Mindfulness practice. I know I should do it, but…
Things come up.
I sleep in late and miss my practice window. My manager unexpectedly schedules an early morning meeting. Sometimes, I straight up forget. Other times (it feels more like every time), my kid decides he needs me the very moment I sit on my cushion.
I admit that, sometimes, not infrequently, I just don’t want to do it. There always seem to be a million other things that are more important, more fun, or more urgent.
In the end, if mindfulness feels like just another chore on the to-do list, it’s likely not going to happen.
Eventually, I gave up on trying to make my practice another “should” on the infinite list, and I tried falling in love with it instead.
The good news? It works.
Here are the strategies I use to make it happen.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to look like just sitting on a cushion staring at a wall.
Mindfulness can involve almost anything under the sun. That said, it’s best to lean into what you’re already inspired to do, and start there.
Love music? Playing sports? Volunteering at the animal shelter? Doing puzzles? Playing video games? Assembling model trains?
The good news is: Whatever you’re into, it contains the fertile ground for mindfulness.
In fact, if you have a hobby like the ones mentioned above, you’re likely already practicing mindfulness to a degree. Once you put conscious intention and awareness behind it, you’re on the road to presence.
According to a 2020 study, participants who experienced positive emotions during their first exposure to meditation were more likely to practice more frequently and for longer periods of time.
It stands to reason that, when you associate something with feeling good, you’re more likely to do it. Combining an activity or subject you love with mindfulness is a recipe for sustained, consistent practice.
For instance, let’s say you like to play piano. When you practice a new piece, you’re already putting in focus and attention.
Your brain has to coordinate the movements of your hands with those of your foot on the pedal. You’re interpreting information as you read the notes and hear the music you’re playing. There’s actually quite a lot going on here.
To take this, or any activity, up a notch in the mindfulness arena, simply add awareness. What should you be aware of?
Start with the awareness of your:
The triune of body, energy, and mind can provide you with a quick and easy reference point for cueing deeper awareness in virtually any activity.
As mentioned above, it can be difficult to carve out the time and space to commit to a regular mindfulness practice.
To overcome this challenge, let go of what you think the perfect meditation should “look like,” and find a time and environment that really works for you.
When I was teaching preschool, I had very little free time for standalone meditation practice in my day. I got to work by 7:30 a.m., clocked out at 3:30 p.m., and picked up my toddler before heading home for playtime, dinner prep, and bath/story/bedtime.
Luckily, simply being in the classroom turned out to be a mindfulness practice. I could tune in to my body, energy, and mind at any point throughout my day.
When I started to daydream or zone out, I could focus instead on connecting with the kids and joining them in their play.
Even though I was at work, it turned out to be the perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. As a bonus, it also made me much better at my job.
Whether you work on an assembly line or wait tables, you can tune in to the body, energy, and mind over and over again. The more you do it, the more mindful you’ll become.
Practicing mindfulness with your loved ones won’t only reinforce the practice for you. It’ll also help you connect on a deeper level and resolve conflict with more patience.
Gratitude at the table
When you sit down for a meal together, reflect on your day. If you’re sharing breakfast, reflect on the previous day.
Go around the table and share one thing you’re grateful for and one thing that challenged you. Practicing gratitude is a powerful way to show appreciation for what’s going on in your life.
Reflecting on challenges is a great opportunity to see how you might have done things differently, practice compassion for yourself for your actions in the past, or let go of things that are out of your control.
This is also a great exercise that offers a window into the experience of each family member.
Make it a game
As a parent and former preschool teacher, I understand the power of “gamifying” when it comes to motivating kids. Actually, let’s be real: adults, too.
Similar to the principle that, when you enjoy your mindfulness practice, you’ll actually do it, making mindfulness a game is likely to entice the whole family to get involved.
Simply use the body, energy, mind awareness exercise above, and add it to any preferred activity. You can prompt your kids to use it while they’re swinging, playing house, or coloring.
Got teens? No sweat. You can make their favorite activities into mindfulness practices, too.
There are also plenty of products out there, like games, card decks, workbooks, and CDs, but you don’t need to buy anything to bring mindfulness into your home.
Practicing meditation for 5 minutes every morning, or now and then throughout your day, is great. But you can bring mindfulness into greater focus by filling your heart and mind with stories, research, and inspiring figures who center presence and mindful living.
Check out the latest from mindfulness researchers, like Kristin Neff, PhD, a leader in research on mindful compassion, or Sara Lazar, PhD, an associate researcher at Harvard who studies the impact of yoga and mindfulness on the brain.
Zindel Segal, a clinical psychologist at the University of Toronto Scarborough, focuses his work on how mindfulness can support depression and anxiety. And Elissa Epel, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at UCSF, explores the relationship between mindfulness, stress, and aging.
The Greater Good Science Center of UC Berkeley is a great one-stop shop for science-based articles and resources on how to live a more meaningful life.
Of course, there are plenty of great books out there on mindfulness, meditation, and living life with more presence. You can simply take your pick depending on your interests, identity, or religious affiliation.
Just like sharing mindfulness with your family can bring you closer together, sharing it with your wide community can have the same effect.
Even a simple Google search with your location could yield promising results.
There are also large, well-established mindfulness and meditation centers with multiple locations.
Living a go-go-go existence can be exciting, but it can also be exhausting. Not only that, but you may also miss the beauty of the little things as life passes by at breakneck speed.
It’s just plain hard to be mindful, patient, and compassionate when you’re in a rush.
When you make space in your life by simply doing less, you’re automatically making space for mindfulness. Reducing your mental load can extend beyond the household to your social life and your work obligations.
By simply saying no to one more engagement, one more commitment, or one more event, you’re freeing up that space to just be in the present moment.
In a sense, saying no to the “extra” stuff is saying a bigger yes to your mindfulness practice.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing, each moment is an invitation for mindfulness.
By practicing mindfulness during what seem like “normal” activities, you’re bringing it home to be more than just an accessory to life — it becomes the act of living itself.
Whether cooking, commuting, doing the laundry, or making love, making every moment mindful can deeply enrich your life and your relationship to yourself, others, and the world.
Speaking of integration, one powerful way to do this is by surrounding yourself with an aesthetic that reminds and inspires you of mindfulness in every moment.
One of my teachers points to his home as an example: “I basically live in a temple,” he says.
And it’s true. His home is filled with sacred objects, ornate tapestries, and statues of masters that constantly remind him and his students of their commitment to and passion for the path.
You can do this in your own space, too.
Whether it’s pictures of saints on the wall, a lotus flower motif, or even simple sticky notes with reminders like, “breathe,” “let go,” or “be here now,” immersing yourself in an environment inspired by mindful intention is powerful.
Mindfulness can go from being a burden to being a gift. All it takes is a little bit of intention, commitment, and surrender.
Ultimately, mindfulness comes down to how we relate to every moment of our lives. Why not make that relationship a joyful one?
Crystal Hoshaw is a mother, writer, and longtime yoga practitioner. She has taught in private studios, gyms, and in one-on-one settings in Los Angeles, Thailand, and the San Francisco Bay Area. She shares mindful strategies for self-care through online courses. You can find her on Instagram.