How to hack mindfulness

Mindfulness doesn’t have to involve meditation. You don’t have to go to a 4-week workshop at work to sit quietly and learn how to ‘be mindful.’ Mindfulness is actually SUPER simple. In fact, you can achieve mindfulness RIGHT NOW.

How?

By experiencing a single task with all of your senses free of distractions.

Being mindful is about paying full attention to the present moment. It’s about being fully aware of what’s going on around you instead of what’s on your social media feed. Like I said you don’t have to be practicing meditation to achieve mindfulness. You can be mindful with literally anything.

The most important things to remember are to:

  • Pay full attention
  • Use all of your senses
  • Avoid distractions

So here are my tips on how you can be more mindful during four different activities: eating, walking, working, and exercising.

Mindfulness while eating

How often do you eat while watching television? Do you have your phone at the table and are you letting it interrupt your meal? I’d even bet that you’ve had lunch at your desk at some point, am I right? Apart from ruining how truly pleasurable eating is, not being mindful when you eat can actually have adverse effects on your body:

  • If you are using a screen device like a television or phone you are likely in a stress response. The stress response mechanism in the body disrupts digestion, which can lead to inflammation, malabsorption, and even digestive disorders.
  • Distracted eating can cause you to overeat, leading to weight gain and increasing your risk of obesity and diabetes
  • You can completely lose touch with your body’s hunger and fullness levels, potentially leading to disordered eating patterns
  • Eating while distracted can mean you don’t chew your food properly, which in turn can lead to the development of ulcers, gas, diarrhea, and other nasty things.

So how do I be a more mindful eater?

Step 1: Remove all distractions (phones, tablets, computers, turn off the television, even podcasts because this involves active listening)

(SIDENOTE: You can put on a chilled vibe music playlist in the background if you think silence is boring or uncomfortable)

Step 2: Set the table before the food is ready to avoid rushing around. Alert anyone else you’ll be eating with to be ready

Step 3: Once the meal is ready, sit at the table and take 5 – 10 deep breaths to move your body into the needed relaxed state for proper digestion

Step 4: Now it’s time to eat! Remember to eat and enjoy the food with all five of your senses. See exactly what it is you’re eating and smell it before it goes into your mouth. What can you smell? As you chew, try to isolate all the different flavours and textures. You can even ask your companions to describe the taste. Hear the sounds that are being made in your head and enjoy every sensation of the food as if it were ultra high def.

A little tip for you – doing this can get boring and tedious real quick so plan what meals on what days you are going to be mindful. Giving yourself a planned break is all part of making it a habit you can realistically maintain. As long as the majority of the time is spent eating mindfully, you can call yourself a mindful eater.

Mindfulness while walking

OK be honest; do you tell yourself you’re going to be healthy and go for a walk and then take your phone and play on it during your walk? You are completely denying yourself of the full benefits of that walk!

Not only will you walk MUCH SLOWER and burn fewer calories, you are likely to suffer from the following:

  • More frequent headaches and joint pain
  • Poor posture
  • Eye strain and deterioration of sight
  • A weaker core and reduced oxygen intake from slumping over (a reduced lung capacity and less oxygen will make you out of puff faster)

So how do I walk more mindfully?

This will take some getting used to in order break whatever habits you’re in at the moment, but the benefits of increased fitness, reduced stress, lower anxiety, and increased creativity are worth it:

  • Leave your phone at home (if you’re worried about your safety take your phone with you but switch it to airplane mode)
  • Know a rough route before you go to avoid mindless sauntering. If you’re worried about safety tell someone where you’re going and for how long
  • Pick one of the five senses to focus your attention on during your walk
  • Now it’s time to go outside! As you walk fully engage in your chosen sense. So if you choose sound, try to pinpoint all the specific sounds you can hear. Distinguish the natural sounds from man-made sounds, try to describe the quality of the sound to yourself, and even try to imagine what something you see might sound like if it could make a noise. It sounds whacky at first but oh my god with a little practice it makes you feel so much happier! You totally forget all about whatever you might have been worrying about, plus you can have sudden epiphanies or bursts of creative inspiration.

Once you get better with one sense, you can combine one or two senses, or for a truly immersive experience do all five!

Mindfulness while working

I am guessing that it’s very common for people to get frequently distracted by their phone while working. All it takes is one little ding, and you stop what you’re doing to check what that ding was, and before you know it you’re mindlessly scrolling and wasting time. You shake yourself out of it and remind yourself you need to get back to work. Now think about how many times a day this happens. I’m guilty of this myself. It’s SO hard not to do when you run your own business because you need to be available to people and show that you’re responsive. But it definitely steals my focus and affects how much work I’m able to get done.

Research shows that 47% of the time we are mentally off task. This means that almost half of your work is likely to be substandard. It’s also probably taking you much longer than it should, meaning you might be unnecessarily working through your lunchbreaks to get shit done (and extended sitting and staying indoors is terrible for your health).

Why should I care about being more mindful at work?

The benefits of being more mindful while working include:

  • Boosted productivity—you can make deadlines quicker and be able to take more walking breaks outside (and maybe even go home earlier!)
  • Improved focus and attention—you can produce much higher quality work and suffer less from foggy brain
  • Reduced stress and an increased ability to work well under pressure as this study shows. This is great for avoiding burnout and reducing your number of sick days
  • Clearer decision making that is not affected by your emotional state
  • Better interaction and communication with your colleagues and bosses. This can make the difference between a job you love or a job you hate

So how do I start being more mindful at work when I have so much to do?

The easiest way to do this is to focus on one task at a time and complete it without any distractions. Every half an hour make sure you take a quick walking break to keep yourself focused and energised. To remove distractions try the following simple steps:

  • Put your phone on silent and away—if someone needs to get hold of you at work they can call your work number or wait until you’re on lunch
  • If you can turn off all notifications on whichever device you may be working so that they don’t interrupt you mid-flow or steal away your time
  • Make time for reading emails and returning calls as a separate task. Talk to your supervisor if you are concerned about what they might think and get them on board (tell them you’ll work quicker and produce better work!)
  • If you can’t stand silence or find the ambient noise of your work environment distracting, create a ‘focus at work’ playlist
  • If someone insists on talking to you about something that you are finding distracting, politely but sternly let them know you are in the middle of something important but are happy to schedule a time later to speak with them

Mindfulness at work is probably one of the tricker ones as there are many external factors that could potentially be out of your control. The important thing is to make it clear to yourself and your colleagues what your productivity habits are. Who knows, they might even catch on!

Lastly, mindfulness while exercising

Go to the gym and these days nearly everyone seems to be playing on their phone. Whether it’s swiping right or snapping their latest Instagram story, these douchebags are totally defeating the point of being in the gym. If you’re one of those douchebags, shame on you! Put the phone down and do the bloody work, because your results aren’t coming any other way.

If you’re wondering why you should care, just check out some of the effects on your workout and your body:

  • Losing track of time—either your workout takes you a lot longer or you have to cut it short, so you take longer to reach your goals
  • Increased risk of injury—one study showed that texting reduces your stability by up to 45%! Not to mention that 29 people died while taking selfies in 2017
  • Loss of intensity and reduced health benefits—you won’t work as hard which is why you may not be seeing results
  • Limited body awareness—this results in poor form and bad posture. It would be better to do nothing than to butcher your squat and blow out your back!

OK coach, tell me how to be more mindful in my workouts

This one is pretty straightforward:

  • Leave your fucking phone somewhere else. You don’t need it to do any kind of exercise
  • If you need a timer, use a good old fashioned stop-watch
  • Focus on your breathing and your technique when performing the exercises (remember to exhale on the effort)
  • During your rest breaks, take a walk or have a drink. Or just look around you and be in the space you’re in. If you’re unable to do this you have some work to do my friend

To wrap up

I hope this post has shown you how simple mindfulness can be, and that you can achieve it right now with whatever you’re doing. As long as you apply those three basic guidelines of paying attention, using all of your sense, and avoiding distractions, you can be mindful at any time.

If you seriously struggle with any of this and you really do need more help, why not book yourself in for a complimentary 25-minute coaching call to receive more personalised guidance.