Techniques and Tricks for Staying Mindful Throughout the Day

I recently answered a great question on Quora requesting some specific techniques, reminders and tricks we can use to continue to practice mindfulness or stay mindful throughout our day. It's all about little habits, over and over. Here is the full answer:

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I love this question. So often, we approach new things as something to check off our to-do list. Once it’s done, I can forget about it for the rest of the day.

  • Get groceries [check]
  • Meditate [check]
  • Be nice [check]

But life isn’t like that. Mindfulness isn’t like that. Ideally, our mindfulness practice helps us to be able to pull ourselves back into the present moment many times throughout the day. That’s the purpose of a practice. Not to sit in bliss for 20 minutes and then go yell at someone during our drive to work.

So thank you for the question.

Now, onto some tips you can use. Bringing mindfulness to our day can be just like trying to bring any new habit into our lives. (Check out The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business for some in-depth exploration into this.)

Basically, we need to understand what queues in our environment or lives help to produce an action. For example, I might bite my nails before every meeting with my boss. The queue - meeting with my boss - causes anxiety, which produces the habit.

To create a new, positive habit, we can identify and introduce some queues. Some you might try:

  • Take 5 full, deep breaths at every red light you encounter during your drive to work. (Other tips to Zap the Stress From Your Commute)
  • Before you walk into a meeting, stop and check in with your body. Feel your feet on the ground, notice if you’re tense anywhere, depth and pace of your breath.
  • On your lunch break, take 5 minutes to do a walking meditation before heading back to work.

The idea in all of these is that we’re introducing a small habit into encounters or events that happen every day. Little by little we can bring ourselves into mindful awareness.

You can also introduce an outside stimulus to remind you to be mindful. Some samples:

  • Set an alarm on your phone to go off at random times during the day. When it goes off, stop everything you’re doing and take 3 deep breaths or practice focusing on your breath for 30 seconds to a minute.
  • Some email clients let you create an alert before you send an email message, asking if you’re sure you want to send. Enable the alert and every time you see it (before you send your message), stop, breathe and imagine telling the person you’re sending the email to “I wish you health and happiness.”
  • Other ideas for you to Start Your Mindfulness Practice Today

Finally, you can introduce some daily habits that require you to pay attention in a way that cultivates mindfulness and compassion.

  • Start a daily gratitude journal. Write 3 things you’re grateful for every day. This helps you to focus your mind on the positive aspects of your life instead of getting mired in the negative. Here is My Personal Daily Gratitude Practice.
  • Write thank you notes regularly. Or make public declarations toward coworkers, friends, etc. of gratitude for the things they bring to your life. This, too, helps you to look for jewels of good in the everyday goings on. Some other tips on how to Make Your Workplace a Grateful Place.

These are all just ideas. There are thousands more, I’m sure. Keep searching for what works for you. Experiment and see what sticks. Good luck. You’re on a great path.