Over the past few years, the idea of incorporating ‘mindfulness’ into our everyday hustle and bustle has gained popularity among the wellness community. You’ve probably heard of intuitive eating? Yep, that sprung from the mindfulness movement. And now, this intentional way of living is spreading to just about every facet of our modern-day existence, including our relationship with our bodies.
For many people, practicing mindfulness is an excellent antidote to the over-stimulating go-go-go, scroll-scroll-scroll of a modern lifestyle. “[The practices] help you tune into your body and become aware when your energy is getting depleted,” says certified kundalini yoga, meditation, and breathwork teacher and ayurvedic specialist Tejal Patel. “You can then use that intel to stop the drain and implement reset practices that will boost your energy, calm your mind, and help you cope with emotions and avoid mental fatigue, burnout, illness, and physical injury,” she explains. Pretty appealing, eh?
But what does living more in-tune with your body entail, exactly? Good question. Below, health and wellness experts share a variety of practices you can utilize throughout the day to bring mindfulness to every part of your life. Implement one or more of the below tips into your daily routine to better tune into your body—and reap the benefits that come with it.
1. Limit Headphone Use During Exercise
We know: gasp. But hear us out.
All types of movement should be infused with mindfulness—not just yoga and Tai Chi. “If you’re spacing out while running on a busy road or lifting weights at the gym, there is going to be an increased risk of injury,” says holistic nutritionist and personal trainer Jennifer Hanway, C.P.T. Tuning into your body while you move not only helps reduce injury risk but also helps reduce stress and bring greater joy to your workout, she says.
As much as you might love your favorite artist’s latest album, blasting it while you exercise could ultimately interfere with your ability to recognize how you’re breathing and moving. (The speed and intensity of your music might even influence you to push the pace of your strides or speed of your burpees beyond a healthy effort level.)
Going music- (and podcast-) free for a portion of your workout will encourage you to focus on your body, rather than the lyrics or beat. Ultimately, this puts you in the driver’s seat of your workout, not your favorite entertainer.
2. Slow Down Your Meals
We’re all guilty of shoveling food into our mouths, often emptying our plates before we’ve savored the flavor. According to Patel, that’s the exact opposite of mindful eating. “If you want to tune into your body during mealtime, you have to slow down while you eat,” she says.
To do that, she recommends trying to chew every bite 20 to 25 times before swallowing. Not only will this elongate the duration of the meal, but it will also encourage you to taste (and enjoy) your food more, she says. As a bonus, chewing your food to this extent also supports healthy digestion, says Institute of Integrative Nutrition health coach and Barbara Brennan School of Healing aromatherapy expert Adora Winquist, co-author of Detox, Nourish, Activate: Plant and Vibrational Medicine for Energy, Mood, and Love.
If counting your bites feels tedious, a similar meal mindfulness hack you can incorporate is to take a sip of water between each bite, Patel says. You can also try putting your utensils down between each bite.
3. Add New Traditions To Mealtime
Sure, you spend time prepping your meals. But do you spend time preparing your meal space? Winquist recommends that you do. Intentionally crafting your eating environment will help you enjoy your meals more, as well as create inner harmony, she says.
“Try creating a nice relaxing dinnertime environment complete with relaxing music,” she suggests.
Additionally, have everyone you’re sharing a meal with keep their phones off the table, Winquist urges. “Being mindful of device use is a great family tradition for practicing presence with the meal and with one another,” she says.
4. Self-Reflect Before Snacking
It starts with a grumble and bubble in your belly…and ends with devouring your way through the pantry until you find that snack that hits the spot. Been there? Most of us have. “When we are hungry, our mind goes on autopilot and most of us grab whatever food is right in front of us,” says Patel. Unfortunately, the closest and fastest snacks are not always the most satisfying or satiating.
That’s why experts suggest taking the time to run through a list of questions before deciding what to nosh on. “Start by asking yourself if you’re fully hydrated,” says Winquist. “Oftentimes we mistake our thirst cues with hunger cues, thinking we’re hungry when we just need water,” she says. If it’s been a minute since you reached for your water bottle, try drinking eight ounces and pause for about 20 minutes. Still hungry after that? Head to the pantry!
Read More: Are You Dehydrated Without Even Knowing It?
Once you get there, ask yourself what flavor profile you’re truly craving. “Are you craving something sweet or salty?” Winquist asks. “If you’re craving something sweet, ask yourself if you’re really trying to get an emotional need met.” It’s common for people to want sugary foods when they’re feeling stressed or sad—and while reaching for these snacks is no big deal, you might experience greater relief if you care for yourself by reaching out to your support system, taking a short walk outdoors, or doing a mini yoga or meditation session, she suggests.
If a little self-reflection proves you actually are hungry and not just thirsty and/or sad and tired, Hanway recommends creating a mini-meal packed with veggies, protein, and healthy fat. “You might have crunchy chips and dips or veggie sticks and salsa and guacamole,” she says. “And if you’re craving something sweet, try dark chocolate-covered almonds.”
5. Meditate For Five Minutes A Day
Yes, just five minutes can make a difference, according to Winquist. Cultivating a meditation practice can help you reel in your thoughts if they begin to wander, she says. As a result, it gives you the power to steer your thoughts away from negative musings, she says. In fact, a 2016 study published in the journal of Personality and Individual Differences found a link between meditation frequency and both increased mindfulness and happiness.
There is no right or wrong way to meditate, so if you already have a meditation practice you enjoy, try bringing that practice into your life every single day.
If, however, you’re new to meditation, Hanway suggests trying breath-based meditation. Set a timer, then place your hands on your stomach or rib cage and feel your breath come and go. “You could even just place your hands on your heart, which can help connect your internal to your external,” she says.
6. Try Body Scanning
Body scanning is an accessible practice that involves lying on your back and then checking in with every single part of your body from your noggin to your knees to your toes, explains Patel. The point? To notice any areas that are feeling particularly light or heavy, tight or flexible, tense or loose. “This trains your mind to slow down and helps you recognize sensations in your body and the emotions that may be arising,” she says.
Her suggestion: Try body scanning for yourself the next time you have a moment to pause and lie down. “In the morning when you’re still lying in bed or at the end of the day are both good times,” she says. Ready? Assume a comfortable position on your yoga mat, bed, or carpet. Then, close your eyes and start scanning down, starting with your head. As you inhale and exhale deeply, ask yourself, “What do I feel here?” Acknowledge that sensation for a bit before transitioning to the next part of your body.
The goal here is not to fix any tension spots but simply to notice them, says Patel. As you tune into your body, you can then use the information you gather to pick whatever self-care practice you might need, whether that’s mindful breathing, another kind of meditation, exercise, sleep, or a walk outside.