How to Be Mindful If You’re Not Into Meditation
You’re not alone: plenty of people struggle to meditate. Switching off your thoughts and sitting down to do nothing is a lot harder than it looks, especially if closing your eyes and sitting in lotus position feels completely unnatural to you.
Luckily, there are other ways to introduce a little mindfulness into your life, and Mary Hoang, clinical psychologist at The Indigo Project, specialises in it. She says incorporating meditation into your everyday routine is as easy as taking some time out and getting in touch with your senses.
Here are five of her strategies for everyday mindfulness. Note: they all include turning off your phone.
#1 Listen to music, consciously
Music can have incredible effects on your mental health — it’s proven to reduce stress, lower anxiety levels and have a positive influence on your mood. Hoang suggests creating a short playlist (of about three songs) and lying down with some good quality headphones. Put your phone away and listen on purpose: focus on the sound and the composition in the music.
“Mindfulness is essentially just reconnecting with the senses,” says Hoang. “Listening consciously is just paying attention to sound. It’s a great way to switch off your mind and reconnect with yourself.”
#2 Immerse yourself in cooking
Use the same mindfulness principles when you’re cooking. “Usually people are cooking in a rush,” says Hoang. “Running around and freaking out about stuff, or distracted by judgements they’ve put on themselves, like ‘I’m an awful cook’.”
Stop your mind from racing by immersing yourself in what you’re doing. Again, use your senses – slow down and pay attention to what you can smell, taste and feel, and think about where your food has come from. Hoang runs a class called The Mindful Belly at The Indigo Project, where guests make their own pasta, paying attention to the feel of the dough, crafting and inventing their own shapes and accomplishing something as a form of meditation.
#3 Have A Mindful Morning Commute
Your morning commute is a blessing in disguise – a rare time of the day when you’re not under any obligation to do anything but get to work. Be brave and ban yourself from using your phone in the morning. “I have a rule with my clients,” says Hoang. “No emails until after you’ve had breakfast, otherwise you’ll be at work in your mind before you’ve even woken up. It can wait. Let’s not give work our mornings as well as our nights.”
If you’re able to walk to work, do it. Look up, and notice buildings and places you’ve never seen before, pay attention to the light, or the way the air feels against your skin. On public transport, focus on the patterns and textures rather than checking your emails or planning your to-do list for the day.
#4 Spend more time at art galleries
Stop trying to see as much as you can the next time you’re at your favourite gallery. Instead, stay with one piece at a time and properly observe it. Think more than you normally would about why the artist has chosen to create this artwork and what it means to them. Enjoy it, basically.
“Curiosity is a really important feature of mindfulness,” says Hoang. “We don’t exercise it enough, we just take things as they are and move onto the next thing.”
If you learn to slow down and appreciate art mindfully, you’ll see less than you usually do, but spend more time with the things you do look at.
#5 Take a proper lunch break
“When you understand what mindfulness really is, anything can be done mindfully,” says Hoang. “It really is just learning how to slow down and appreciate what’s happening right now, instead of always thinking about what’s next, or getting caught up in what you could do better.”
You’re busy, I know, but taking a proper lunch break means you’ll likely be more productive when you get back to your desk. Take your lunch outside for a quick fifteen minutes. Put your phone away and pay attention to what you’re eating, the smells and textures around you, how full you are and where your food has come from. Taking some time out from your day is one of the best ways to increase your productivity. You’ll go back to your desk and find yourself powering through your to-do list.
Kelly Pigram is a freelance journalist living in London and doing her best.