It doesn’t matter how dedicated you are when it comes to meditating – sometimes life just gets in the way. You’re rushing all day, and when you finally get to the point where you crawl into bed, you realize you’ve not taken any time for yourself. But even on the days where you “just can’t” there are ways to practise mindfulness. Really, it won’t cost you ANY time – because you’ll be practising during routine tasks that you have to do anyway.
5 routine tasks you can use to practise mindfulness every day
#1. Brushing your teeth
If there was one daily task where my thoughts would always wander, it was brushing my teeth. I knew I should have been focussing on getting to those hard-to-reach teeth in the back, but I was always somewhere else. After a nasty case of gingivitis and a lecture from my dentist, I changed it. Now, those two minutes of teeth brushing twice a day are my mini-meditations. I sit down on the edge of the bathtub, start brushing and pay attention to everything. The way I hold my toothbrush, the sound of the bristles against my teeth, the flavour of the toothpaste, the feeling of foam on my tongue, the temperature of the water when I rinse my mouth. It’s made me much more aware of what I’m doing – and last time I went to the dentist I even got a compliment about how much better everything looked.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re on your way to the train station, walking your dog, or taking an evening stroll – walking is not only very good for your health, but also an excellent opportunity to practise mindfulness. Try walking more slowly than you normally would and bring your awareness in every step. Check out these 7 steps towards a mindful walk.
#3. Drinking your morning coffee
If you’re a multitasker, there’s a big chance you’re always doing other things while you’re drinking your morning coffee (or tea). Think reading the newspaper, checking your emails, or preparing your lunch. But wouldn’t it be nice to be more mindful in the morning? What if you could just sit there and start your day with intention? Try to eliminate as many distractions as possible and turn your attention to your senses. The warmth of the mug in your hands, smell and taste of your coffee, how it feels when you swallow the liquid. If your mornings feel too rushed, try getting up a little earlier so you can actually enjoy your morning cup of joe.
#4. Eating your dinner
People often comment on how slow I eat. But eating slowly and mindfully is what makes eating such a pleasurable experience for me. It is also one of the main reasons why I can eat whatever I want without gaining any weight – eating slowly gives my body the time to tell my brain when it’s full. This is in sharp contrast to how many people in Western society tend to eat their meals: too fast, too much, too distracted, without really looking at their food or thinking about what they put inside their bodies. For your next dinner, try turning of the tv for once. Sit comfortably and ‘eat with your eyes’. Look at your food. Smell it. Observe its texture. And take your time. Chew properly before you swallow. It may take some time to get used to it, but your body will thank you for it. Trust me.
I remember a friend who used to be in the army telling me how they were taught to take 2-minute showers. Sure, it’s an excellent way to save water, which I’m all for. But for me, showering is so much more than just washing my hair and body. As someone who is very easily distracted, taking a shower feels like my ultimate reset-ritual. It is my daily moment where I am truly alone, which gives me the opportunity to rinse off distractions and negative thoughts and be fully present. If I’m in a rush, I’d rather postpone my shower to a later time so I can actually have a mindful experience.
So you see, even when you’re too busy to meditate, it is still possible to practise mindfulness on a daily basis. Think about the routines and tasks you do every day, and try to be more aware next time. This is a great step towards a life in the present.