What does Mindfulness practice look like?

When people think about mindfulness practice, they often have an image of a person sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, hands on their lap, and breathing in and out slowly for a long period of time.

In reality, mindfulness can be practiced in a number of different ways. Ultimately, the goal of mindfulness practice is to get ourselves out of automatic pilot (i.e., being on auto-pilot) and being more present and responsive to what’s happening around us.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness can be defined as “awareness in the present moment without judgment”.

People often think of mindfulness as a way to relax. Whenever they notice that the mindfulness experience is not pleasant – they are bored, irritated, or notice negative thoughts and feelings – they decide that it is not working for them, or they are not doing mindfulness right.

However, mindfulness is different from relaxation. Mindfulness is not the same as relaxation. Instead, mindfulness is about being able to observe our internal experience and being able to accept and let them go. By doing so, we take away the power of these experiences and are better able to respond, rather than react to our environment. This is the mindfulness superpower!

Below, I discuss different ways to engage in mindfulness practice to expand your possibilities for regular practice.

Mindfulness Meditation

To start, the most obvious type of mindfulness practice is meditation. This usually involves sitting on a chair on the ground and spending some time simply noticing our internal and external experience.

There are many types of mindfulness meditations (e.g., breathing space, using our 5 senses, mountain meditation) that you can choose from. The length and specific focus can be up to you in terms of what feels like a good fit for your needs.

For some, a few minutes in the morning works well; others might make engaging mindfulness meditation easier through doing a guided meditation even enjoyable places, like the shower!

Mindfulness practices with an object

Another strategy to mindfulness meditation is to pick an object (e.g., a stone or a raisin) and simply observe its qualities. You might pick out its qualities – how it feels to touch, how it looks, how it tastes – and simply notice as many aspects of it as possible. You might notice its grooves and edges, the colour, or its temperature, for example. Taking a few minutes to really notice an object and see it in a different light can be a great way to stay mindful.

Mindfulness while walking

When we are walking or driving somewhere, we are often in automatic pilot. We are so focused on where we need to be that we lose sight of the present moment. Sometimes, we surprise ourselves with that we’re already at our destination without even realizing it!

Therefore, mindful walking (or driving) can be a great way to get out of autopilot and stay in the present moment. You might notice the scenery around you, the steps you are taking, the sounds that are present.

Mindfulness and yoga

Yoga is another activity that can be a great way to engage in mindfully. Moreover, one additional benefit of mindful yoga is that it allows you to better connect with your body and its physical sensations.

This practice can be particularly helpful for people who might feel more disconnected from their body, such as those who have experienced trauma (Taylor et al., 2020).

Mindfulness of daily activities

Outside of those discussed above, many activities can be engaged in a mindful manner. For example:

  • Cooking
  • Reading
  • Taking a shower
  • Painting
  • Playing an instrument
  • Whatever else you can think of

As long as we are engaging in these activities non-judgmentally and one-mindfully (focusing just on the activity), these can all act as great mindfulness practice.

Barriers to mindfulness practice

Barriers to mindfulness practice can exist in many forms: we may be bored, tired, feel a resistance to negative thoughts and sensations resulting from mindfulness, or feel like we don’t have the time.

As I discussed before, try your best to incorporate these negative feelings into your practice recognizing that being able to sit with these negative emotions without judgement is one of the biggest strengths developed through mindfulness. Try noticing what these emotions feel like in the body, what our thoughts are, and how our attending to these experiences might change them.

You can also work through barriers of not wanting to engage in mindfulness practice by choosing any of the ones above that best resonate with you.  

If interested, here’s a post on other ways to improve the mindfulness experience!

Best wishes,