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10 Ways to Be Mindful That Aren't Deep Breathing

When I introduce mindfulness to organizations, people usually think of deep breathing. While breathing and meditation are methods of mindfulness, there are hundreds of other ways we can be mindful!

10 Ways to Be Mindful That Aren't Deep Breathing - people meditating

If we want to start incorporating mindfulness into our day-to-day lives at home and at work (which, if you're trauma-informed, you do want to do), then we need to expand our understanding of what mindfulness is.

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing one's attention to the present moment.

While this can be accomplished with well-known methods such as deep breathing or meditation, mindfulness is less about "calming the mind" and more about paying attention to what's happening, whether it is calm or not.

Mindfulness refers to the process of acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. When we are mindful, we are intentional. Essentially, we are carefully turning off our "autopilot" and carefully tuning into reality.

Mindfulness is a simple concept that can have profound effects on mental well-being, stress reduction, and overall happiness. Intentional and mindfulness are essential for trauma healing, which is why understanding what it can look like is foundational.

Here are ten examples of mindfulness that have nothing to do with deep breathing!

A person mindfully walking alone

1. Mindful Walking

Walking, running, and hiking are all great practices for grounding in your body. When we mindfully engage in these activities, we are aware of how our body and mind feel.

We might reflect on our progress, observe our surroundings, or process something challenging that we experienced.

This practice can be done anywhere, from a busy city street to a quiet park to the hallway of an office building, and it's a great way to integrate mindfulness into your daily routine.

A skeleton being mindful

2. Body Scans

A body scan is a mindfulness technique where you mentally scan your body from head to toe, noticing any sensations, tensions, or discomfort. This practice helps you become more aware of your body.

Body scans also give us a place to practice the challenging technique of slowing down. How slowly can you scan your body?

A body scan can also fit into a mindful minute. Have you ever noticed that if you pay attention carefully, there's a slight tingle in your fingers? Congratulations. You just did a mini-body scan!

A charcuterie board

3. Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is the practice of paying full attention to the experience of eating, savoring each bite, and noticing the flavors, textures, and smells of your food.

When we're caught up in our busy lives, we tend to skip lunch or speed through it. What did you have for lunch yesterday? The day before that? If it's hard to remember, it might be because you were eating on autopilot.

Mindful eating has many benefits. It can help you enjoy your meals more, improve digestion, and prevent overeating.

Who knew paying attention to your snacks could be a trauma-informed practice?

A person mindfully listening to music

4. Listening to Music Mindfully

We often listen to music, but more often than not, we're just hearing noise. Mindful listening means really listening.

Listening to music mindfully means giving the music your full attention, noticing the different instruments, melodies, and rhythms. When we mindfully listen to music, we might also contemplate the lyrics or how the music makes us feel.

This can be a powerful way to center yourself in the present moment and experience a deep sense of enjoyment and relaxation.

A young person looking through a magnifying glass at a flower garden

5. Mindful Observation

Mindful observation is a fancy way to say pay attention. When we carefully consider reality, whether our internal or external world, we are mindfully observing.

For example, you might choose an object and observe it with your full attention, noticing its colors, shapes, and textures. Whether it's a leaf, a flower, or a piece of art, mindful observation can help you appreciate the beauty in the world around you and cultivate a sense of wonder and curiosity.

A person writing in a journal

6. Gratitude Journaling

Journaling in general is a great practice to cultivate self-awareness and make space for reflection.

Gratitude journaling involves writing down things you're grateful for each day. This simple task can take just a few minutes, and it's a great way to support the trauma-informed paradigm shift.

This practice can shift your focus from what's lacking in your life to what's abundant, fostering a sense of appreciation and contentment.

A person stretching

7. Mindful Movement or Yoga

Mindful movement or yoga involves paying attention to your body's movements and how it feels as you stretch and move. This can help you connect with your body and reduce stress.

Mindful movement could look like a 30-minute yoga session. It can also look like a mindful minute where you stretch your arms at your desk, roll your ankles and wrists, or adjust your posture.

Close up of colored pencils

8. Mindful Coloring or Art

Adult coloring books are becoming more and more popular, and we support it! In our training workbooks, we include many coloring pages for participants to color during our professional development events.

Engaging in creative activities like coloring or making art can be a form of mindfulness. Creativity lives in our executive functioning centers, which means that coloring can help keep us grounded and out of trauma brain!

a blank journal

9. Debriefing Triggers

Trigger care is an integral part of any care plan, and trigger care involves what we do before, during, and after a trigger occurs.

Debriefing triggers involves reflecting on moments when you were emotionally triggered, understanding why it happened, and considering what you need to process or let go of.

This practice can help you become more aware of your emotional patterns and learn to respond rather than react.

Debriefing triggers can be paired with any mindful activity on (or not on) this list! You can reflect on your triggers while walking, knitting, exercising, sitting quietly, listening to music, and more.

Two people taking a coffee break together

10. Mindful Break

Sometimes we can get so swept away by our work or our emotions (or both!) that we fall into a trauma state without realizing it. Without access to our executive functioning skills, we fail to consider new information, learn, think critically, or manage our emotions.

Taking a mindful break means intentionally stepping away from work or daily tasks to recharge. This could involve going for a short walk, listening to calming music, or simply sitting quietly and focusing on your breath.

The key is to do something that helps you reset and refocus.

A piece of paper that says mindfulness

Final Thoughts: Learn more ways to be mindful

Mindfulness is a versatile practice that can be adapted to suit your individual needs and preferences, and there is no one right way to be mindful.

In exploring these overlooked methods of mindfulness, I hope that you discovered new ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life and experience its many benefits.

Remember, the ultimate goal is to find practices that resonate with you and help you slow down and engage more fully with the present moment.

What's your favorite mindfulness practice? Share your ideas with our community in the comments below!


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