Mindfulness is a beautiful thing. Researchers from The American Psychological Association found data shows mindfulness reduces stress, boosts focus, and boosts working memory(1). Aside from those benefits much of the therapist community argues that mindfulness is solution for high blood pressure, depression, improved sleep and a better immune system.
So mindfulness can change your life. Here is the problem: a majority of people who do not practice mindfulness avoid it because it seems lame. The belief is that in order to be mindful you have to sit quietly in a dark hipster yoga studio and stretch your leg behind your head or if you are lucky you can sit around and just try not to think of anything. That is outright B.S.. And if this is you, you are not wrong to believe this. Mindfulness has been hijacked from its traditional Buddhist and Hindu roots and has been transformed into a buzzword in order to sell you things like yoga and lululemon.
Here is my core belief: There are many ways to be mindful. Mindfulness is essentially a fancy word for awareness and it can be used to make life beautiful. Additionally mindfulness is a powerful tool to take control of your thoughts, your life, your junk food cravings and your workouts.
Here are 50 Way to practice mindfulness without meditating:
Teeheehee. I am a personal trainer so of course exercise is first on my list. But quality movements have intention and require your attention. Practice of quality movements will make you more efficient, put you in touch with your body and in time make these movement patterns second nature. This is why focus from start to finish is always important in a quality exercise routine.
2- Wake up and Journal
Wake up early and take time to just be. Drinking coffee, being quiet and reading are excellent exercises in mindfulness. Take this one step further by journaling in the morning. To do lists are cool, but try just be aware of your thoughts and ideas and write them down. You will find that the mental clarity at this point in the day is at a peak.
3- Go on a Morning Walk
Take your morning reflection outside and walk. Find beauty in the morning quiet and hear your thoughts.
4- Focus on the Task at Hand When you are Warming up for a Workout
Oooh one of my favorites. Every workout that I do, or any of my clients do, starts with some sort of mindful warmup. Warming up is key to avoiding injury. By adding in some honest focus and reflection to this task we are able set aside all that is going on outside of our workout and make it that much more efficient.
5- Mindful Cool Down From a Workout
We employ a similar principle at the end of our workouts. Cool down, breathe and bring your heart rate down. But also feel pride in what you have accomplished. Reflect and be mindful at the same time.
6- Twiddle your Fingers
No seriously. This is a move from tai-chi. Next time you are in an unpleasant waiting room take a second, close your eyes and twiddle your fingers in a circle. Focus on the the movement of your thumbs and how that feels upstream. How do your thumbs impact your wrists, your forearms, elbows and shoulders? Go back and find some zen in the twiddle. Ha! Zen in the twiddle. T-shirt coming soon.
I am sorry. I know you know this one. But breathe. Breathe into your belly. Try this: As you breathe, focus on moving your belly button with your breath and the following tempo: 7-4-8. Inhale count to 7 mississippi. Hold 4 mississippi. Exhale for 8.
8- Turn off Social Media
Social media and the internet is the WORST for mental chatter. Why are you not as sexy as that person? Cool cat video. Why are you not as rich as that idiot? Politics… Stop. Get off the internet. Two things: if you have a smart phone either delete the social media apps that you can use on the computer and or turn off notifications for the apps so you are not tempted to check in once every 45 minutes.
9- Stop Looking at Screens
Social media is part of it, but your whole phone as well your tablet and laptop are the others. The internet engrains a short attention span into us and it creates quite a bit of mental chatter. Actively work on taking time away from these things.
10- Go Hiking
Go outside and feel nature. Hear it, breathe it and appreciate it. It will create mental clarity found in few other places.
Listen. Take time to hear, process and understand the person or the sound you are listening to. Try to avoid classifying or judging the person or the sound. Try to find beauty in the sound of a printer and try to understand the friend venting at you. Listen.
12- Let Things Go
Let go of grudges, sadness, mistreatment and the past. Surely this is easier said than done, but leaving behind negativity and the past will allow you place your energies in more productive, relevant avenues and have better mental health.
13- Find Beauty
Find beauty in the sound of a printer and the way trees look on a highway. Take a moment and just experience the beautiful in the mundane. This will take away the need to travel to a different time or location.
Paint. Draw. Make a sandcastle. Play with your food? However you define art, do it. It is the best way to create from emotion. Take time to feel and use those feelings to create your own art.
15- Try Something New
If you do not pay attention when you are learning to ride a bike, do math or swim for the first time bad things are going to happen. This does not change as you age. Learn new skills and be in the moment. Learning new skills and ideas are empowering.
16- Love Someone
Go on a date, look into someone’s eyes that you love, go visit family that you care for. Few things will bring you into the present like love.
17- Play Music
Sing, play drums, tap some chopsticks. Making music is a wonderful, trance-like experience and it is an excellent exercise in getting touch with yourself, being in the moment and mindfulness.
18- Listen to Music
I make lots of mediocre at best music. My personal training clients are wonderfully kind and patient human beings that put up with the unpleasant sounds that proceed from that. So for me listening is a more considerate approach. Same thing applies. Hear, feel and be in the moment.
Another favorite of mine! I dance almost everyday and it gives me a great opportunity to be present, let loose and be in the moment. Once again this is something many of my gracious clients put up with. I thank them for that.
20- Go Rock Climbing
Rock climbing is an awesome challenge that requires focus, dexterity and some real strength! I have yet to meet anyone that can text, be distracted and be successful at rock climbing.
Create something new. Invent, make a gingerbread house or cook a new dish. Let sparks fly and be excited to be a creative.
22- Forgive Someone
Easier said than done but genuinely forgive your wrongdoers. Few things drain your mental power and draw you out of the present than harboring resentment against the people that have wronged you. Forgive those people, not because they deserve it, but rather for your own mental health.
23-FEEEL your Emotions
Suppression is the enemy of your mental health. When you feel angry, sad or anxious allow yourself to feel and engage with those emotions. Recognize the effect those feelings have on your thinking and your physical body. Then when you are ready gradually let them go.
When you feel the need- cry. Allow yourself to be sad, be present in your sadness. Then let it go. It feels good to cry for a reason.
25-Solve a Problem
Solve a logical a or logistical problem from the point of view of a scientist or a mathematician. Stressing about about a problem does little to create a solution. Instead remember math class. Solve for x with your amazing thinking skills. You will find this a considerably more rewarding and focused experience.
26-Read a Book
Read and immerse yourself in a story or a point of view. Explore and allow yourself to revel in the experience.
27-Consider the Universe
No I am not on drugs. But the vastness of the world and the universe is something almost everyone has contemplated. This experience is one that makes you extremely mindful of your place in the world. Seriously I am not on drugs.
One of the biggest hurdles to becoming more mindful is comparison. Comparing yourself to others’ bank accounts, looks and lives is a destructive act. This also makes it very difficult to be thankful for what you do have. So actively practicing gratitude is an awesome tool to combat this. Make it a point to be, act and verbalize being more grateful. This will in time internalize and bring you back into your own life.
29-Watch an Ant
HA! Ok hear me out. When we were all young watching an ant was a neat experience. We would wonder, where is the ant going? Where is his or her family? What is going on in their little world? This makes you tune out everything except for what is going on in that moment of that ant. Was it just me? Maybe? Ok.
30-Play with an Animal
When you are playing with a dog or cat or nothing matters except cuddles and fun. What a beautiful experience.
Long hours, and hard work can be stressful for many people. So this will only work for some, but work hard on something you care about. A charity, an art project or building a new patio. Hard work on some of these things can be therapeutic and bring you into the present.
32-Crush a Goal
Do you have a goal? Something you want to accomplish? Go crush it. Not everyone will agree that this is a mindful experience but I have experienced that working towards a goal that really matters can create a trance-like focus that I cannot replicate anywhere else.
Sounds. Sounds. SOUNDS! Turn them off. Take time to just sit in quiet and just be. Sleeping doesn’t count. This is a common suggestion for mindfulness for good reason. Letting quiet permeate is one of the best ways to clear out the literal and figurative noise in your environment and in your mind.
34- Play with a Child
Most kids under a certain age are sweet, unassuming humans(until puberty). They mostly crave, attention fun and food. Put your concerns about bills, appearances and your career aside and transform yourself into a child. Play and learn from the simplicity of these small humans. They are zen masters in their own wild way.
35-Balance Your Body
Stand on one leg, if you’re awesome stand one tip toe. Focus on not falling on your face. Thats it. Just balance and be aware of your body.
No screens allowed. Lay down or lean back in a chair and close your eyes. And just be. When stressful thoughts come. Let them come. Then let them go with your exhales of breath. Chill. Take a minute or an hour and just be. Other options include: bubble baths, massages and laying in the sun!
My woodworking teacher in high school was the most chill person I knew. He would often explain that woodworking was the one place in his life where he felt in the zone and he could create things that made him happy. Needless to say I am not a professional carpenter or woodworker but I see the value here. You can focus on creating something artistic or something of value. In those moments nothing else matters.
No not yoga. It can be yoga if you prefer but contrary to popular belief that is not the only way to stretch and be mindful. Stretch the best way you know how and work on trying to pair the stretch with your breath. Breathe and focus. On the exhales push your stretch a bit further. Enjoy this process. This is one of the best ways that I have found to start put your mind in touch with your body.
39- Foam Roll
YESS! This is one of my favorite things to do. Which is why I am a personal trainer. HA! Foam rollers are a great way to release stiff muscles and, similar to stretching, an amazing way to put yourself in touch with your body. Pay attention to what is stiff and what is not. Practice deep breathing, pause on the stiff spots and FEEL your muscles relax.
Lets talk about focus! Get it: focus- as in focusing a camera? Bad joke. I have a number of friends who are truly passionate about photography as well as videography. They say that these avenues allows them to capture a moment and tell a story from a distanced perspective. They say it allows them to humanize and capture beauty and their subjects. This, in my view, is a remarkable form of mindfulness. If we can take a step back and humanize and see beauty, that is what mindfulness is all about. Of course focusing on the task at hand also contributes to photography and videography’s mindfulness value.
41- Hear Birds Chirp
Complex stuff here. Wake up early and hear birds chirp. Beautiful thing. Appreciate life and the moment.
42- Go to the Ocean
More complex stuff. The ocean is a massive entity and has some of the most soothing sounds known to humanity. Go. Feel the vastness. Understand your size and place in the world.
43- Go Running
When I was 18 I was planning on joining the United States Marine Corps (I did not. I ended going to college instead but much respect to those who serve). In that period of time I pushed myself to run farther, and faster than I would have ever imagined. During those runs after the first 2 miles I experienced clarity, mindfulness and life like never before. Most runners call this runner’s high. This is not something that everyone experiences but if you are able- try it. Run. Clear your mind and set a pace.
Boxing is a sport that helped make me a man. I have loved the sport and found that it really helped teach me focus, body awareness, discipline and helped me understand how I am in control of my life. It often gets the reputation of being a brutal and senseless sport and that is shortsighted and stems from a lack of understanding of the sport. Before boxers get in the ring they spent massive amounts of time focusing on improving their raw skills and capabilities. The focus, discipline and body awareness lend itself to a unique form of mindfulness that can be found in nothing else.
45-Find Happiness in the Immaterial
Want a new car? More money? More stuff? Cool. But there is always more, a better ______ and someone with something you do not have. These things can never meaningfully change your happiness in the long term. So redirect your attention and happiness to more immaterial and impermanent things. This will in turn bring clarity to your mind and your priorities.
This works for some people. They find clarity, focus and enjoyment from shooting. Hard to be texting while taking on target practice.
Serious business. Jenga requires you to pull wooden blocks from a tower of blocks and replace them at the top. Lose your focus…lose the game.
Controlling the horses and your own movements is a tough task. With the focus that must accompany this tough task is a feeling of unity and cooperation between you and the horse. This is some wonderful Buddhist mindfulness.
I am awful at fishing but many people go out of their way to go fishing every chance they can. They seem to enjoy the process of fishing almost independent of whether they catch anything or not. On top of this, most fishers enjoy catching and releasing the fish. They are able to enjoy the activity for nothing but the activity. What an excellent exercise in mindfulness!
50-Sit Around a Campfire
Something about sitting around a campfire really brings you into the present. Hear the wood crackling, feel warmth and love the moment.
Hey! Thanks For Reading. My name is Pranav Arora but you can call me PJ!I am a listener, a thinker, a goofball and a personal trainer located in Pittsburgh PA. I love the work that I do and I hope that you found this blog valuable. If so subscribe for more posts just like this!