The first thing I do after I get up every morning is drink two glasses of water. Did I do that when I was 15 years old? No. But I built a habit around it to achieve better digestive health. For any habit to stick, it needs intent and repetition, to an extent that you start doing it regularly without even thinking about it.
To incorporate Mindfulness as a daily part of your life, you need to consciously weave it into pockets of everyday activities that pepper your day. Into things that you enjoy doing. That’s how our brain works. When we like doing something, we want to do it more often. Do it enough times and you create an enduring habit loop.
Here are five ways that can help you cultivate mindfulness (like any other habit) in your daily routine. These are simple techniques that can elevate your spirits and help you ground yourself so you are prepared to tackle the more demanding parts of your daily life:
Take Time to Eat
I personally am not a fan of cooking if it’s just for myself. My days stretch past 7 pm so often that I mostly end up eating takeout. On the few occasions that I do prepare my meal (even if it is a quick salad), it tastes so much better because I pay attention to how I am making it.
Whether you are whipping up a three course meal, or simply sitting down with a bowl of cereal, make it a practice to eat without your phone near you. Look at the portion, take in the aroma, and savour the flavour. Even those ten minutes with just you and your food can give you a break and re-energise you when you get back to work. Start doing that with one meal and work your way up to all three.
Take Time to Experience
Our memories are made up of the experiences we have, and the most revisited memories are those where we experienced happiness. Then why not make a happy memory every day of your life? It might seem daunting or even unnecessary to capture a happy moment every single day. But cultivating mindfulness through experiences can be as simple as taking a new route to work, reading a new book, or watching the sparrows mill around the bird feeder every morning. Take some time every day, whether it is five minutes or fifteen, to create a quiet, happy experience for yourself.
Take Time to Create
I recently gifted myself a little drawing notebook, a watercolour palette, and some paint brushes. Whenever I find myself with a few idle minutes in the day, I pull out my canvas to paint. It allows me to try different techniques and play with colours. I find that time extremely therapeutic because it unleashes my creativity. Creativity leads to contentment.
Letting your imagination run the show for a few moments in the day can be a rejuvenating experience. Paint, write, compose – do anything that requires your complete attention and the result of which brings you happiness. If you take the initiative to create a few times, it will easily become the most relaxing part of your routine life.
Take Time to Listen
Unlike the other mindful habits which require you to dedicate time to them, taking the time to listen is an ongoing effort throughout your day. Probably one of the easiest mindfulness habits to incorporate into your day, listening mindfully can hugely impact your relationship with the people you engage with. If you start to view conversations as the life force of your relationships, you can train your mind to listen attentively and offer support. Don’t listen with the intent to reply, listen with the intent to understand. This can mean preparing yourself to listen, whether it’s during the morning team huddle , or when allowing your mom to complain to you about your younger siblings. Any opportunity you get in a day to lend an ear – take it and be present in it.
Take Time to Laugh
I used to love reading the Garfield comic strip in the paper each morning as a kid. I can’t say that I understood much, but that cat’s expressions never failed to crack me up. So, even without quite getting the punchline, I would look at these cartoons and laugh. The older version of myself who has recently rediscovered this habit (and understands the humour now), is glad to say Garfield and morning fits of laughter are back in my life. Laugh as much as you can in the day, but try inculcating some such habit which allows you to kickstart your day with a smile or a laugh.
Thich Nhat Hanh once said – “There is no enlightenment outside of daily life.” So, it is in the moments that make up your day, that you have to practice mindfulness, indulge in experiences, and nurture yourself to learn and grow.