There’s immense power in living mindfully. Though mindfulness has become a buzzword in recent years, the basic practice of being completely, utterly focused on the present moment produces huge benefits. The mind — and all the belief systems and thoughts that come with it — clouds our experience. It likes to label things, to transform experience into concepts. Work. Play. Boring. Fun. Like. Don’t like.
What you experience is then filtered through the mind’s labelling system. If something’s labelled boring, it becomes boring. By applying mindfulness, you experience life beyond that labelling system. Everything just is the way it is.
Which leads me on to today’s post, which focuses on boredom, monotony, or any other label that has the same effect. I highlight boredom because it’s an interesting feeling. It’s not as intrusive as unpleasantness, but it’s a low-level, apathetic state that can suck the joy out of certain activities. Plus, being mindful when walking in the sunshine with your significant other while on holiday in an exotic location is much easier than being mindful taking out the bin. Especially when the bag splits. Yuck.
By applying mindfulness to “boring” tasks, I’ll hopefully highlight the benefit of practicing present moment awareness. With that in mind, below are three mindful exercises I’d like you to try. I’ve chosen these three activities because they’re the kind we generally undertake on autopilot. We like to get them “out of the way.” But remember, any moment spent wanting to get out of the way, or to move beyond, is a moment wasted. So, on we go…
Mindful Exercise 1: Showering
Why am I choosing showering? It’s not that boring, is it? Although not boring, applying mindfulness to your daily shower is important. In theory, standing under a warm, gentle flow of water is a pleasant experience. But it’s also the perfect environment for our monkey mind to take control. Think back to your last shower. How many thoughts did you have? My money is on a lot.
For whatever reason, standing in the shower seems to give the green light to a significant number of our daily 70,000 thoughts. If you’re anything like me, when my mind is particularly busy, I’ve caught myself in the midst of shampooing my hair immediately after shampooing my hair. Such mindlessness is costly; American Crew ain’t cheap.
Mindful practice involves paying focused attention to your present experience. That includes all of your senses. In particular while showering, temperature, smell and sound. Your mindful shower may go something like this:
- Before entering the shower, set your intention by taking a few deep breaths and reminding yourself you are about to shower mindfully.
- Notice the sensation of the handle as you turn the shower on. What does it feel like? How much resistance is there as you turn it to the desired speed (is that the right term, shower speed? Shower power? Shower strength? Someone help me out?).
- Again, take a few deep breaths. Pay close attention to the sound of the water falling from the shower head to the base of the shower. Try and notice each audible plop.
- Stand in the shower. Can you feel the water before you step under the flow. Can you feel the heat emanating from it? Does the air near the flow move slightly?
- Stand under the water. Focus on the pleasantness of the sensation of water running over your body as you stand still. Scan your body from head to toe, feel the different sensations.
- As you reach for the shampoo / conditioner / shower gel, notice the weight of the bottle. Notice the sound as you open the bottle. Notice the texture. Then turn your attention to the scent as you breathe deeply.
- As you wash away the shampoo / conditioner / shower gel, notice the sensation and scent, but also the flow and texture of the foam as it runs down the plug. Bye foam!
- Celebrate for being mindful. And clean.
Mindful Exercise 2: Washing Dishes
You’ve just enjoyed a lovely meal that you’ve spent time slaving over, and now you’re left with a full stomach, but an empty plate. Time to do the washing up. FFS. Washing the dishes is high up on the monotony stakes. Quick frankly, it’s rare you’ll ever be motivated. The entire process ticks the box of being “something to get over and done with” — but it doesn’t have to be.
Want a quick motivator? Okay. How long do you spend washing up dishes each day? 10 minutes? That’s over an hour a week. Four hours every month. Two days every year. Almost six months of your entire life spent getting over and done with or wanting to be somewhere else. I don’t know about you, but if there’s a way I can spend those six months a little differently, I’ll take it. Well fear not, because now you can replace them with six months of mindfulness. Hurray!
Believe it or not, a recent study revealed that mindful washing up is a great stress reliever. Out of those taking part, those who washed up mindfully had a 25% increase in inspiration and a 27% decrease in anxiety. Much like the mindful shower, to washing dishes mindfully means focusing attentively the senses:
- Notice the thought that springs to mind as you look at the dirty cutlery (“Ugh, there’s loads, this’ll take a while”). Take a few deep breaths.
- Instead of seeing this is a mountain to overcome, focus on each item without rushing through. Notice any thought related to time or frustration at how long the process will take.
- Give all of your attention to the item currently you’re currently holding: How heavy is it? How hard do you have to scrub to remove the stains? Is it smooth? Rough?
- Notice the scent of the washing up liquid and the formation of the foam.
- Tune in to the sound of the running water, the unique clunk of each plate as you place it in the drying rack.
- Notice the temperature of the water.
- Celebrate being mindful. And having clean dishes.
Mindful Exercise 3: Eating Chocolate
Don’t say I don’t bloody treat you. I know I promised three boring exercises but if you’ve washed the dishes mindfully, it’s time to celebrate by doing something fun in the same manner. Being mindful increases our perception, no more so than the sense of taste, which is greatly enhanced. Yet most of us don’t really take time to eat. Instead, we go on auto pilot, chewing, swallowing, thinking of the next mouthful.
To highlight just how incredible food can taste when attention is fully switch on, try this third and final exercise:
- Sit down and place the chocolate of your choosing in front of you. I’d choose a Bounty, but I know I’m in the minority.
- Notice the eagerness to dive straight in. Sit with it and breathe.
- Carefully peel the wrapper, paying close attention to touch and sound.
- Then, notice the scent of the chocolate. If you feel another urge to take a bite, slow down and breathe.
- Take a tiny bite, but don’t chew. Leave the chocolate in your mouth. Notice the physical sensation as it melts.
- Now focus fully on the taste. Does it taste different than usual? Is there more flavour?
- Allow the chocolate to melt as much as possible before chewing.
- Notice the impulse to take another bite immediately. Breathe and wait for two minutes before taking the next bite (this is a lot harder than it sounds).
- Repeat until the chocolate has gone. Never rush. This whole process should take at least 10 minutes.
- Celebrate. You’ve just eaten chocolate. Oh, and mindfulness. Yeah! Mindfulness!
If you’ve read these instructions, you may be doubting their credentials. They sound incredibly simple. And yes, I may have over-detailed the instructions, but I really want to emphasise how mindfulness is about breaking down every micro-second of experience, tuning into the senses and fully being.
So try them out. And remember, if you practice this regularly, you can replace all of those “boredom” labels with mindful ones. Now if that’s not an achievement, I don’t know what is.