Mindfulness helps us fully engage in our present moment. This can help us become less stressed, more productive, and increase our enjoyment of life. However, mindfulness is not an automatic or easy skill in our modern world. We are constantly multi-tasking, surrounded by distractions, and unfocused. We must intentionally work to improve our skills at being mindful. This post shares some mindfulness practices you should try that can help you increase your ability to be mindful.
There are a variety of ways to practice mindfulness. When we think of mindfulness many people automatically think of meditation. While meditation is one way to practice mindfulness, it is not the only way. We can practice mindfulness in every single situation we face. Since mindfulness is simply the mental state of being fully conscious and aware of our present moment, we have many opportunities each day to practice and improve this valuable skill.
One of the best ways that busy moms can improve their ability to be mindful is to practice mindfulness during the routine, monotonous tasks that we do each day. You can practice mindfulness while brushing your teeth, making a cup of tea or coffee, washing dishes, folding laundry, taking a shower, or even playing with your kids. I’m going to use the example of folding laundry to guide you through some ways to help you engage and be mindful and present to the moments in your life. Once you’ve increased your skills with mindfulness you can expand to practicing mindfulness to increase your productivity by using these same ideas in your work.
Focus on your breath and body
One of the simplest ways to be mindful is to notice your breath. We breathe all day long and it is a completely unconscious process most of the time. But what if you stopped and paid attention to how you breathe. Right now, pause and just notice your breathing, don’t try to change it, just pay attention. You might notice that you’re taking short breaths, or perhaps you notice that your only breathing into your chest instead of a full breath that moves most of your upper body.
While you are folding laundry you can simply engage your awareness with your breath. Take some deep breaths, take some shallow breaths. Count how long you inhale and exhale. Once you’ve taken some time to focus on your breath, spread your awareness to your body. Scan through your body for any tightness and tension. Folding laundry shouldn’t be a stressful activity, but are you clenching your jaw? Are you shoulders hunched up near your ears?
Move part by part through your body and just feel it. Bring your awareness to your eyes and notice how they move around their sockets as you shift your gaze. Notice your arms, your hands, and your fingers, and how they shift and move as you fold and hang your laundry.
The goal here is not necessarily to change anything, it is simply to notice. We want to become more aware of our breath and body with a sense of curiosity.
Notice all 5 senses
Another way to practice mindfulness is to pay attention to the experience of our present moment through each of our five senses. To refresh your mind, your five senses include touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight.
To return to our laundry example, as you are folding your clothes, become fully engaged in how the clothes feel in your hand. Notice the different types of fabrics and textures for each garment. Allow yourself to notice the subtle differences in smells in your fabrics and the room you are in. If you’re putting clothes away in different rooms, pay attention to the changes in smell among the different rooms of your house (my apologies if you have a son, maybe don’t sniff too long in his room).
Then shift your focus to your sense of hearing. What are the different sounds you hear as you put away the laundry? Is there a sound when you run your hand along the different fabrics? Notice the low sounds as you fold and stack clothes, the sound of the hangers clacking together or clicking as you hang the items on the closet bar. You also want to engage your sense of sight. What things can you see that you’ve never noticed before? Pay attention to how the different fabrics look and notice the different shades of colors. Look out for signs of wear in your clothing.
And finally, engage in the sense of taste. You likely won’t use your sense of taste very much while doing laundry, but pause for a few moments on this sense anyway. What tastes are currently in your mouth? If you’re sipping a beverage while you fold clothes, engage and notice the flavors of your drink. Lick your lips and notice any flavors lingering on your lips.
Again, the goal with mindfulness is just to notice. You’re working to train yourself to simply pay attention to your life and your present experience.
Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings
A final mindfulness practice you can try during the mundane tasks of your day is to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings. As you are folding your laundry allow your mind to wander and just listen to what your mind has to say. Maybe your mind has a thought about folding clothes, or maybe it has a thought about the type or amount of clothes your family has. Perhaps your mind wonders how different fabrics are made or how different articles of clothing came into your life. Your goal here is to simply observe your thoughts with deep curiosity.
Let your mind wander freely and just listen to what it has to say. As I mentioned in a recent podcast episode, your mind thinks in words and images. That is all your thoughts are, simple words and images. Let whatever words and images come up just be there and then let them move along. You don’t have to ruminate on any of them, you don’t have to try to fight or suppress any of your thoughts, just let them be. Don’t use any effort or energy to fight your thoughts, just think them and let them float away until the next thought comes.
Next, take some time to notice your feelings or emotions. Again, in the podcast we talked about how our emotions are just sensations in our body. Maybe while you’re folding clothes you feel calm and relaxed, notice how that feels in your body. Or perhaps you feel annoyed or irritable while doing the laundry. Again, no judgment, just attention. How does your emotion feel? What are the sensations you are experiencing in your body? Where do you feel the sensations? Get curious and try to describe the emotion to yourself by simply describing the sensations you are feeling.
For example, you might say, I am feeling a tingly feeling in my temples. My jaw gets tight. My movements are somewhat jerky. It feels cold and the color I’d use to describe it is orange. That is how I’d explain the feeling of annoyance. You would likely describe the sensations you feel when you are annoyed differently than I do, so just use mine as an example to help you consider the sensations of how you experience your emotions.
Mindfulness Practices Can Help You Be More Productive
When we are fully focused and engaged in the moment and the work we are currently doing we can accomplish more. Mindfulness helps us ignore distractions and fully enter into our present reality. It takes some skill to be able to be fully mindful in each moment. Practicing mindfulness in the mundane, everyday tasks of life can help us improve these skills. As our skills improve we are better able to be mindful during the more difficult moments and challenging tasks in life.
Today’s Action Step
Pick a mundane task that you do on a regular basis and use one or more of the above practices to improve your skills at mindfulness. Find 10-15 minutes each day over the coming week to engage in these mindfulness practices to help you become more productive, reduce stress, and improve your health. Over time you will find that practicing mindfulness can increase your productivity.
Additional Resources for How Practicing Mindfulness Can Increase Productivity
The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt by Russ Harris – this book covers a lot of mindfulness practices and can help you understand how mindfulness and being fully engaged in the present moment can help you accomplish more in life