Words to live by: “Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.”
by JIM AFREMOW, PHD
Mindfulness is a mental state in which one’s focus is on the relationship between oneself and one’s activity. Mindfulness benefits us by not allowing us to slip into autopilot—going through the motions of a movement rather than being conscious of what one is doing and why one is doing it.
Mindfulness is perhaps best practiced, at least at first, while performing activities that do not require much mental focus, activities such as eating, sitting, or walking. Practicing mindfulness in these situations can help develop your ability to be mindful in other, more demanding situations.
As Sharon Salzberg, a Buddhist meditation teacher said, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult. We just need to remember to do it.” Here are some important ways to practice mindfulness. Make a point of doing them every day:
1. Brush your teeth mindfully
Feel the toothbrush, hear the sounds of the brushing, taste the toothpaste, and do not rush through it. This sets a mindful tone for the day.
2. Shower mindfully
Feel the water against your skin, notice the temperature, smell the soap. This provides a fresh start to your day or a way to rinse away negative “mental residue.”
3. Eat meals and snacks mindfully
Turn off the TV and put down the smartphone. Notice the textures, smells, and flavors of the food. Eat slowly and be in the moment.
4. Drink water mindfully
Enjoy the refreshing surge as you drink water or a sports drink, feel it cool your chest, exhale/inhale to replenish your air.
5. Drive mindfully
Drive mindfully to class, work, the gym, and so on. Turn off the radio, turn off your phone to prevent distracting alerts, and pay attention to the road. Breathe deeply. You will arrive at your destination more refreshed.
6. Stretch mindfully
Be in the moment while you stretch before or after physical exertion. Feel your muscles lengthening. As you hold the stretch, breathe into any tightness and exhale as you release a little bit more.
7. Sit quietly and mindfully
In your downtime, practice mindful meditation for 10 to 15 minutes. Put a cushion down on the floor or sit in a chair. Pay attention to your five senses. Let thoughts come and then let them go without attachment.
8. Walk slowly and mindfully
On the way to class, work, practice, or a competition, be in the moment rather than worried about what will take place after your walk. Breathe deeply, feeling your feet on the ground, and notice the wind.
9. Be mindful at practice
Be all in, be all here. Put your gear and uniform on slowly and mindfully. Listen to your coach, and don’t daydream. Practice as if you were in a competition.
10. Stay in the moment on game day
As you prepare for a competition, bring the environment around you into focus, but don’t worry about the outcome of the event. Stay in the moment. Raise your energy level. Keep in mind the words of University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban: “Focus on doing your job at the highest level, every single play, and the wins will follow.”