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Take the Mindfulness Challenge — 4 Actions per Hour From 7 To 11 — For Improved Self-Awareness and Calm

A plan of action for being present.

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You don’t have to rush through your day, speeding from one task to the next, hardly paying attention to anyone or anything. Pausing to practice periodic mindfulness can help you appreciate everyday joys. That said, despite the many benefits of mindful practice, actually doing it can be intimidating.

But it doesn’t have to be. Thirty minutes of yoga or meditation is not a requirement. You can practice mindfulness 24/7 without unrolling a mat. Below is a minute-by-minute mindfulness practice that you can use from morning to night. Awareness actions happen every 15 minutes, and occur from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Consider it a challenge to stress and frenzy. Focus on one task at a time; and after you finish one task, take a breath before starting the next. Try it for a day and see how you feel at the end. If you see results, incorporate all or some of the awareness actions into your everyday routine.

7:00 a.m.

Before you even open your eyes, tune in to the sensory information around you. Do you hear any birds chirping outside your window? Do you smell anything? Anyone cooking breakfast or making coffee? Turn your attention to your breath. Feel it rise and fall through your body. If your mind begins to race, mentally churning through today’s to-do list, turn it back to your breath with no judgment.

7:15 a.m.

Do some gentle stretches: Lying on your back, bring your knees into your chest to gently stretch your lower back, holding the back of your thighs for support. Drop both knees together to one side and reach your arms to the opposite side, then reverse to stretch the spine. Stretch your legs out straight and reach your arms up over your head to lengthen your spine.

7:30 a.m.

Enjoy your shower. Listen to the sound the water makes as it hits each part of your body. Pay attention to the smell of your shampoo and how your fingertips feel when rubbing it into your scalp. How does your scalp feel as your fingers touch it? Notice the way the water feels as it runs through your hair and down your body as you rinse yourself off.

8:00 a.m.

Make some tea and use your finest cup. Smell the aroma as it wafts toward your nose. Sip quietly, letting the liquid linger in your mouth for a bit before you swallow. How does it taste? How does your mouth feel as the warm tea hits it? Enjoy the solitude as you sip the rest without looking at your phone or reading a newspaper.

8:10 a.m.

If you take any medicines or supplements with breakfast, reflect on what they’re supposed to do for you as you swallow. While it might feel funny, thank them for helping you maintain your health and wellness. These are things that we often take for granted.

8:30 a.m.

Write down three intentions for the day ahead. These can be in the form of hopes, plans, or goals. Many people also find comfort in physically writing out positive affirmations to get their day started. Creating a journal to house these positive intentions and affirmations can be helpful to people starting out their mindfulness practice.

8:45 a.m.

Whether you’re in the car, on public transportation, or just walking from your bedroom to your kitchen table, resist the urge to put in your ear pods or look at your phone. Commute in silence and take note of the natural sounds around you. The day ahead of you is likely to be filled with noise and conversation. Take this time to enjoy the peace and focus on what’s happening in the present moment.

9:00 a.m.

When you get to work, take a few minutes to yourself before you start. Notice how the leather or fabric of the chair feels against the back of your legs. Take note of any talking going on in a room next to you. Notice any smells coming from the break room (or, if you’re home, your kitchen). Once you feel settled in and relaxed, your day can begin on a much more positive note.

10:00 a.m.

Tune in to your posture. Stretch your neck up tall and make sure your shoulders are back but also relaxed, not hunching over or up by your neck. Notice how your feet ground you to the floor. It can be difficult if you’re sat at a desk all day, but don’t hesitate to get up and move your legs a bit.

11:00 a.m.

Make sure you’re breathing. Whether you’re sitting or standing, don’t change anything, just feel the natural flow of your breath in and out. Notice where you feel it, whether it’s your abdomen, your chest, or your nostrils. When one breath ends, the other will begin. If your mind wanders, gently bring your focus back to your breath. Stay here for a few minutes until you settle into a rhythm.

Noon

After lunch, take a walk outside. Notice how your feet feel as they hit the pavement, grass, or dirt. Heel, midfoot, toe. Try a few steps super slowly, then do a few quickly and see if it feels any different. Observe your surroundings. Are there flowers beginning to bloom? What color are they? Can you smell them? What’s the weather like? If it’s sunny, enjoy the sun as it hits your face. If it’s windy, don’t fight the chill. Embrace it.

5:00 p.m.

When you leave work, shut off the light (literally or figuratively), acknowledging that the workday is over. Release any negatives you may have met during the day. Leave work at work and focus on the evening belonging to you.

5:30 p.m.

When you get home from work, sit down and take a few moments to listen to some music instead of turning on the television. Close your eyes and enjoy the sound and the rhythm. Listen to what the lyrics are saying or how the beat pulsates.

7:00 p.m.

After dinner, instead of loading the dishwasher, wash the dishes by hand. Although it may take longer, view it as a time to relax and relieve some stress as you enjoy the feel of the warm, soapy water on your hands. Afterward, massage some scented lotion into your palms, the back of your hands, and fingertips. Take a deep breath and experience the scent.

7:30 p.m.

Try to view straightening up around the house as a gift rather than a chore. Don’t rush through it. Think of the repetitive back and forth of the vacuum as a moving meditation. Relish the warmth of the fresh-out-of-the-dryer clothing as you fold it. Acknowledge that you’re creating a beautiful space for you and your family as you move from room to room.

9:30 p.m.

Before you get ready for bed, think about three good things that happened during the day. Feel free to even put them in a journal as mentioned earlier. Then don your coziest pajamas, noting how they feel as they go on your body.

9:45 p.m.

Pay attention while brushing your teeth. How does your grip feel around the handle of the toothbrush? Are you holding tightly? How do your teeth feel as you brush various parts of them? How does the toothpaste smell? Look at this as an act of care.

10:00 p.m.

Get into your bed and appreciate the sensations. How do the sheets feel around your body? How does the pillow feel under your face? Take a deep breath and thank the day. Tomorrow is a new one.

A version of this article appeared in our partner magazine Mindfulness For Women.

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