Making your day more mindful

Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness as “the practice of maintaining a non-judgemental state of heightened or complete awareness of one’s thoughts, emotions or experiences on a moment-to-moment basis.” In simpler terms, a mindful person is aware of and in control of their own experience, acting with intention rather than simply reacting to the world around them.

Practising mindfulness can improve your physical and psychological health, as well as positively influence your health, attitude and behaviour. For example, mindfulness can improve your general well-being by allowing you to enjoy the pleasures of life as they occur and worry less about the little things. Practising mindfulness has also been shown to improve physical health in ways such as relieving stress and improving sleep. This approach to life has also been used as a strategy to treat mental health problems including depression, eating disorders, anxiety disorders and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Experts believe that these positive effects are a result of peoples’ improved ability to accept their experiences in a non-judgemental way rather than react to them with aversion.

I’m sure right now you’re thinking, “Yeah that’s all well and great, but I’m a super busy student and I don’t have time to meditate for hours every day!” Well, that’s okay! You don’t have to meditate to lead a mindful life. There are some practices you can incorporate into your everyday life that will allow you to become more mindful, without taking up any more time than you would usually spend doing those things.

For example, the practice of mindful walking can help you become more aware of your present experience, and just requires you to think about what you’re doing as you’re doing it. Here’s how: as you’re walking, bring your attention to the sensations of the soles of your feet; feel them lift up off the ground, swing forward, step back down, the shift of your weight to the other side and repeat the process over again. If while walking mindfully you become distracted by a thought or a noise, that’s okay – just notice that you’ve been distracted and gently direct your attention back to the mindful walking.

Another way you can make better use of the time you’re already spending doing everyday things is to practise mindful eating and drinking. To do this, bring your full attention to the sensory experience of your food; take a moment to observe its smell, texture, colour, shape, the feel of your arm moving the fork up to your mouth, the taste of the food on your tongue and the feel of your jaw chewing.

My final suggestion for bringing mindfulness into your life is to once a day, when you feel the urge to pull your phone out and scroll Instagram for a few minutes, just notice the urge and don’t act on it, leaving your phone in your pocket or backpack. Mindfulness is not always about doing things, but can also be about refraining from certain actions. Choosing to remain present in the moment instead of falling into distraction is a mindful way of approaching life.

If you have any questions, would like to learn more or have requests for next week’s column, feel free to email me at healthintern@mta.ca. You can also email wellness@mta.ca to book any appointments at the Wellness Centre. Be sure to download the Campus WELL app for more interesting articles like this and the chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! As always, stay happy and healthy!

Rachel McDougall
Rachel McDougall is a contributor to the Argosy.