Mindfulness is a big trend amongst the happiness gurus lately, and for good reason. Our lives have become so busy that we tend to multi-task everything. We drive while talking on the phone, email while composing tweets, watch TV while checking our Pinterest and Facebook and watching the kids and helping with homework and cooking dinner. All of this doesn’t make us stronger, but in fact drains attention away from each task.
Add in the constant narration of anxiety and worry that some of us have running through our heads, and there’s hardly any rational space left. This can lead to those spiraling negative thoughts while cleaning the pots and pans (one of my personal traps), vacuuming the floors or mowing the lawn. I find that my brain goes out of control when I perform a repetitive task that involves silence or white noise.
In order to combat this brain-drain, we have to train ourselves to concentrate on a single task or thought. On-the-mat meditation helps, but the practice of mindfulness in situ is also useful.
Mindfulness is simply the awareness of your current task to the exclusion of all others.
One easy mindfulness exercise is to practice mindful walking. This can be done just standing up from your desk to go to the bathroom; you don’t need to spend a long time practicing this. Here are some directions:
1. While still sitting in your chair, put your feet flat on the floor. Feel your feet in your shoes, the shoes on the floor, your seat in the chair, your back resting in the chair.
2. Prepare to stand by placing your hands on the arms of your chair (if you have them) or the seat of the chair next to your bum. Feel the ground in the 4 corners of your feet and down through the palms of your hand. Try not to lock out your elbows, as you will need to push up out of the chair (and it’s just bad for your joints).
3. Push up to a standing position, slowly enough to feel your joints and muscles stretch. Feel your bones take your weight, move the weight of your body through your feet and balance yourself into all 4 corners of your feet. Stretch up to the ceiling if you need to now.
4. Letting your arms hang naturally by your side, pick up a foot, and begin walking. It may feel strange at first, to notice how you walk. Do you put your heel down first, or your toes? When does your back heel come up in relation to your front foot going down? How do your arms swing?
5. Don’t forget to breathe! Keep walking and feeling your feet moving. Feel how your leg bones work together with your abdominal muscles and your arms and all the muscles in your body.
As always, start slowly. You will want to only try this for a few minutes at first. But as you get better, transfer this ability to other tasks. I love to use this method while gardening, as it helps me to feel connected to the earth. When have you used mindfulness in your life?