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Mindfulness. Think it’s just a buzzword? Think again. The benefits of being mindful – being present and conscious of life as it happens – is actually backed up by tons of research.

Here’s what you have to look forward to when you become more mindful:

  • Increased body awareness
  • Increased self-awareness
  • Increased protection for your brain from mental illness and stress
  • Increased ability to process and regulate emotions
  • Lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol

Your sleep schedule, immune system and even your personal relationships can all be enhanced by mindfulness, too. In short – it rocks. So how do you get started?

Mindfulness is pretty simple. The basic idea is to raise your awareness of the world around you by paying attention to the present moment, observing without judgement and releasing worries about the past or future. The easiest way is to take a few deep breaths and focus on the present moment. But if you crave some variety and want to work in mindfulness whenever you can, here are five crazy ways to be more mindful every day.

  • Eat slower and savor your food – If you make a habit of scrambling to eat at your desk, it’s time to make a change. Consciously eating each meal instead of wolfing it down will help you notice the details and clear your mind. You have three (or more) opportunities every day to stop, eat and observe. During your meal, pay close attention to the details of your experience. Take in the sights, sounds and smells you’re experiencing.
  • Become a mental shutterbug – Even though your smartphone is always on hand, try taking photos with your mind. Yes, you read that right. Mental pictures are actually a form of mindfulness practice. Pausing, looking around and taking a mental “snap” of the images around you will help you focus on the details. Best of all – you can try it right now! (Go ahead…I’ll wait). What did you notice?
  • Pretend you’re an interviewer – When you’re talking with a friend or colleague, how often are you thinking of the next thing that you want to say? Practice mindfulness in conversations by pretending that you’re an interviewer. Focus on your “interview subject” and listen attentively. You’ll instantly be drawn into the moment and out of your own head – and you’ll be a better friend and coworker as well.
  • Relax your muscles – Stretching, massages and low impact exercise can all create a more mindful state, but who has the time? Try progressive muscle relaxation on a daily basis to boost your mindfulness, and you can do it right in your desk chair. Starting at your toes, concentrate on tensing and then releasing parts of your body. You’ll create more body awareness and become more present.
  • Turn chores into a form of meditation – When you get home from a long day at the office, and you need to make dinner, clean the bathroom and vacuum the floor it can feel defeating. Instead of slogging through your cooking and cleaning, try turning these everyday tasks into a mindfulness meditation. Put your entire focus on the task in front of you, concentrate and move slowly through each motion. You’ll get your chores done and slow down your mind.

Mindfulness is more than just a buzzword, and with this variety of ideas you’ll have no excuse to not be more mindful.