• Written by Clo Nickel

Mindfulness 101 - Informal Mindfulness

Mantra: Be Present

Most people associate mindfulness with meditation. While meditation can be a part of mindfulness, they are actually two separate practices.

Meditation is often referred to as “formal mindfulness.” The objective of meditation is to sit for a period of time training the mind to work with our internal thoughts, feelings and sensations. “Informal mindfulness” involves focusing our awareness on the present moment. In other words, it is an intentional, deliberate noticing of what is in our external surroundings using all of our senses.

"Living in the present" is not just a passing new-age phrase but rather an evidence-based therapeutic technique. Mindfulness teaches us to lessen rumination (repeatedly thinking of the same negative thoughts over and over) and can be effective at stopping us from habitually worrying about the future.

It gives our brain a CHOICE. To continue to be lost in our maladaptive thought patterns; or to bring awareness out of our busy minds, our attention into the present moment, and to intentionally take notice of what is happening in our external environment.


1. The first step of mindfulness is actively turning your attention to the sights, smells, and sensations surrounding you. Pause and look around.

What are you seeing? What are you hearing? What are you doing? What are you tasting? What are you smelling?

2. Take a mindful walk outdoors. Look up into the sky and really notice how the sky and clouds appear. Sense the wind or sun on your skin. Take notice of the trees. Look at the leaves and their design, look at the bark, and then notice if there are any birds in the tree. Listen for the rustling of the leaves or the chirping of the birds. Go ahead and touch the leaves, the tree trunk and feel the sensations under your fingertips. Inhale the scent. Describe the colours to yourself, the shape, the details. Take notice of buildings, people's faces, animals, or whatever else is in your environment. Open your eyes. Intentionally noticing life going on around you. This practice is what is meant by being fully "awake.”

3. Chose one activity and pay attention to every aspect of what you are doing. Bring your entire focus to daily activities such as drinking a cup of coffee, cooking, cleaning, doing the laundry etc. When you are engaged in this activity, take notice of what things look like, smell like, sound like, and taste like. When thoughts arise, train your mind to keep coming back to what you are engaged in, rather than habitually straying into the past or the future.

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