Summer is the season for warm weather, gardens in full bloom, farmers market visits, vacations and relaxation.
Although the season has changed our environment and some of our daily activities, we may still find ourselves hurrying to get through the day. Mindfulness can help us hit the pause button even for a few moments to enjoy our day more fully and slow things down. Don’t let the beautiful season of summer pass you by as you rush through the day on auto-pilot. Try a few of these mindfulness activities instead.
Taste Your Drink
When is the last time you tasted your morning cup of coffee or tea? We are in such a hurry to rush through our morning routine that we don’t actually take the time to taste what we are drinking.
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction fame, defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.”
As temperatures rise, summer offers an opportunity to enjoy an iced drink. Use a few of your senses and these suggestions to mindfully enjoy your next cold drink. Take a moment to feel the condensation on the glass you are holding with your fingers, and then take a moment to smell your iced coffee or tea as if you are doing a wine tasting. Inhale the aroma and pause. What do you notice about your drink? Is the smell familiar? Comforting?
Finally, taste your coffee or tea. Try to savor what you are tasting. Note the flavor and how the cold temperature of the drink makes you feel.
You may even want to take this activity a step further by thinking about where your coffee or tea came from. Try to imagine the beans or tea leaves that were grown in another country, harvested, treated, and shipped off to your local shop. Think about the people whose hard work led to your cup of coffee or tea from the people harvesting the beans or tea leaves to the truck driver who transported the finished products to the shop to the barista who made your drink for you to enjoy (and if you are your own barista, express a little self-gratitude).
Go on a Sensory Nature Walk
This can be a fun family activity or one you can enjoy on your own. Choose a familiar place for your nature walk that you can experience in a new and open way. Allow extra time for your walk to prevent feeling rushed. Walk at a slow and steady pace and take breaks to pause and observe your surroundings.
Instead of passively taking a walk, allow your senses to be activated as you listen for birds, dragonflies, and perhaps even toads or frogs if you’re walking near water. How many different bird calls can you hear?
Look up at the sky and notice what shade of blue it is today or if there are any puffs of clouds. You can admire the wide range of colors and shapes of any flowers in bloom.
Use your sense of touch to feel the rough bark of a tree and its smooth leaves.
Finally, don’t forget to stop and smell a few fragrant flowers.
Coloring—it’s not just for children! Recently, coloring books for adults have become quite popular. The mindfulness activity of coloring allows you to focus on one activity and prevents multi-tasking if you truly take the time to color a picture. If your children are at the age in which they enjoy coloring, buy a book for yourself and color with them (be warned that your book may become more interesting to the child than his or her own, so you may end up swapping your intricate mandala book for a Disney or PBS coloring book).
Coloring with your children is quality screen-free time. Focus on the movements of your colored pencil or crayon. Take time to choose your color palette. Be thoughtful in your choices and allow yourself to be drawn into the activity of coloring instead of your thoughts.
Enjoy a Mindful Snack
Mindful eating is another popular trend. One way to enjoy a mindful snack is to start by visiting your local farmer’s market or perhaps try a grocery store that is new to you. Observe the colorful displays at the market or grocery store. Choose a favorite food, or perhaps try something new.
After choosing a few fresh items, have a picnic (weather permitting). Take some time to arrange the food in a fun display on your plate, and have your children help create their own designs with food on their plates.
Notice the bright colors and various shapes of the fruits and vegetables (or other food) on your plate as you admire your display. And like the other mindfulness activities, imagine the various people who are involved in your meal, from the farmers to the workers who pick the fruit/vegetables, the truck drivers who deliver the food, the people who work at the farmers market or grocery store, the clerk that helped you at check out, and so on.
Take a moment to smell your food. And finally taste it. Chew slowly. Notice the texture of the food, and how it feels in your mouth. Take your time, enjoy, and appreciate the snack of your choice.
Social Media Detox
It is very easy to get caught up in our social media feeds and we are often stuck looking at small screens rather than the big world around us. I’m not suggesting to never use your smartphone again. They are helpful tools that are becoming a necessity in our modern society.
But if you’re looking for a few ways to increase your screen-free time, here are a few suggestions:
- Put on your do not disturb during meals or during quality time with family or friends.
- Call someone instead of texting them so you can engage in a meaningful conversation.
- Meet up with friends and converse with them without reaching for the phone every ten minutes.
These may seem like very simple suggestions, but as we become more dependent on our phones, it can be hard to disconnect from them. And to echo Dr. Kabat-Zinn, we should practice this “non-judgmentally.” Don’t scold yourself if you noticed that you reached for your phone out of habit one too many times while out with friends. Mindfulness is a practice, and we are all learning how to balance technology use in our lives.
Mindfulness Activities Offer the Gift of Attention
As Thich Nhat Hanh said:
“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.”
I like to think of mindfulness activities as a way to connect with ourselves and with others. We are given an opportunity to see the connections we have with family, friends, and even people we have never met by taking the time to be mindful during our typical daily routine. One cup of coffee can connect us to hundreds of people who were involved in “making” our drink. Mindfulness activities such as coloring or going on a nature walk can connect us to our children by spending quality time with them.
Mindfulness helps us to pause, enjoy and appreciate.
Jennifer Mazzoni M.S. CCC-SLP, is a full-time mom, part-time Speech Language Pathologist, and she works part-time in a rehabilitation setting. She lives with her husband, two daughters, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in the Chicago area. Follow her blog, Help Mama Meditate, and catch her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!
Editor: Dana Gornall
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