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A young person with eyes closed sits and meditates A young person with eyes closed sits and meditates

5 ways to feel more present in your day-to-day routine

Posted: SEP 13, 2021

If you’re like most people, you’ve got a rhythm to the way you go about your day. Wake up. Eat breakfast. Go to work. Run errands. Brush teeth. Head to bed. Repeat.

Routines are a natural way to keep all your to-dos neat, organized, and achievable. But, when you live life by the schedule, it’s easy to go on autopilot. And before you know it, you’re more focused on getting things done than enjoying the things you do.

To make the most of these moments, we recommend a different approach: turning your mindless routines into mindful rituals. “Rituals bring concentration, mindfulness, and meaning into your daily life,” says Michael Torres, PsyD, a clinical psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente. “With a ritualistic mindset, you’ll pay more careful attention to details, think more thoughtfully, and take pride in the work you complete.”

Here are 5 ways to transform any routine into an engaging, motivating ritual.

Focus on the moment

Instead of zoning out and letting your mind stagnate, take a moment to slow down and engage with what’s in front of you. When brushing your teeth, focus on the movement of every stroke, from the top row, to the bottom row, to the gums. While washing dishes, concentrate on every dish, every wipe, and how you set them to dry. “By being mindful with every action,” says Dr. Torres, “you can help promote a sense of presence and connect with the ‘now’ in a meaningful way.”

Practice gratitude

Practicing gratitude means giving thanks for the important things in your life. For starters, show some love to your family and friends. And don’t just think it — say it! Taking a moment to express how they bring you joy can help you relive fond memories together. It can also cause a chain reaction of smiles that’ll brighten your day and theirs.

You can express gratitude for other things, too, like fun experiences, good health, or food on the table. For an easy everyday ritual, try giving thanks whenever you eat — every snack, every meal. “Giving thanks at mealtime is a great way to connect as a family and prepare for mindful eating,” says Dr. Torres. That’s a double whammy for mental well-being.

Take in your surroundings

When you’re following a routine, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. You’re so focused on completing the task that the environment around you fades into blurry shapes and white noise.

Instead of rushing forward with a one-track mind, take the time to observe your surroundings. Concentrate on the sights, sounds, scents, and sensations of your environment as if you’re experiencing them for the first time. By engaging with what’s around you, you’ll feel the stress and immediacy of your tasks naturally start to tone down.

Reflect with your family

Practicing gratitude is a great way to start off any family dinner, but why stop there? Dr. Torres recommends using part of your table time to check in with the rest of your family members. Encourage everyone to reflect by sharing something positive and negative about their day. Noticing the parts of life that are going well — and not so well — doesn’t just reengage you with the past. It can also give you a fresh perspective and build a positive state of mind for what’s ahead.

Make time for meditation

Meditation is a great way to calm your mind and relax — especially during downtime, like those quiet moments before and after sleep.

Of course, the health benefits of meditation speak for themselves. “Meditation is really useful for reducing stress, improving focus and concentration, practicing relaxation, and filling the brain with positivity. It can also help us problem solve, gain perspective, and remind ourselves about what’s important in life.”

You don’t need to turn every routine into a ritual, especially all at once. Start slow — just one activity at a time. Pay attention to how your body and mind respond along the way. Are you less stressed?  Better rested? In a happier mood? From there, look for other opportunities to add rituals to your day. Like any skill, the more you practice, the more mindful you’ll be in your everyday life.

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