7 Mindfulness Practices that Aren't Meditation

There's no debate that meditation is great practice to help someone become present and detach from the negative chatter in his mind; it's powerful for shifting one's mood and increasing one's sense of peacefulness. However, there are several other activities we can do mindfully that will have similar effects: help us to focus on the present and stop the stream of thoughts that seem ceaseless. With just a little bit of mindfulness, the simplest activity is turned into a mindfulness practice. Here are some of my faves:

Mindful Walking: Stay in the present moment. Notice your thoughts want to go to what happened at work that morning, or a conversation that hasn't even taken place, and stop them. Choose, instead, to focus on the color of the leaves, or the shape of the clouds. Observe the details of your surroundings. 

Cooking: Most of the time, we prepare food to eat, but we don't do it mindfully, meaning, as we're cooking, we're stressed over our jobs, or screaming at our kids. Play some soft music, and get into the rhythm of chopping vegetables, stirring sauces, and kneading dough. Let the repetitive action of cooking take you out of your head and soothe you.

Dancing: Stress and anger gets stuck in our bodies. When we move and let ourselves stretch and sway, we move the energy, releasing it. We allow ourselves to have fun.

Write in a Gratitude Journal: When we appreciate people, places, and situations, we lift our mood and shift our energy. When writing in a gratitude journal, we can start with the basics: that we have clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe. Being grateful for our lives gives us perspective, when otherwise, our minds would go to the trivial (a comment someone said, or a complaint we have about a partner.

Do Something Creative: I love making jewelry because it takes me out of my thought stream. When we focus on which bead to use, or what color to paint a flower, we're not worrying or thinking negative thoughts. We allow ourselves to feel peaceful, express ourselves, and have fun.

Go Somewhere Different: When we follow the same routine and go to the same places, it becomes a challenge to be present. We fail to notice the cherry blossom tree that's on our street. The moment we go somewhere new, we notice details; we allow ourselves to really see what's around us and appreciate its beauty.

Grow Something: A great mindfulness practice is getting our hands in the dirt and connecting with nature. Gardening allows us to experience the beauty of nature, and it's a reminder that we are creative beings. We can plant a seed and watch it grow into a full plant.