Sometimes meditation is not what we’re after – and that’s okay. Each one of us requires something unique in any moment to help us find peace, ease, and contentment. Meditation isn’t the only answer. Thankfully, there are plenty of tools and practices we can explore to help us tap into what we’re looking for.
However, it begs the question: If we’ve decided in a particular moment that meditation is not what our heart yearns for, does that mean mindfulness is out of the picture as well? Luckily, the answer to that question is ‘no’.
Mindfulness without meditation is always available to us; it is not reliant upon formal practice. Since mindfulness and meditation are not synonymous with one another, it is more than possible to explore each one individually.
So, where do we begin if we want to deepen our capacity for mindfulness without meditation? Since mindfulness is simply the practice of paying open and non-judgmental attention for a sustained period of time, we can practice it no matter what we are doing. The following are examples of how we can do just that.
9 Ways to Practice Mindfulness Without Meditation
1. Notice the sensations of walking the next time you head outside.
Though mindfulness might commonly be associated with stillness, it is not a practice exclusive to non-movement. The next time you head out, take some time to notice the way your feet hit the earth. Slow down your movements if that helps you to be more attentive. Alternatively, you can practice this in your home as you move from room to room.
2. Spend five to ten minutes cuddling a pet, admiring a plant, or resting in the grass.
In the simple moments of our everyday life, we can practice mindfulness by being fully attentive to the smallest of pleasures. What life forms can we tend to with an open and grateful heart?
Spend some time noticing how it feels to brush the coat of a furry friend, stroke the leaves of an indoor plant, or rest in the grass amidst the breeze and fresh aromas. Open your senses fully to this experience of presence.
3. Give your next meal your full, unwavering attention.
Mindful eating is another practice that does not have to take the shape of formal meditation. The next time you eat a meal or snack, put away your phone and your computer and notice the simple, raw sensations of eating.
What do your hunger cues feel like? What does it feel like when each bite hits your tongue? What does it feel like when your belly slowly fills? Remain curious and non-judgmental of this process.
4. Scan the room you are in and make note of five things you are grateful for.
Gratitude practice is a simple expression of mindful awareness that does not have to be formal. Wherever you are now, take a moment to scan the room. With a soft mind and open heart, note five things you have to be grateful for. From wide open windows to a table to eat from, we can cultivate gratitude for the simplest of things.
5. Take a walk through nature with open senses.
The natural world is a remarkable place to practice mindfulness. As you walk through the forest, along the beach, or in some other natural setting, notice when the mind is lost in thought and then bring it back to your surroundings. Be attentive to the sights, the sounds, and the aromas of the area you are in. Notice, too, how your heart feels to be here. What inspires you about this place?
6. Note what it feels like to wake up in the morning.
Upon waking, you can take an opportunity to practice mindfulness by holding off from picking up your phone or climbing out of bed. Instead, tend to your surroundings with curiosity as if you are awaking for the first time. Note how the light filters into your room, where the shadows are, and how your body feels.
7. During your next conversation, listen with an open heart and quiet mind.
Another perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness without meditation is when we are in conversation with someone. The next time you find yourself speaking to someone, let your periods of listening be intentional.
Can you open to what the other person is saying with curiosity and compassion? Be aware that the mind often judges, assesses, or formulates a response before someone is finished talking. Notice if this occurs and come back to what is being said with open and heart and mind.
8. Become curious about your cravings and habits.
The next time your mind says, “I desperately need another cup of coffee,” or “I wonder what’s happening in my social feed,” take a moment’s pause to notice what energies are beneath the surface.
Our cravings and habitual actions are wonderful opportunities to become more mindful about what drives us. Are we grasping something or trying to escape from something? Cultivate compassion as you explore this.
9. Spend five to ten minutes journaling mindfully.
Lastly, journal writing can be a wonderful mindfulness practice to consider when meditation isn’t calling us. You can practice mindful journaling by setting an intention to be honest, open, and curious about the words that fall onto the page as you let them flow freely.
After a short while writing, read back the words you’ve written, becoming curious about where they arose from. You might also use mindfulness worksheets to prompt you in curious, compassionate, and mindful directions.