No time for mindfulness exercise?  Incorporate informal mindfulness practice in daily life

Nowadays, many people understand the benefits of regular mindfulness exercises, such as enhancing concentration and attention, emotional regulation, stress reduction, or pain management.  However, many clients told me that they cannot commit regular practice due to their tight schedule.  Sometimes, even during holiday, people are reluctant to spend some time for formal mindfulness exercises, including body scan, mindful breathing or mindful movement.  They would rather go to see a movie or visit a favourite restaurant.  It seems that mindfulness exercises are less interesting to them.  In fact, a client of mine realized that she needed to do mindfulness exercises regularly to improve her concentration and attention, so that she would make less careless mistakes at work.  She still cannot commit to do brief mindfulness exercises daily.  One of the reasons could be that there might not be any immediate results after a single brief mindfulness practice.  If thirty- to forty-minute mindfulness exercises are too heavy, how could we incorporate mindfulness exercises in our daily life?

During the discussion with my client above, she frequently felt stressed for work and felt tired in the evening at home.  As a result, she did not have the motivation to do formal mindfulness exercises.  Every night before going to bed, she would eat some snacks for stress reduction.  She admitted that this might not be a good habit and she realized her craving for more snacks during eating.  She could not stop herself from engaging in this habit every day.  We come up with a conclusion that she might be able to incorporate mindfulness during her eating before going to bed.  This informal mindful eating exercise is a way to at least practicing being mindful in a daily activity.  During eating, she could avoid any distractions and engage all senses during the eating, including tastes, smells, colors, textures and sounds.  She could eat in smaller portion each bite and slow down her eating process.  This could facilitate her mindful eating and at the same time avoid overeating of snacks.

During the mindful eating exercise, if there are any thoughts, emotions, or body sensations arising, my client could notice these and continue to bring the awareness back to mindful eating.  For instance, if my client had a thought about her worries related to a coming meeting at work, she could notice her worrying thoughts and bring her awareness back to eating.  Sometimes, if it also useful to be aware of the feeling associated with the arising thoughts, emotions or body sensations.  For example, if my client had a pain sensation arising in her shoulder during mindful eating, she could bring her awareness to her feeling, pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.  My client might notice unpleasantness when her pain arising.  Simply noticing her unpleasantness is enough and then she could continue the mindful eating exercise.

There are many examples of informal mindfulness practice in our daily life.  We might engage in mindfulness during household chores, such as washing dishes, vacuuming, or watering our plants.  We might also bring our mindful awareness during some routine activities, including brushing teeth, showering or walking the dog.  Sometimes, when we were in the gym, we might also be mindful in our movement in the weightlifting or running. 

The good news is even practicing mindfulness informally daily for 10 minutes, we could still obtain some of the benefits found in doing formal mindfulness exercises. Let’s start this daily informal mindfulness through our leisure activities during the Easter holiday.

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