What do you do to relax in your spare time? Whether your favourite hobby, sport or pastime is creative, energetic, relaxing or nurturing, you can get more from doing what you love by practising mindfulness while you do it!
If you love home-baking…
You can be mindful of the textures of the different ingredients. Bring your awareness to your hands and really feel the dough you’re kneading or the consistency of the butter as you’re rubbing it into the flour. Then use your nose – what do the ingredients smell like, before, during and after you take them out of the oven?
Don’t forget to eat your creation mindfully too! Take time to really savour the end results of your baking instead of eating your cake while you’re working at the computer or watching TV.
If you love running or walking…
Once you’ve warmed up and gotten into your stride, think about the rhythm of your footfalls.
Start with the sound your feet make as they connect with the ground. Really listen. Is the rhythm constant or does it alter as you go up or downhill? How do the changing surfaces you’re running or walking over sound different?
Next, become aware of your feet. Concentrate on what you feel as each foot touches the ground, as you transfer your weight onto that foot and then push away from the ground again. Then gradually move your awareness up from your feet, through your ankles, lower legs, knees, upper legs and hips, at each point feeling what the muscles and joints are doing. You can carry on moving your attention up through your body to include your lower back, abdomen, upper back, chest, shoulders and arms – how are the muscles here moving?
If you love arts and crafts…
You can focus on being aware of the feel of the paper or fabric you’re using, the texture of clay in your hands, or the tackiness of glue. Listen to the sound scissors make as you cut paper, yarn or card. Observe the smells of paints and varnishes – do some smells make your nose tingle or make you want to sneeze?
When you’ve finished something new, sit back and really look at what you’ve created. Notice which colours you love using together. What are your favourite materials and shapes?
Put your new piece of mindfully-created art or craft somewhere where you’ll see it often, as a reminder of how you can bring mindfulness into your daily life.
If you love music…
Sit still to listen to your favourite music instead of doing chores at the same time – or, if you love dancing, give yourself five minutes to dance around your living room to your favourite song!
Focus on all the different sounds and tones you’re hearing within the music, on its rhythm and the emotions it contains. How does the music you’ve chosen make you feel – does it uplift you, calm you or inspire you?
If you play an instrument, play something you know well and concentrate on how you connect with your instrument. Focus on the parts of your body that are in contact with your guitar, piano, drum or flute. What vibrations can you feel there?
If you love gardening…
Take time out from digging, weeding or tidying to have a mindful walk around your garden, using as many senses as you can to really notice what’s there.
What can you hear in your garden – bees flying among the flowers or birds singing above you? If it’s autumn, give a seed-pod a gentle shake and listen to the seeds rattling inside. If it’s breezy, notice the sounds different plants make as they move.
Look at the colours of the plants in your garden and observe its areas of light and shade. Notice the subtle colours of tree bark and the undersides of leaves as well as the bright colours of flowers or berries. If it’s winter, notice how frost accentuates the shapes of bare branches – or how heavy snow changes the shapes of the plants it covers.
If you grow herbs, crush a few leaves of each kind in your fingers one at a time and breathe in each different scent – or sample the scents of your favourite flowers.
In summer, pick and taste your first strawberry or raspberry of the season – of peas straight from the pod – or try a leaf of your favourite cooking herb. Where do you notice the flavour most on your tongue? Notice the consistency of what you’re eating, as well as its taste and smell.
By being in the present moment…
…while you’re doing what you love, you’ll get much, much more from your leisure time. What do you love doing – and how can you be mindful while you’re doing it?