Simple Mindfulness Practices
(For Folks Who Hate To Meditate)
I’m not great at meditating. OK. Scratch that. I’m terrible at meditating.
My mind is often busy (understatement of the century) and as a neurodivergent digital freelancer, I spend most of my life online, swinging wildly between states of hyperfocus and procrastination. When I’m not juggling tasks and batting off the mental chatter, I almost always have a podcast on the go – providing a steady stream of background noise (‘Stuff You Should Know’ is my fave podcast these days, in case you’re asking).
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Hannah, it sounds like a little bit of ‘quiet time’ is exactly what you need.” But sitting still? In silence? Pfft. Not. A. Chance.
The thing is, the science is in and there’s no debate: the benefits of mindfulness are undeniable.
Meditation may be touted as the key to achieving mindfulness, but the act of sitting down and trying to clear your mind can be challenging for anyone – neurodivergent or not. The good news is that mindfulness isn’t only accessible through meditation.
Here are a few simple practices that I’ve tried (that don’t involve kneeling on a cushion with your eyes closed).
One of the simplest ways to practise mindfulness is by paying attention to your breath. You can do this anywhere and at any time. Simply take a moment to focus on your inhale and exhale. Notice how your breath feels as it enters and leaves your body. Is it shallow or deep? Fast or slow? Try not to control your breathing; just observe it. This practice can help you stay present and grounded in the moment.
Mindful eating is all about paying full attention to the experience of eating. Instead of eating while watching TV or scrolling through your phone, try to focus solely on the food in front of you. Notice the textures, flavours, and sensations as you eat. Savour each bite and chew slowly. This can not only enhance your enjoyment of food but also help you develop a healthier relationship with it.
Take a walk without any destination in mind. Pay attention to each step as you go, feeling the ground beneath your feet and noticing the sensations in your body as you move. Take in your surroundings – the sights, sounds, and smells. Try to stay present in the moment, without thinking about what you have to do later or dwelling on the past – this can be harder said than done. Give it a try!
Choose an object in your environment – it could be a tree, a cup, or a pen – and spend a few minutes observing it. Look at it as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Notice the colours, shapes, and textures. Try to focus your attention solely on the object, and if your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back, without judgement.
Are you the kind of person who thrives on structure? If so, you might find it hard to pick yourself up and go for a walk under your own steam. Perhaps you’d thrive in a guided mindful activity like Ashtanga yoga.
When I studied yoga in Nepal this year, one of the things I found the most difficult was harnessing my breath because the movements we did were under very strict breath control. But because during practices, like Ashtanga, there’s so much to think about, your mind stays very present and in the moment. And that’s the whole idea!
Be warned though: Ashtanga has a formidable reputation for being tricky – but there’s something in this practice for everyone. Laruga Glaser is the Ashtanga guru – check her out.
It’s important to remember that mindfulness isn’t about achieving a state of perfect focus all of the time. It’s about being in the moment and experiencing life as it unfolds, without getting caught up in our thoughts and judgments. It’s a skill that you can develop with practice. The key is to start small and find practices that work for you.
So, pick one or more of the above practices and give them a try. You might be surprised at how easy and enjoyable it can be to bring mindfulness into your life.