Anchoring Our Attention: Everyday Practices

Slow down to be more present and engaged in life

In order to get better at noticing when we have become lost in our thoughts and anchoring our attention to the present, we need to get into the habit of checking in with ourselves throughout each day.

There are various ways we can integrate mindfulness into our daily lives to help cultivate the ability to better sustain our focus and awareness.

Finding Your Ground

Finding your ground involves using your senses to become more aware of your present experience.

For some men, sensing the breath can help us feel grounded. For others, it’s helpful to notice our physical connection with the world, literally how we are supported by it – the feeling of our weight on a chair or our feet on the ground.

When we’re stuck in our thoughts, such as patterns of worry or rumination, it can be helpful to come back to something that grounds us. It can help us disengage from upsetting memories or emotions, decreasing reactivity, and giving us more space to see how to best respond.

You can practice this anytime through the day, or when you start to feel stuck in difficult thoughts or emotions:

  1. Start by finding an anchor that helps you to feel grounded. Here are some options:
    • The soles of the feet
    • The points of contact with the seat
    • The hands
    • The breath
    • Sounds
  2. Gather attention at the anchor. Notice whatever is here, perhaps a sense of connection, stability, groundedness. Bring an open curiosity to the coming and going of sensations.
  3. After a few moments, check back in with your internal weather pattern (sensations, thoughts, emotions)

Mindful Eating

Although we have been practicing mindfulness using the breath or other areas of the body as the anchor for our attention, anything we want to intentionally focus on can serve as our anchor to the present moment – including our daily activities.

To help bring mindfulness more regularly into your life, we will walk through the practice of mindful eating. In this mindful activity, you’ll continue to develop the skill of being present in a context that is highly relevant to daily life.

It may be helpful to pick a specific meal or snack time when you can devote some time and attention to eating.

Just like for the breath awareness practice, you can take a comfortable posture, releasing any tension from your body.

1. Pretend you haven’t had the food before

  • Explore bringing a beginner’s mind to the experience of eating – approaching the food as if you’ve never seen or tasted it before.

2. Begin to eat

  • You might choose to eat a little slower than usual to take in the full experience.

3. Go through each of your senses

  • Go through each of your senses As best as you can, connect with the direct experience of each sense, then come up with a few words to describe each one:
    • Sight
    • Smell
    • Taste
    • Touch
    • Sound

4. Notice any thoughts or emotions that arise while eating

  • Gently redirect your attention back to the experience of eating.

5. Wind down

  • When the food is done (or you are full), slowly transition into the rest of your day.

Think of being at a sports bar on a wing night. You’re served a plate of golden-brown, crispy wings. As you take the first bite, you slow down to notice the crisp outside and tender, smoky inside. You can hear the crunch with each bite, and feel the heat at the top of your mouth. You lick the tangy sweet glaze off of each of your fingers before picking up the next one.

By focusing on the sensory experiences of eating, you practice directing and maintaining your focus, just as you do when concentrating on the breath. You also have the opportunity to bring a curious interest to a range of sensory experiences, some of which may be pleasant, others of which may be unpleasant.

As distractions will inevitably arise during the meal, gently redirecting attention back to the experience of eating cultivates the ability to shift attention effectively.

Mindful eating also encourages us to think before we act by fostering a greater awareness of our emotions, which can help to prevent emotional eating (e.g., reaching for comfort food when feeling anxious or depressed). Recognizing our patterns and making conscious choices around food can lead to healthier eating habits and improved emotional regulation.

Think of being at a sports bar on a wing night. You’re served a plate of mouth-watering wings with that perfect golden-brown crispiness. As you indulge, you slow down to really savour the tender, smoky meat mixed with the tangy sweetness of the sauce. You can hear the satisfying crush with each bite, hot enough to almost burn the top of your mouth. You lick the glaze off of each of your fingers before picking up the next one.