7 Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day Aside From Meditation

Mindfulness is about being fully present, without judgment. It offers numerous benefits like stress reduction and improved focus. Try simple exercises like mindful walking or eating to integrate mindfulness into daily life effortlessly.

Therapist Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta By Jaclyn Gulotta, LMHC

Updated on May 24, 2024

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Do you find your thoughts constantly racing, leaving you feeling disconnected from the present moment? Or, does it seem like you’re on autopilot, going through the motions of life, but your mind is completely elsewhere? If so, mindfulness might be just what you need.

Most people equate mindfulness with meditation. While meditation is a very popular way to practice mindfulness, it certainly isn’t the only way to do it. In fact, there’s really no “right” or “wrong” way to practice mindfulness. So, if the idea of meditating is daunting to you or simply not appealing, there are many other ways that you can tap into mindfulness – no formal meditation required.

Here’s what you need to know about mindfulness, its benefits, and how to incorporate a mindfulness practice into your everyday life.

What Is Mindfulness?

First things first, what exactly is mindfulness? You may have heard this buzzword trending all over the place, but what does it really mean?

“Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is the ability to be present in the here and the now,” says La Tisha San Pedro-Lintag, a licensed marriage and family therapist with Grow Therapy. “One of the simplest ways to describe mindfulness is to imagine your thoughts and emotions as leaves floating down a stream. Through mindfulness, we notice our thoughts and emotions, but we don’t attach to those thoughts and feelings.”

It’s important to note that the goal of mindfulness isn’t to completely quiet the mind or stop thinking. “Our brain is designed to think. Thoughts are inevitable, and through mindfulness, we can practice the art of noticing those thoughts and emotions but not allowing them to consume us,” San Pedro-Lintag says.

You can think of mindfulness as being fully tuned into the present moment without passing judgment on whatever is going on, meaning you aren’t labeling anything you’re experiencing as good, bad, right, wrong, or anything else for that matter. You just notice what’s happening as an observer, coming from a gentle place. “A mindfulness practice helps us accept the ups and downs of life, have a realistic perspective of what we can and cannot control, and be better able to sit with negative feelings,” says Christy Barongan, a licensed clinical psychologist with Grow Therapy.

Instead of getting caught up in thoughts about the past or stress about the future, mindfulness invites you to stay focused on the present experience, mentally and physically, whatever that may be.

Although the origins of mindfulness lie within Buddhist meditation, many people practice mindfulness in a completely secular manner to improve their mental health and well-being. You do not need to tie it to spirituality unless you want to.

What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness?

There’s a growing body of research to suggest the many benefits of mindfulness in both the realms of mental health and even physical health, enhancing overall wellness. Some of the benefits include:

7 Ways To Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day

Many people aren’t too fond of meditation. If you’re one of those people, or if you simply want to try something less “formal,” there are plenty of other mindfulness exercises and techniques you can weave into your daily life.

“There’s no wrong way to practice [mindfulness], so long as the primary focus is on learning how to ride the waves of what can sometimes feel like an emotional roller coaster of emotions and thoughts,” says San Pedro-Lintag.

Here are seven ways to practice mindfulness outside of a traditional meditation practice.

1. Communing With Nature

If you love spending time outdoors, communing with nature can be a relaxing and simple mindfulness practice for beginners.

“Communing with nature can look like using all your senses to be fully immersed in nature,” San Pedro-Lintag says. “For example, how does it feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, or to listen to the sound of the rain, or breathe in the coolness of the morning air?”

Tap into all of your senses: sight, sound, smell, touch, and maybe even taste. If you’re sitting on a beautiful beach, you may ask yourself, what does the water look like? How do the waves or seagulls sound? What does the salty ocean air smell like? What does the sand feel like between your toes? Do you have a delicious beverage or snack that you can notice the taste of?

Notice your thoughts and let them come and go just like waves, trying not to judge them. If you find your mind racing, you can try to bring your attention to your breath.

Mindfully spending time in nature is an excellent way to stay present, reduce stress, and simply enjoy the great outdoors. Not to mention, getting some vitamin D and fresh air is great for your overall well-being.

2. Mindful Walking

If you’re not a fan of sitting still, mindful walking can be a great place for you to start building your mindfulness practice. Mindful walking is also sometimes referred to as a walking meditation. You can try this out whether you’re in a peaceful forest or on a busy city street.

“In mindful walking, we maintain awareness of the here and the now, paying attention to your surroundings and how your body is feeling as you walk – step by step, breath by breath,” San Pedro-Lintag says.

Ask yourself: How do your feet feel as you take each step? Do you feel the weight shifting from heel to toe? Does the ground feel hard or soft beneath the soles of your shoes?

Tune into the environment with all of your senses. Notice what you hear and see, how your body feels, and what emotions arise. If you find yourself getting lost in negative thoughts, try to tune into your breath. “Settling into our breath, we can create space between those thoughts and not run away with them into the future or past, but simply be in the present,” San Pedro-Lintag says.

3. Mindful Eating

Mindful eating will allow you to slow down and savor each and every bite of your delicious meal. Eating mindfully allows you to fully experience and appreciate your nourishment.

Before you even start eating, take a moment to examine what the food looks like and smells like, Barongan says. Examine the textures, colors, and sizes.

“Take one bite of food and chew it 20 times. As you eat it, notice how it tastes — sweet, salty, savory, bitter, crunchy, or chewy,” says Barongan. “Notice your thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations as you eat this bite. After completely finishing this bite, take another and do the same thing.” She suggests trying to eat this way for about five minutes. From there, you can decide if you’d like to continue to eat your whole meal this way or not.

4. Body Scans

This mindfulness technique invites in a bit more structure, but it is still very simple. We spend so much time in our heads with our thoughts, and body scans offer a chance to come back into our bodies and notice how we feel.

You can begin by lying down in a comfortable position. It may help to be in a quiet place so you can really turn your focus and attention within. Barongan suggests starting down at your toes and noticing any physical sensations you feel there. Do you feel cold? Warmth? Pain? Maybe you feel nothing. You may imagine placing your full attention on this body part.

Then slowly and intentionally move up to the feet, calves, knees, thighs, and so on. There is no rush. Simply notice how your body feels as you go. Along the way, thoughts will pop up. Simply observe them and let them go.

“With all parts, notice how each feels and try to send relaxation to that part of your body. Pay attention to your breathing and your heartbeat, and send thanks to them for keeping you alive, even when you aren’t paying any attention to them,” Barongan says.

Then, you can finish up with another quicker body scan to see if there are any other parts that still feel tense that could use some more healing. You can also pair body scans with deep breathing, if that appeals to you.

5. Yoga

You can approach yoga in various ways, and it can be just as much mental as physical. “Yoga can be practiced as a spiritual practice or incorporated through the lens of mindful movement,” San Pedro-Lintag says.

Yoga is a main component of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) programs. MBSR programs teach various mindfulness techniques, and yoga plays a big role in the process.

Even outside of MBSR, yoga is a great choice for people who would like to move mindfully. Beyond the physical postures and poses of yoga, the practice offers you a chance to create a mindful connection between your mind, body, and breath.

Controlled breathing during yoga helps you remain present in the moment. The intentional focus on the body and breath through yoga brings you into a state of conscious awareness –– a moving meditation. As you flow through yoga sequences, allow your thoughts and come and go without judgment. Remember, you can always come back to your breath.

Whether you’re practicing yoga in an in-person yoga class or watching YouTube videos at home, you can benefit from the practice and make positive, healthy changes both on and off your yoga mat.

6. Mindful Chores

We know that chores aren’t the most fun thing to do. However, while you’re getting the chores out of the way, you can turn this into a mindfulness practice. This option is good for people who feel like they’re too busy to practice mindfulness since you can do it while you’re getting something else done, too.

Barongan says the key to turning chores into mindfulness activities is to act slowly and without distractions such as TV, music, or podcasts. “Notice what you experience through your five senses. Notice how you’re feeling, thinking, and what sensations you feel in your body,” she says. “Notice any judgments of yourself, others, or the act itself – such as ‘This is boring.’” This is a chance to slow down and come into your body.

“Notice when your mind wanders, which it will frequently, and when it does, gently bring your focus back to the task at hand,” Barongan says.

7. Anything You Want

Believe it or not, you can turn any activity into a mindfulness practice, Barongan says. As previously mentioned, there is no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness.

No matter what you’re doing, if you take the time to tune into the present, what your body is feeling, what your senses are taking in, and what thoughts are coming into your mind, you can flex your mindfulness skills.

Don’t overthink the process of practicing mindfulness, San Pedro-Lintag says. You can start by incorporating a few minutes of mindfulness – however you choose to do so – into your day and build up from there.

Experiment with tying mindfulness into different types of activities throughout your day and see what works best for you. After trying some of these mindfulness practices, you may even want to experiment with a more formal type of meditation, such as by listening to a guided meditation audio. Or, you may want to stick to the less formal types of mindfulness, and that’s totally okay, too!

The more you practice, the more you’ll notice the positive effects of mindfulness on your life. You may also notice that as you build a daily practice, mindfulness may come more naturally to you.

Mindfulness can empower you to be fully present with yourself and your surroundings in a way that you haven’t felt before. Try out these tips, and you’ll be reaping the benefits of mindfulness before you know it.

Frequently Asked Questions

About the author
Therapist Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta Jaclyn Gulotta, LMHC

Dr. Jaclyn Gulotta is a licensed mental health counselor with over 10 years of experience in the mental health field. She helps individuals overcome numerous issues, including stress and anxiety disorders, self-esteem issues, relationship issues, depression, behavioral issues, and grief.

This article is not meant to be a replacement for medical advice. We recommend speaking with a therapist for personalized information about your mental health. If you don’t currently have a therapist, we can connect you with one who can offer support and address any questions or concerns. If you or your child is experiencing a medical emergency, is considering harming themselves or others, or is otherwise in imminent danger, you should dial 9-1-1 and/or go to the nearest emergency room.

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