In small quantities, stress can be a good thing. But too much of it, as we all know, is unhealthy. These days there is a lot of talk about how mindfulness—the simple yet powerful act of paying attention to the present moment without judgment—can help defuse stress and lead us to live healthier, happier lives.
But who has the time? As it turns out, mindfulness is something we can incorporate into our daily lives. We don’t have to do it in addition to all the demands on our time; we can do it with those demands.
Below are some ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into your everyday routine.
Before you go, STOP
Remember “STOP” as an acronym: Stop. Take a breath. Observe. Proceed. You can do this all day, from the time you walk out of the door each morning to the time you climb into bed.
Take a walk. No, a real walk
While walking down a store aisle, or on your way to lunch, notice the ground beneath your feet and pay attention to each step. Pay attention to the sounds, smells, and sights you encounter, if even for a few seconds.
What did I just stuff into my mouth?
The next time you grab that handful of crackers, take a moment before eating to notice how the food looks, its texture, even its weight in your hands. Smell it. Place it into your mouth and let it sit on your tongue for a moment. Notice how your mouth reacts to it. Bite into it. What is that sensation like? Take another cracker. Do it again.
Listen and speak ... listen … and … speak
Try to be fully present when speaking with a friend, spouse or co-worker. Listen to his or her words, and listen to what those words are really saying, what that person is really feeling. Then speak in a way that accounts for those feelings. Speak from your heart, even if you’re just talking about the weather.
You’ve got to breathe anyway
Fortunately, your breath is always with you, and following it is a good way to practice mindfulness. Notice it as it goes in and out of your mouth and nose, being aware of the rise and fall of the chest and belly. You can do this at a stoplight, in line at the grocery store, or sitting at your work desk.