I’ve had a lot of time to think about how to be mindful lately. For the last nine days, I’ve done very little else.
Being mindful can sound like a flighty, fanciful, New Age concept, but it’s exactly the opposite. To be mindful is to be firmly grounded in the present moment. It’s about noticing the sensations in your body and the world around you. You feel present and grateful. To be mindful is to live in the moment without longing for the past or the future.
This can be a challenge in our culture, which aims to keep us in a constant state of productivity, so busy that we never stop to think much at all. Something has to give for us to slow down and listen. For many of us, this coronavirus pandemic is the giant cosmic nudge we never saw coming.
As I mentioned, I’ve had a lot of time to go back to basics over the last few days. That’s because I’ve been struggling to accomplish baseline tasks — breathing, sleeping, regulating my own body temperature. I tested negative for COVID-19 (thank goodness) but my care team is treating me for influenza and pneumonia.
I have never been this sick before, ever. It’s taken all my strength to draw a breath. But it’s okay. It could be worse. It’s not coronavirus. I’m recovering. Nobody else in my house (knock on wood) is sick. And even though it’s been really rough, taking a minute to feel the coolness of fresh sheets and really savoring my morning cup of tea has helped me mark and appreciate each day — even if this isn’t how I would have chosen to spend them.
So if cultivating mindfulness can help me in this ugly and difficult moment, I know it can help you. None of us chose this present moment. I doubt many of us other than epidemiologists) could have even imagined it. But this is the moment we’re all in. And we’ll figure out a way forward, together.
So here’s to the new normal, a time of rest, mindfulness, and intentional living. These are 60 easy ways to be mindful and present, right here, right now.
1. Ditch the devices.
2. Write by hand.
3. Take a walk outside and actually notice nature.
4. Take a nap if you’re tired.
5. Notice what colors, textures, sights and sounds bring you pleasure. Then add more of them to your life.
6. Plant something green to improve air quality and bring the outdoors in.
7. Make an ordinary meal special. Use the good china. Light candles. Linger over dessert. Take out is okay. (In fact, it will help support local restaurants in a time of need.)
8. Take a neighborhood walk and try to see your hometown like a visitor. What can you learn about the residents here? What do they value? That do they emphasize?
9. Curl up with a book just for the pleasure of it.
10. Discard the goal of being super productive during this time. It’s okay to just show up and do your best.
11. Mend. It’s often as easy to fix as it is to buy new. And the act of stitching can be calming.
12. Make a list of the feelings you want to cultivate. Put it where you can see it.
13. Reduce clutter. It’s soothing. Focus on one area at a time.
14. Do one task at a time, don’t toggle back and forth. We lose focus when we shift our attention.
15. Meditate. All you need to do is get comfortable and focus on your breath coming in and of your body. An app or a short online class can help as well.
16. Try yoga. It’s not about being perfect, it’s about showing up and being present. I like this teacher.
17. Exercise. Pick something you enjoy that gets your heart pumping.
18. Do something with your hands. Something you respond to. It doesn’t have to make sense.
19. What did you love to do when you were little? Do that.
20. Try to cut something out every day. It’s liberating.
21. Focus on the view out the window. Open it and record what you can see, smell, hear, and feel.
22. Be part of #AWorldOfHearts by putting hearts in your front window or door to cheer up your neighbors. This movement of caring started just a few days ago in North Dakota.
23. Listen to music that you love. Let it wash over you. Lose yourself in it completely.
24. Linger over a routine chore and let your mind wander. Don’t rush.
25. Have a picnic.
26. Do a crossword or a word search.
27. Play a board game or do a puzzle as a family.
28. Buy fresh flowers.
29. Schedule a virtual happy hour via Skype, Zoom, or Facetime.
30. Embrace slow food. Cook or bake food that takes time and effort to prepare. Watch the vegetables roasting, smell the meat in the slow cooker, really relish the feeling of that bread dough in your fingers.
31. Adopt the Swedish concept of fika – time lingering over coffee and a sweet. It happens everything single afternoon and it’s a social event. If you can’t chat in person due to social distancing, schedule a virtual date. Bonus points if you do it more than once.
32. Take at least 30 minutes to eat your food, noting its textures, spices, smells, mouthfeel. We rush. We don’t need to.
33. Touch something that feels soothing or beautiful to you – a soft blanket, a smooth stone. Embrace the sensation and move the object to a place where you can interact with it regularly.
34. Take a break to do something for the pure enjoyment of it. Guess what? No one will know.
35. Schedule a lie-in. Spend a Sunday morning in bed with breakfast and the paper, or dive into that stack of paperbacks or the Netflix queue.
36. Pick an art project. You don’t have to be good at it. You just have to enjoy it.
37. Write a letter by hand to someone you love.
38. Go backyard birdwatching, a hobby that requires little other than observation and curiosity.
39. Embrace the beauty of fine and specific tools chosen especially to suit you. The weight of an excellent knife in your hands, the effortless flow of a new pen, the perfect shades of new paints can unleash a flood of contentment.
40. Write a thank you note to someone you appreciate.
41. Look at photos of nature – mountains, lakes, forests.
43. Use something you’ve been saving for a special occasion – good stationary, expensive perfume, grandma’s silver, a fancy new candle. Relish the occasion.
44. Make a movie an event. Make popcorn, pour drinks, settle in with anticipation.
45. Embrace the Danish concept of hygge and make life as cozy as possible. Light candles, cuddle up in wool socks, sweaters and warm blankets in front of a crackling fire. Get hygge re-set ideas here.
46. Fully use your sense of smell. Breathe in the scent of dinner, spices, and tea. Savor scented lotions and candles.
47. Take a virtual stroll through an art museum or browse an artist’s site on social media.
48. Try tinkering. Pull out LEGO bricks, blocks, Tinkertoys, or Lincoln Logs. See what you can make from spare parts.
49. Observe the weather and how it changes minute by minute. Notice the rise of the sun or moon, the sounds of the rain, the falling snow.
50. Make a list of the activities where you lose track of time or achieve flow. Schedule time to do them next week – or tomorrow.
51. Order a fishing license online and go fishing.
52. Lie on your back on the grass or a hammock and stare at the clouds. Feel the sun on your face.
53. Create a relaxation ritual. It can include anything that makes your shoulders unclench — warm tea, a good book, scented lotion, a massage chair.
54. Rock in a chair or on a porch swing.
55. Release something that no longer serves you.
56. Dive into a new book. Most libraries are closed, but you can order online or even do in-store pick-up. Phone a local bookshop and ask them to pick something out for you and set it aside so you can run in.
57. Stare into a fire. Make one in your fireplace or in a backyard fire pit.
58. Gaze up at the stars. You can study the stories being the constellations, or make up your own.
59. Scrawl encouraging messages and cheerful drawings in sidewalk chalk.
60. Watch shadows the approach or the sun set. Just observe. Don’t feel the pressure to do anything. Tell yourself, “There’s nowhere I have to be.”
What about you?
How do work on being mindful?
How are you staying sane during these unusual times?
Which activities help you slow down and relax?
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