How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation Anywhere
Mindfulness Exercises 101
Here's a little-known fact about mindfulness: It's super easy to practice it any time, any place, in any situation.
"People tend to confuse mindfulness with meditation, so they think they need to sit on a cushion for 30 minutes to be mindful," says Mitch Abblett, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist, and author of Growing Mindful: Mindfulness Practices for All Ages. Not true. "Meditation is a form of mindfulness, but the latter is more about dropping into a mindset than it is about carving out quiet time and sitting a certain way." (Not that meditation needs to be difficult, either. Check out The Best Meditation Apps for Beginners.)
This means—you guessed it—you can practice mindfulness or mindfulness exercises in any situation, no matter how hectic. And you should: "The more you practice mindfulness, the more present you are in all the moments of life," says Abblett. "This doesn't block stressful events, but it allows tension to move through you more easily." In fact, research shows that mindfulness can improve your mood, help you manage a heavy workload, and ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Not sure where to start? Try these mindfulness exercises you can do on the go—no crazy-long yoga class required.
If you really want to practice mindfulness anywhere, you need to learn the basics first. "Everyone is always looking forward to what's next, instead of truly being where they are at the moment," says Abblett. (He calls this "nexting".) Try this mindfulness exercise instead. Stop what you're doing—yes, right now—and observe your current state: If you're sitting, how does your back feel on the chair? If you're outside on your phone, look up at the trees swaying in the breeze. Is there a dog barking in the distance? Children playing in the park? Run through your five senses (sight, sound, taste, smell, touch) for five minutes.
Write In a Journal
Raise your hand if your journal is alllll about the past or future, never the present. Yeah, same. But instead of ruminating on what your boss/ex/best friend did last week, or plotting your next #GoalCrusher move, dedicate today's entry to the moment, whether you're on the train, eating lunch at your desk, or (finally!) sitting down after a long day at work. That shift takes this practice from just journaling to a mindfulness exercise. "Mindful journaling is all about writing whatever is showing up in any of your senses, along with your thoughts and feelings, without judgment," says Abblett. (If you're into this mindfulness exercise, check out: Gratitude Journals That Help You Appreciate the Little Things)
Fold Mindfulness Into Your Workout
Yoga isn't the only physical activity that lends itself to mindfulness; it's just the one that emphasizes it the most. "You can set an intention and listen to your body during any workout," says Abblett. So, instead of blasting Rihanna on your next run (bear with us), turn it into a mindfulness exercise: Listen to the sound of your breath and your feet striking the ground. Doing so might even help you manage any post-exercise soreness: People experienced less pain after practicing mindfulness exercises than they did before, according to a Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study. (See how one runner learned to love running without music.)
Savor Your Food
Start with something small—a raisin, a piece of chocolate, a strawberry, you get the idea—and really focus on it. "Pay close attention to the look, feel, touch, smell, and finally, the taste of your food," says Abblett. "You can also add an intention to be grateful for all that had to happen for this food to end up before you." This doesn't need to be a once-in-a-while thing, either; you can turn every meal or drink into a mindfulness exercise. (Related: How to Make Mindful Eating a Regular Part of Your Diet)
It's worth it: People who eat mindfully may make healthier choices. In an International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine study, teens who practiced mindful eating also exercised more and chose lower-calorie foods than those who didn't. (It worked for this writer: I Changed the Way I Think About Food and Lost 10 Pounds)
It's true that you can be mindful anywhere, but step outside for a few minutes if you can. Abblett calls the outdoors "a sensory firework show." You might feel a breeze, the sun, or some raindrops on your skin; you can smell the flowers or trees, hear the sound of birds or a river in the distance; see squirrels, plants, or ants. "Nature reminds us to just be." (Getting outside isn't just a mindfulness exercise; spending time in nature also has a ton of legit health benefits, too.)
Listen to Music (No, *Really* Listen)
Mindfulness exercises don't need to be analog. Pop in your AirPods, play one of your favorite songs, and try to find something—a line, an instrument—that you haven't noticed before, even if you've heard the song, oh, about a billion times (now you can bring back that Rihanna). Mindful music listening has been associated with relaxation and concentration in people recovering from a stroke, according to a study published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. (Related: Hate HIIT? Science Says Music Might Make It Way More Bearable)