If you struggle to make mindfulness a daily habit, you’re certainly not alone. For years I tried to meditate daily, only to fall off the wagon after a few weeks. Despite knowing the benefits of meditation, I’d miss a day or two and get frustrated with myself.
This start-and-stop cycle lasted until I understood the difference between meditation and mindfulness. This shift in perspective has positively impacted all areas of my life, health, and overall well-being.
In this post, I’m sharing with you the exact tips I use to make mindfulness a daily habit (not just an off-and-on practice).
What is mindfulness?
My favorite definition of mindfulness is by John Kabat-Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. He describes mindfulness as paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.
Let’s break that down:
- Paying attention. Where you consciously place your awareness.
- Present moment. Focus on the here and now. Not stuck in narratives of the past or worry of the future.
- Non-judgement. Seeing things as they are, without the labels. No judgments of “good” or “bad”. Observing, not judging.
In other words, mindfulness is showing up with the mind, body, and spirit aligned and open in the present moment. Clarification: in ANY moment, not just on the meditation cushion.
Mindfulness is a vehicle for experiencing the fullness of life.
Mindfulness vs. Meditation
If mindfulness was an umbrella, meditation would fall under it. Meditation is one of many ways to practice mindfulness. It’s a powerful practice for building one’s mindfulness muscle.
However, it’s not the only way to practice mindfulness. Additional mindfulness practices include mindful eating, mindful movement, active listening, muscle relaxation, journaling, and more.
When I shifted my focus from meditation to mindfulness, it opened up doorways to practice mindfulness in ordinary moments, beyond the meditation cushion. It gave me the space I needed to explore what worked best for my lifestyle.
5 Tips To Make Mindfulness A Daily Habit
1. Start small with meditation.
Start with meditation, but start small. Too often, the reason people feel discouraged with mediation is that it feels impossible to sit in silence for 20-30 minutes. Take this as your permission slip to start with 2-5 minutes.
James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, writes:
Rather than starting with 50 pushups per day, start with 5 pushups per day. Rather than trying to meditate for 10 minutes per day, start by meditating for one minute per day. Make it easy enough that you can get it done without motivation.
In other words, create the path of least resistance around your meditation practice. Make it easy to show up daily, by keeping the time commitment small. Eventually, you will find it easier to sit for longer periods.
The practice: Set a timer for 2-5 minutes and sit quietly. Pay attention to your breathing. Focus on where you feel the breath moving in and out of your body. Be a quiet observer of your breath. When your mind wanders, which it will, gently guide it back to the breath. This is like doing a bicep curl, building your mindfulness muscle.
2. Be an active listener.
In conversation, are you fully present? We’re all guilty of letting our minds wander during a conversation. Leverage conversation as a place to practice mindfulness. Try this as you listen to friends, family, and co-workers.
Give your attention to the person speaking by looking at them. It’s easier to set our focus when we look at someone. Listen as they speak, without judgment. As your mind starts to wander, gently shift your attention back to their words. In this scenario, their words serve as the anchor into the present moment. Similarly, pause before you speak.
“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.”― The Dalai Lama
3. Take mindful breaks.
Stop what you’re doing for 5 minutes. Check-in with your body. Notice and relax your muscles. Unclench your jaw and fists. Allow your shoulders to drop away from your ears. Breathe in. Breathe out. Repeat for 3 cycles of deep breathing. How are you feeling now?
Give yourself the gift of 5-minute mindful breaks sprinkled throughout your day. This simple check-in stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest state) and brings you back to the present moment.
Pro tip: set a timer for the top of every hour to pause for a 5-minute mindful break.
4. Try this 3-bite mindful eating activity.
I know…I know… You want to look at your phone or watch TV while you eat. Sometimes all I want is a social media scroll while eating lunch. That’s why I’m given you a 1-minute mindful eating activity to try.
Simply pay attention to your first bite, middle bite, and last bite of food. Notice the flavor, texture, temperature, and smell of your food. Engage all 5 senses to do this. Is your food crunchy or soft? Hot or cold? Spicy or sweet?
Too often we eat our meals distracted, which decreases our satisfaction with food. Tune into the present moment by partying attention to your food as you eat. Simple as that!
5. Go for a mindful walk.
In this scenario, pay attention to the sensation of your feet on the ground as your anchor in the present moment. Whether you’re walking to the grocery store, taking a stroll around your neighborhood, or pacing in your house, you can practice this technique.
Notice your heel strike the ground. Pay attention to the subtle shift in weight as you roll to the ball of your foot. Notice any gentle swaying from side to side. Find your rhythm and stay present in your body as you walk mindfully.
If you typically take walks with your phone, try at least one walk per week with your phone on airplane mode.
Ready to make mindfulness a daily habit? Select 1-2 techniques to commit to today! A few minutes of mindfulness every day can greatly improve your mood, energy, and relationships. For more, check out Mindfulness 101 for Busy Professionals.