You've probably heard of mindfulness–it's one of those terms healthy types throw around willy-nilly, whether they're talking about eating or exercising more mindfully.
But we definitely don't blame you if you feel dubious or confused about what "practicing mindfulness" or "being more mindful" actually means.
Simply put, it just means living in the moment, noticing what's going on around you (and within you) rather than stressing about something that happened last night (or hasn't even happened yet). Mindfulness is all about being aware of your current surroundings and state of emotions, but in a really non-judgemental way.
Like if you start to feel anxious about your never ending to-do list, the goal is to think, "I'm having feelings of anxiety about all the work I need to get done," and then just get on with tackling said list.
Compare that to the more typical thoughts we have when looking at our to-do lists: "Oh shit I am never going to finish all this so I'm probably going to get fired and lose my flat and become homeless." Not the best use of your brain space.
Although many of us associate mindfulness with meditation in a candlelit room, studies suggest practicing mindfulness throughout our everyday lives has loads of psychological and physical benefits, like a stronger immune system, healthier eating habits and better memory.
And it's a lot easier to do than you think. Here are some useful tips from psychologist and life coach Natalie Thomas (who counts Rihanna among her clients) for being more mindful throughout the day.
1. In the shower
Instead of worrying about the day ahead, focus on how all of your senses are being engaged: Enjoy the fragrance of your shower gel, the warmth of the water, the way it feels when it hits your face and back.
2. Before you leave the house for work
Before rushing out, take a few minutes to really say goodbye to your other half, flatmate, or even just the cat. Listen to them say goodbye (meow) and take a moment to feel that connection and love. If you live alone, take time to be grateful for your home and all the hard work you do to keep it up. It sounds cheesy, but research shows taking time to be thankful for the little things in life is amazing for the health of your heart.
3. During your commute
Social media updates, timelines and news feeds can take up all of our time if we let them (that's kind of the point). Practice a 15-minute cut-off point throughout the day, where you look at them for 15 minutes, then switch off to focus on other tasks, like reading or listening to a podcast. You'll be more productive whilst staying in the loop.
4. When you look at your to-do list
When you have tasks to complete or deadlines to meet, instead of rushing straight into things, sit still for a couple of minutes whilst paying attention to the rhythm of your breathing. It sounds counter intuitive, but it will actually help you to feel calm and focused; and research shows it will help you be more successful with your tasks.
5. At lunch
Find a quiet place to eat, and no checking your mobile! Enjoy the park on a summer day or take a walk away from your desk to find a different place to sit. Enjoy and chew your food slowly and thoughtfully. You'll feel more satisfied, make healthier choices and keep your desk cleaner (the average desk is really, really dirty, FYI).
6. After work
Take a few minutes to write down everything you're happy about and thankful for in a gratitude journal. Writing on your journal is a proven stress reliever, and in addition to making you happier generally, it's also really fun to look back at old journals in the future.
7. Set yourself a challenge
Do a random act of kindness every day for the next seven days. Anything from doing your grandma's laundry for her to paying for a stranger's green juice. You'll be amazed at how happy giving to others can makes you feel, and studies show it can have a kindness ripple effect, making the world that bit nicer. And who doesn't want that?
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.co.uk. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.