How to be Mindful, Even When You Don't Have Time
It's not easy living a busy life, yet many of us do.
Balancing work, family life, sleep, exercise, hobbies, friendships, travel, maintaining a household and writing a never-ending to-do list, it's no wonder we might resist adding a mindfulness practice to the mix.
However, becoming more mindful doesn't necessarily have to take up more of your precious time! There are so many ways we can practise mindfulness by simply integrating it into activities we already do.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being in the now, with openness and curiosity to your experience of that moment.
For example, imagine you're going for a walk. Rather than thinking about the groceries you need to buy for dinner, or the big presentation at work next week, you're consciously noticing the environment around you. You're looking at the different colours of the leaves on the trees, listening to the birds calling to each other and inhaling the scent of fresh flowers. You might even tune into the experience of your body by paying attention to your breath, or feel the way your body moves as you walk. Whenever you notice your mind wandering away from the present, you gently bring it back again.
Rather than having a strict mindfulness practice, I simply prefer to live more mindfully. I can be mindful when I'm doing every day activities, like
- washing the dishes
- giving my loved ones a hug
- listening to music
- drinking a coffee
- washing my hair and
- walking my dog.
It means that rather than doing one thing while I'm thinking about something else,
I'm more conscious, aware and present of what I'm doing as I do it.
One of my favourite examples of an every day mindful activity is cooking. I used to resent the time it took to create a meal and felt especially frustrated if anything went wrong! I would spend the whole time rushing through the process, thinking about everything else I should be doing. When I discovered mindfulness, I realised that cooking (and other every day activities) were opportunities to be more mindful.
Now, I appreciate the depth of experience I can actually gain from cooking. The different movements of my hands as they chop, stir and pour, the distinctive aromas from herbs and spices, the subtle changes in temperature as I open the fridge or the oven. I take the time to stop and taste my food and find new ways to improve the flavour. In the last few years, I've stopped using recipes and become more intuitive as I cook by playing with different flavours and trying new ingredients. It doesn't always work out perfectly (in which case, there's always a packet of pasta ready to go!), but it's definitely more fun and rewarding!
Think about some of the daily activities which you don't pay full attention to and try to practise being more mindful. Notice what's going on around you, how your body feels and what information is coming in via your senses. It might not be easy to stay mindful for long periods of time, which is normal. Gently bring your attention back to the present whenever you can to start living more mindfully, even if you don't have time for a mindfulness practice.
Here are some simple steps to guide you:
- Choose three daily activities which you could do more mindfully
- As you complete these activities, encourage yourself to be curious about them. Consciously explore the activities and see how much you can notice about the experiences
- If you notice your mind wandering, gently bring your focus back to the activity
- Remember that it's alright if your mind does wander! Each time you bring your attention back to the present, you'll be strengthening the resilience of your mindfulness practice