Just as our houses need a good spring clean, so too do our minds. Like the dust and dirt that accumulates in our homes, our minds get stuffed full of their own rubbish.
Negative thoughts, unhealthy mental habits, blocked emotions—these are all toxins that pollute the mind and prevent us from achieving our optimum mindset. But how, exactly, do you clean the mind? The key is to live in the moment.
When we live in the moment, we allow a stream of fresh information to flow into our minds by way of our senses. This present moment mindfulness is like fresh air for the mind that cleans out any mental debris that has accumulated, and allows new information and new habits to form.
Here are 7 mindful habits that will spring clean your mind.
1. Take a mindful shower with your eyes closed.
In the shower, close your eyes and focus on the sound of the water, the feel of it running down your body, and the way the entire experience enlivens and refreshes you.
Throughout the day we focus on our sense of sight at the expense of all other senses. By closing our eyes we force our minds to tune in to the other senses. This makes us more aware of what those other senses pick up on, thereby increasing our mindfulness.
2. Get in touch with your five senses.
One of the keys to a healthy mind is being mindful of our environment. To boost your present moment mindfulness, simply take five minutes to meditate on your senses. Smell, touch, taste, feel, and hear the world. This opens the window to your mind so you can let fresh "air" in.
3. Mindful Eating
Whether we are losing weight, eating healthy, or simply enjoying our food, mindful eating can help.
When we eat slowly, focusing on the sensory composition of food, we gain much more appreciation for both the body and the food that fuels it. At dinner, sit at the table and intentionally eat slowly. Take the time to appreciate the food on your plate. Eat mindfully. Be present in every bite.
This is a powerful way of getting in touch with the present moment while at the same time, making us more aware of the food we eat and how it can affect our body.
4. Just Breathe
Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh once said, “To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment.”
Mindful breathing is one of the best meditation techniques for beginners. It is a simple way to bring the mind back to the present moment.
All we do in mindful breathing is focus on the breath as it moves through the body. This technique, which is also called Anapanasati, clears the mind and develops our focus. It's also extremely helpful when you need a boost in your mood.
5. Mindful Walking
Most (not all) problems in life can be solved by a good long walk. Research conducted by Stanford University has proven that walking is a powerful way of exercising your creative mind.
When we walk, we don’t just get the body moving; we get the mind moving too. As we walk, we are exposed to a continual stream of new information. When walking through the countryside, for instance, we take in the trees, the blue sky, the birdsong…and this all serves as fresh information that reinvigorates the mind.
Better than a simple walk is a mindful walk, or what people call the Zen walk. This is a style of walking in which we intentionally focus our mind on the movement in our legs and on the world around us.
Vipassana is a traditional meditation technique that can be thought of as mindfulness of thoughts.
When we practice Vipassana, we simply observe our thoughts. We watch the mind at work, and when a thought arises, we remind ourselves that it is just a thought. This practice trains the mind to understand that thoughts are only thoughts, that they are not reality. This reduces the power our thoughts have over us, liberating the mind.
7. Lie down with your mind.
Even on days when we have absolutely no free time, we can still practice mindfulness. One of the easiest ways to do this is to lie down in both body and mind.
Oftentimes when we lie down, we still have thoughts running through our heads. Mindfully lying down is different. When we practice mindfully lying down, we focus the mind on the body, as though body and mind were one. It's similar to practicing Savasana at the end of the class when you lie down and try to let go of thoughts—just being present, and listening to your breath.
This is a fabulous technique to practice in bed. It gives the mind a chance to relax and to let go.
These seven techniques are fun, relaxing and easy ways to cultivate mindfulness. With these techniques, we give the mind an opportunity to let go of negative emotions and mental clutter so we can start the season with a clean slate, mentally and emotionally.
Image credit: Brittany Richard