Mindful Living

Frequently, my clients embrace the idea of practicing mindfulness as a means to ground themselves mentally and emotionally in the present moment.  However, carving out time to practice appears to be one of the main barriers to practicing mindfulness (or any other new skill for that matter).  How then, might one become more mindful, if attempts at scheduling it in or willing oneself to practice do not pan out?

Enter mindful living, which involves introducing non-judgmental, present-centred awareness to routine daily activities.  A recent study published in the journal, Mindfulness, examined mindfully washing dishes in a sample of 51 undergraduate students and found that mindful dish washers reported greater positive feelings, reduced nervousness, and greater state mindfulness, compared to non-mindful dish washers.

Here are a few ways to add mindfulness to routine activities, by incorporating your five senses:

1. Showering - Visual - notice colors, textures of the bathroom fixtures, floor, objects.  Sound - notice the sound of water flowing out of the shower head and onto you/bathroom tile/floor.  Smell - notice the smell of your shampoo, soap, shower gel, etc.  Touch - notice the temperature of the water, texture of the suds, flow of water over your hair/skin, texture of the shower stall floor, etc. Taste - taste of the water (or any soap/shampoo that accidentally gets into your mouth!).

2. Drinking coffee - Visual - notice the color of the coffee, shape of the mug.  Smell - notice the aromas of the coffee and your surroundings.  Touch - notice the weight of the mug, texture of the mug's surface, texture of the coffee as you take a sip of it, temperature.  Taste - notice any flavors, like bitterness, sweetness, acidity, or textures.

3. Eating - Visual - notice arrangement of food, colors, shapes.  Smell - notice complimentary or contrasting aromas.  Touch - explore the weight and surfaces of utensils, the table, texture of food as it is cut into, and sensations of food in the mouth while it is chewed then swallowed.  Taste - take a small bite, balance the food on the tongue, notice any flavours that emerge, chew slowly and notice any additional flavours that emerge.  

To get a sense of what eating mindfully looks like, click here for a guided mindfulness meditation using chocolate.   
 

Mindfulness Practice: Benefits to the Brain

  courtesy of  dream designs


courtesy of dream designs

Mindfulness involves training your mind to pay attention, purposefully and without judgment, to the present moment.  While mindfulness practice originates from Eastern traditions of philosophy and religion, mindfulness has been adopted by contemporary psychology for the management of recurrent depression, stress, anxiety, and chronic pain/illness.  

In addition to its benefits to mental and emotional well being, mindfulness practice appears to lead to changes in brain areas associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress.  Read about this small, prospective study conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital here:
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/