Learn to Live in the Present Moment with 7 Days of Mindful Action
We’ve already waxed poetic on the incredible benefits of mindfulness meditation in our blog post 5 Amazing Things Mindfulness Meditation Does to Your Brain. That was also the first time we introduced the pioneer of mindfulness science Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Today we’re going to be bringing you some more insight from him and his colleagues, specifically on the topic of mindful action.
But first a quick recap on why you should give a dose of mindfulness in your life a shot, without recounting too much of what we’ve discussed before (again, see blog post above):
Kabat-Zinn and company express, in their book The Mindful Way Through Depression, that ‘unawareness pervades our lives’. You’re running around. You’re juggling. You’ve got a million things on the go and you’re thinking ten steps ahead. You’re preoccupied and disconnected. You’re already in the future (possibly also in the past). You’re not here.
Mindfulness isn’t just something you do while you’re meditating. It’s a way of being. Mindfulness brings you into intimate and direct contact with that ‘here‘. This present moment. Right now. It reactivates your awareness because it pushes you to change the way you pay attention.
It pulls you out of your anxiety-driven, rushed flow of thoughts. It pulls you into discovering how your sensory experience of the smallest things can delight and impact you. It also trains your brain to focus, to observe, to be curious and attentive.
As for Mindful action? It is literally just…mindfulness…in action. Mindfulness is always an active process of course, but Kabat-Zinn shows us that applying it intentionally to direct, tangible and seemingly mundane actions can actually transform the way you see yourself and the reality you live in. It also gives your brain practice at making mindfulness more accessible to you.
Enticed? We’ve got 7 days of mindful actions for you to try! They’re easy ways to practice incorporating a mindful way of being into your everyday life, and they will surprise you more than you’d expect.
Day 1: The Mindful Breath
We want you to start with something simple and essential. You are breathing all the time. It’s a completely unconscious body function, and paying attention to it closely is just about as present as you can get. It’s almost impossible to think when you are being mindful of your breathing. Don’t believe me? Give it a shot. Check out the Mindful Breath meditation below, and once you’ve got the hang of it, you can do it without guidance!
Day 2: The Mindful Walk
Take a 5 minute walk. If you can do it barefoot even better (check our blog on the benefits of earthing). While you walk, pay close attention to your body. How the muscles in your leg activate and lift your foot, how your foot plants itself back down and pushes you forward. For a while, keep the attention on your feet and legs. Then you can bring it upwards, to the rotation of your hips and torso, to the swing of your arms, the changing rhythm of your breath. And then outwards, to the sensation of air on your skin, to the smells and sounds. And then back inwards, downwards, and so on.
That might sound complicated right now, so we’ve got a Mindful Walking Meditation link you can listen to in advance and during the process!
Day 3: The Mindful Shower
Now that you’ve listened to a couple of videos that walk you through the process of mindful action with your breath and walking, apply the same principles to a shower. What it feels like when the water first makes contact with your skin. Really let yourself tune into the sensation and temperature of the water on you, from the top of your head to the tips of your toes. Then pay mindful attention to the process of washing yourself in the same way. The feel of the loofah, the smell and texture of the soap, how your scalp feels when you scrub it. It’s actually an incredible experience. Every time your mind wanders, just bring yourself back.
Day 4: The Mindful Cook
Everything from pulling out the recipe, to washing and prepping the ingredients. Pay attention to the variant colors and textures of each ingredient in your hand, to what it feels like to slice it, to hold the knife with your fingers. See if you can notice the smells individually, and the sounds as you start cooking. Again, every time your mind wanders, bring it back to the thing directly in front of you. See if you can tune in to what each of your five senses is telling you.
Day 5: The Mindful Meal
The mindful meal starts when you sit down in front of your plate. What do you see? Really look. Look at the colors, textures, shapes. Pay attention to your physical responses, to your holding of the cutlery. Explore with your sense of smell. What happens when you put the first bite in your mouth? What does it feel like in your mouth? What is the texture and temperature? How is the chewing process? How does the taste change along the way? What does it feel like to swallow? What is the sensation in your body once you have swallowed? So many factors, all happening in just a moment! Revel in them.
Day 6: The Mindful Chore
Pick something you usually totally zone out of while you do it. Laundry, dishes, dusting, even taking out the garbage. See if you can mindfully connect to the entire process, from start to finish, the same way you did on days 1-5. As always, when your mind wanders, pause, and bring yourself back to the direct experience.
Day 7: The Mindful Body
You’re going to bring your mindful attention back inwards. We started with the breath, and now you come back to your breath to scan your entire body. This way, you use mindful action as a way of checking in with your immediate physical, mental and emotional experience. You sit with that experience with awareness, making space for it, without judging it. We highly recommend doing this Mindful Body Scan in the morning or before bed (but not so close to bed that you fall asleep, because this is about being aware!).
That’s all folks! We hope you enjoy. As always, we would love to hear from you, so please share your experiences in the comments!
Williams, J. Mark G., John D. Teasdale, Zindel V. Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn. 2007. The mindful way through depression: freeing yourself from chronic unhappiness.