If you practice mindfulness, you know it can be a challenge to keep your mind on track.
And maybe the mindfulness practices you’ve learned so far just aren’t working for you as well as you’d hoped.
Is it you?
Or are there ways to be mindful you haven’t learned yet — and that will make all the difference in your mindful practice?
You’re about to learn 15 of the best ways to practice mindfulness.
How Do You Practice Mindfulness?
Put simply, practicing mindfulness means taking time out to focus on the present moment and what you sense, think, and feel in that moment.
It gives you a chance to acknowledge and accept what you’re observing, thinking, and feeling without judgment.
That last thing is essential. If you’re like most of us, you spend far too much time editing yourself and judging your thoughts and feelings because they don’t match some borrowed ideal you’ve imposed on yourself.
You’re not alone in that. We all do it.
But what if a regular mindfulness practice, which takes just a tiny percentage of your day, could help you change that?
15 Ways To Practice Mindfulness
The whole point of mindfulness is to pay closer attention to what’s going on with you and around you.
The more natural and helpful your practice feels, the more likely it’ll become a regular thing. Don’t rush yourself or the process of finding what works.
1. Check-in with Your Body
No doubt you’ve heard of this one before. With this practice, you’ll do a body scan from top to bottom and release tension wherever you feel it (neck, shoulders, gut, etc.)
You can do this seated (in a chair or on the floor) or lying down, whichever you prefer and whatever your situation allows.
If you’re at work and need to check in with your body to release the tension you’ve been holding onto, sitting up in your seat works well.
Close your eyes, and pay attention to how each part of your body feels as you scan it.
2. Tune in to Your Heart
Your heart works hard to keep the rest of your body working as it should. It only makes sense to tune into it each day, listening to and feeling your heartbeat and addressing whatever might be altering your heart rhythm.
This also is a time to pay attention to what you’re feeling right now, without judgment or self-editing.
Allow yourself to sit with those emotions and be honest about the reasons behind them.
You’re not wrong to feel what you do. But it helps to remember you’re not a slave to those emotions, either. How you deal with them is up to you.
3. Listen to Your Thoughts
For at least five minutes, pay attention to what you’re thinking and listen, in particular, to those thoughts that are making it harder for you to relax or to focus as you need to.
Listen to what you’re telling yourself and ask yourself if those thoughts are 100% true.
Chances are, you’ve been telling yourself things that echo negative comments from others. But other people’s misuse of language doesn’t obligate you to live to prove them right. The truth holds far more possibilities and more joy than you can imagine.
4. Practice Mindful Breathing
Take a moment to pay attention to your breathing as you inhale deeply and slowly exhale, one breath after another until you’re feeling more relaxed.
To help with focus, you can mentally repeat a short mantra each time you inhale and exhale — like “in with calm” and “out with tension” or “fresh, healing energy in” and “stale, tired energy out” (whatever works).
Conscious breathwork — or pranayama — can help renew your energy and replace tension and fog with clarity and confidence.
5. Practice Mindful Eating
Before you take your first bite, take a moment to feel grateful for your food and for what it will do for you.
Then make the intention to savor at least your first few bites (if not all of them) and pay attention to the taste, texture, and all that you feel and notice as you’re eating.
Take delight in what you enjoy and give more of your attention to that. The more mindfully you eat your food, the more you benefit from it — physically as well as psychologically.
6. Practice Being Grateful
Everyone can benefit from keeping a daily gratitude list and adding to it each morning or evening (or both).
You can even carve out some time in the middle of the day to list at least five things you’re grateful for about the day so far.
It’s impossible to complain when you’re feeling grateful for the good things in your life — including everything you love about your relationships, your work, your home, and all the comforts you enjoy.
A gratitude habit helps you pay closer attention to those.
7. Practice Mindful Physical Exercise
Pay attention to what you feel as you work out or do physical exercise, whether you’re taking a brisk walk, doing yoga, lifting weights, or trying a new dance class.
Whatever you do to get your heart pumping, listen to what your body is telling you, and slow down if you feel that it’s too much.
The more mindful you are with your movement, the more easily you’ll find what you enjoy most (so you can make a habit of it), and the sooner you’ll become aware of its benefits.
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8. Engage Your Five (Physical) Senses
This is one of those mindfulness practices that can easily overlap with others.
Whatever you’re doing — whether you’re calmly seated or on the move — take a moment to pay closer attention to what your senses are telling you about your immediate environment.
- What do you smell?
- What sensations are you picking up from the things around you?
- What can you hear — aside from your own breathing or the grumbling of your stomach?
- And if you’re enjoying a mid-day snack, what tastes or textures are you picking up?
9. Practice Mindful Self-Care
Attention to your senses will come in handy with this exercise, too. If you’re like most of us, you put off self-care to get more done, because “so much to do, so little time….”
The more aware you are of your body, thoughts, and feelings, the more you realize that self-care is critical to the life you want to live — not the life you might be settling for, which inevitably leads to burnout.
When you take a moment to give yourself something you need (mind, body, heart, and soul), what do you most enjoy during those moments? What do you savor?
10. Practice Centering Yourself
You can use a recording of a centering exercise or use one of your own making. The key elements of this exercise are stillness, a comfortable and alert posture, and your imagination.
Along with focusing on relaxing each part of your body, from the crown of your head to your toes, visualize all the tension descending to your feet and then leaving your body.
You can also visualize light and healing energy flowing into your body with each breath.
11. Practice Active Listening
This mindfulness activity will work wonders for your relationships, making you a better listener and better able to process what you hear so you can respond empathically.
Active listening uses the following behaviors to communicate attentiveness and to help you focus on and understand what you’re hearing:
- Attentive and receptive body language
- Eye contact (go for 70-80%)
- Nodding (at appropriate times)
- Asking relevant questions
- Paraphrasing what was said
- Echoing key points
- Empathizing with the speaker
Aim for improvement with this one — not perfection. The more you practice it, the easier it will be to see and appreciate perspectives that differ from your own.
12. Pay Attention to Your Surroundings
This is one of the simplest practices, and you can do it anywhere, though some surroundings will provide more to observe than others.
If you’re sitting on a park bench or outside a coffee shop, look around you and notice the details.
Maybe you’ll pay closer attention to the flowers growing in a nearby potted arrangement. Or maybe you’ll see the different colored socks and shoes of the people walking past.
Or maybe you’ll observe how other people’s dogs react to you and to each other.
Just spend some time quietly observing and enjoying the world around you.
13. Listen Mindfully to Music You Like.
Don’t worry if the music doesn’t have binaural or isochronic beats or anything else that’s supposed to increase theta waves or somehow make you smarter. Play music you like.
Play it because you like it, and take the time to really listen to it. Pay attention to the beat, the sounds of the different musical instruments, and the singers’ voices.
Immerse yourself in the music, feeling every surge of emotion in it, and see if you can notice something you hadn’t before.
14. Use Mindfulness Cards for Meditation
A deck of mindfulness or meditation cards can help you choose and maintain your meditation time focus.
Choose a mantra or a mindfulness exercise to occupy your mind when you’re taking this time out for yourself.
One of those exercises could include a mindful coloring page, which, when completed, leaves you with a visible reminder of how you felt when mindfully adding color to it.
All are portable enough to carry with you wherever you go.
15. Declutter Your Space and Make It Your Own
Anyone who’s read a good decluttering book knows mindfulness should always have a part in that.
When you let go of something, take a moment to thank it for whatever enjoyment you or someone else derived from it.
Once you’ve decided what to keep and what to donate or discard, decide what you’ll keep visible in your living space, so you’ll see it every day.
Prioritize those things that make you smile when you look at them:
- A beautiful vase with fresh flowers (replenished at least weekly)
- A ceramic sculpture you love
- A piece of wall art or a wall art arrangement that perks you up inside
Every smile slows your heart rate and fills you with light. Make every item count.
How will you practice mindfulness today?
Now that you’ve looked through 15 of the best ways to practice mindfulness, which ones stood out for you?
And what will you do this week to incorporate at least one of them?
You don’t have to take on more than you feel you can handle right now. Start with one that appeals to you and try to do it every day for a week.
Incorporate others as you feel able and inclined to do so. Let your intuition guide you.
It led you here.