
Bring attention to physical sensations in your body and curiously notice how you’re feeling.
Allow yourself to feel these physical or emotional sensations as they are, without resistance or judgment.
To help you remember to practice, you can schedule a reminder on your phone that says something like “How is my body?”
#6. Mindful Self-Inquiry
Mindful self-inquiry is a deep look into the nature of one’s own mind and being – physical sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
Mindful self-inquiry is a great way to self-reflect and bring awareness and acknowledgment to any stressed or anxious feelings in the body and mind and simply allow them to be, without analyzing, suppressing, or encouraging them.
This may seem scary in and of itself, but it’s the only way to help these difficult thoughts and emotions dissipate.
When you don’t deal with your pain, it gets larger, until eventually, it gets too heavy to carry any further.
Instead of expending energy fighting or turning away from your difficult thoughts and emotions, through self-inquiry, you begin to create the opportunity to gain insight into what’s fueling them and begin to understand the underlying causes that need to be addressed.
1. Notice any strong emotion and allow it to be present.
2. Feel into the sensation, be curious about it, and ask yourself, “What am I needing right now?”
By understanding what you need, you’ll gain a sense of self-reliance and confidence.
In her poem “Unconditional,” Jennifer Paine Welwood describes the journey of self-inquiry and the potential it offers for radical transformation:
Willing to experience aloneness,
I discover connection everywhere;
Turning to face my fear,
I meet the warrior who lives within;
Opening to my loss,
I gain the embrace of the universe;
Surrendering into emptiness,
I find fullness without end.
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me,
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
I bow to the one who has made it so,
Who has crafted this Master Game;
To play it is purest delight—
To honor its form, true devotion.
—Jennifer Paine Welwood, “Unconditional” (1999, p. 21)
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Portions of this article were adapted from the book A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook ©, 2010, by Bob Stahl and Elisha Goldstein. All rights reserved.