Accidental mindfulness: 5 mindful activities you probably already do
Mindfulness isn’t restricted to meditation and mantras. In fact, you might already be more mindful than you realise…
Be where you are, otherwise you will miss your life.
A quote from Buddha to begin an article about mindfulness? How original.
Much of the imagery of mindfulness in the West is steeped in Asian religion and spirituality. It implies an ‘other’, a philosophy that is pinned to a specific, different place, rather than something that applies to absolutely everyone.
Of course, Buddhism has a lot to say about being mindful, and it’s well worth looking into if you’re interested, but you can practise mindfulness in your day-to-day life, with activities you probably already do.
How to be mindful
Being mindful isn’t all about being silent, stopping your thoughts, accessing some abstract spiritual plane. It’s just being here. Now. In the moment.
That’s easier said than done. Particularly with the pressures caused by the pace of modern life. Especially in the wake of a pandemic. Even more so when even the process of reopening is making you feel overwhelmed and worried.
There are ways to make it more simple, though. Once you cut through everything else, being mindful happens in three steps—observation, description, participation.
By observing, we mean exactly that. Just noticing what’s going on, without any opinion or judgement. If you can notice what is happening before reacting, you’ll become more aware of your natural tendencies, whether that’s self-doubt, subconscious distraction, or obsessing over specific (and usually hypothetical) scenarios. The more you observe, the more you can teach yourself to quieten your mind, and let distracting thoughts pass by.
Describing to yourself what you are thinking and how you are feeling can give you invaluable space to process. This can feel pretty awkward—many of us naturally shy away from trying to discuss, or frame, our feelings. But putting effort into knowing why a feeling might be surfacing can help you to understand and connect with the situation.
Whatever you’re doing, get stuck in. The act of losing yourself in a task or situation is about as mindful as it gets. With so much going on both inside and outside of our brains, it’s easy to find yourself on autopilot and just go through the motions, rather than fully engaging in it. Ever get home from work with no recollection of the journey back?
But that engagement is rewarding. As an exercise, Try listing your three favourite moments of the day before you go to bed. Knowing that you’ll need to remember something should subconsciously remind you to stay present during the day.
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Everyday mindfulness activities
This goes to show that being mindful isn’t something that needs to exist separately from your normal life. In fact, chances are you already do a lot that could contribute to becoming more mindful. You just don’t recognise it yet.
Here are five of our favourite ideas for bringing a little more mindfulness into your life, without even noticing.
Spending time in nature, away from the pace and intensity of the city, is a great way to practise mindfulness. Physical exertion can help focus the mind on the present, filtering out any distraction or lingering worries. When you’re out on the trail, the only thing that matters is putting one foot in front of the other, and focusing on that motion can help you lose yourself in the moment.
And we shouldn’t gloss over the importance of beauty in nature. Gorgeous vistas, hidden grottoes, or even just a really good tree can draw us in, demanding our attention and without sacrificing the space we need to process.
Gardening has long been associated with peace and meditation. From Zen Buddhism to Voltaire, gardens and the act of caring for them form the centre of many mindfulness philosophies. And while the dream of having a couple of acres to tend to might seem out of reach to most of us, even gardening on a very small scale can have a positive effect. A simple houseplant (if you’re after something that’s virtually indestructible, a ZZ plant is a good place to start,) can do wonders all on its own.
Think of the image of the master artisan. Their craft demands their entire attention—no distractions, no outside influence. They are completely in the moment.
That’s one of the most important parts of mindfulness—being in the moment. If we look back at the framework of observation, description, and participation, it’s hard to think of an everyday activity that requires those three things more than DIY. Okay, so the results might not be the work of a master artisan, but it’s the process that matters, not the outcome.
It might be the most stereotypical grumpy-dad pastime, but if we look past the surface, is there a more meditative, more mindful activity than fishing?
If you’ve never been, you probably don’t understand the allure. But the sense of peace and stillness of the moment provide a sanctuary to retreat to. When you’re on the banks (or out on the water), you’re completely separate from the intensity and stimulation of everyday life, which gives you a unique space for reflection and meditation. So next time your dad invites you, accept.
Mindful eating 🍎
What we eat is integral to our being. Eating is one of the most universal human experiences, and how we approach it can affect us in many ways.
We’ve all been guilty of scarfing a meal deal at a desk, or on the way to the pub. Needless to say, that doesn’t count as mindful eating. Instead, make time for the meal. Give yourself the time to prepare it, the time to eat it, and most importantly, the time to enjoy it. Think about the flavours and textures as you eat. And for god’s sake, don’t put the TV on.
(Bonus: food is tasty.)
Mindfulness at Heights
At Heights, we consider mindfulness to be one of the five braincare behaviours, along with nutrition, movement, rest, and more. Together, they form a structure for taking care of your brain, so that it can take care of you.
For more articles and ideas about mindfulness, take a look at our complete guide.
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