I Can’t Meditate Right Now (And That’s Okay): 3 Ways to Practice Mindfulness on the Go

By Katie Bucken, MD, FAAP

“Mindfulness does not involve trying to get anywhere or feel anything special. Rather it involves allowing yourself to be where you already are, to become more familiar with your own actual experience moment by moment.”

Jon Kabat-Zinn

You suspect that meditation would be good for you. You’ve read all over that it helps with everything from sleep quality to stress reduction. But the idea of sitting still and trying to silence your wandering mind, let alone finding the time and space in your busy life to do this? That sounds completely impossible! 

You are not alone. Even those of us who regularly practice mindfulness struggle to make space for meditation. Thankfully, a formal meditation is not required to feel the many benefits of mindfulness. There are several brief mindfulness practices that do not involve meditation, and they can even be done in public or when you’re on the move. When practiced over time, these ‘informal’ mindful moments create positive shifts in our experience that include all the benefits of meditation. Here’s how to practice and enjoy mindfulness ‘on the fly’.

3 Ways to Practice Mindfulness on the Go:

  1. Mindful eating or drinking. The next time you eat a meal or drink something, try to be present with the experience using all 5 senses. For example, the next time you enjoy a warm beverage, try asking yourself these questions: What color is your mug? How does your drink smell? How does it feel in your hands? Can you hear your stomach rumbling or the sound of a splash from the liquid? How does it taste? Don’t expect yourself to drink every beverage or eat every meal this way. Just give it a brief trial and enjoy the experience. 
  1. Mindful movement. When walking, try to take 10 mindful steps. First, notice your surroundings. Next, draw your attention to your breath. With any mindful movement, move a bit slowly as you focus and explore the details of your experience. Don’t expect yourself to do the entire walk or workout slowly and with such focus. Little bits of practice are enough to make a difference!
  1. Mindful breathing. You breathe all the time, so it is a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. At any time during the day, whether alone in the car or in a meeting at work, take three normal breaths to pause and take in your surroundings. Try to keep your focus on the breath, but know that even experienced practitioners of mindfulness rarely make it past four breaths before their mind wanders. Consider every time you notice your mind wandering as an opportunity to build your concentration and focus by gently drawing your attention back to your present experience.

Throughout each exercise, do your best to be gentle towards yourself. There is no getting this wrong. Any mindfulness practice has a gentle, unhurried quality. The human mind wanders, and that’s okay! That’s what minds do. Treat your mind as you would a puppy who is learning how to sit and stay. When your mind wanders, gently bring it back to the present moment. Allow yourself to enjoy the experience and not worry too much about getting it ‘right’. 

Building the muscles of mindfulness doesn’t require a formal sitting meditation every day. The same benefits can come with simple exercises that bring your attention to your present experience. You may not notice a huge difference in your stress level right away, but I guarantee that you will find small surprises that you never noticed before: the smell of your fresh coffee or a beautiful flower outside your front door that cheers up your morning. Enjoy!

For further reading on informal mindfulness practices:

https://www.realsimple.com/health/mind-mood/mental-health-during-stressful-news-cycle

If you’re curious to read more on all the different types of meditation as they relate to mindfulness check out the following:

https://positivepsychology.com/differences-between-mindfulness-meditation/

 

Katie is teaching a 6-week Introduction to Mindfulness Online Course for adults and older teens starting Tuesday, April 26th from 6-7 pm CST.

She also teaches individual mindfulness courses for those who want to gain the benefits of mindfulness at a time that works best for them.

 

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