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3 Practical Ways To Use Mindfulness Daily, But First, Sushi
Health & Fitness

3 Practical Ways To Use Mindfulness Daily, But First, Sushi

Our day-to-day activities might be overwhelming and engaging in practical ways to use mindfulness will help lower the stress.


5 min read

April 15, 2022

 Joey Estella LMFT, is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist, EMDR Practitioner, and Mindset Training & Performance Coach, based in Long Beach, CA. 

Before I get to the 3 practical ways to apply mindfulness, let’s first discuss food, specifically sushi. Stick around and I promise to make sense.

In some sushi restaurants, plates of sushi and a variety of other Japanese dishes are served on a conveyor belt, kind of like the baggage claim at an airport. One makes its way in front of you and gives two options: reach for that dish and proceed to enjoy your meal, or wait and give other dishes a chance.

What is mindfulness?

Choose whether to grab the dish in front of you or wait for another one.

What does the ingenuity of serving sushi on a conveyor belt have to do with mindfulness? The definition of mindfulness is often a version of the following:

 “To be mindful is to bring your full awareness to the present moment, then observe and accept your thoughts nonjudgmentally.”

That definition sounds great, but what does all it really mean? To be mindful means you are sitting at the restaurant that is your mind and your thoughts are on the menu. Just like at the sushi restaurant, these thoughts are looping around and making laps in front of you. You have a few options:

  1. Reach out and grab a hold of that thought, lifting it off the conveyor belt of your brain and placing it in front of you where you’ll proceed to chew on it.
  2. Choose to notice that a thought has appeared in front of you, accept that the thought is there, say “ok, that’s interesting, thanks, but no thanks,” let that particular thought continue on its journey, and curiously look ahead for the other thoughts you might want to chew on instead.

On occasion, you will grab thoughts off the conveyor belt and realize that it’s a plate full of regrets, a dish of worries about the future, or a moldy bowl of mean self-criticism. There’s no need to judge yourself for picking the wrong dish, you can simply place it back on the conveyor belt of your mind, send it on its way, and choose a plate of better thoughts. Our brains are constantly trying to serve us thousands of thoughts a day, not all of them appetizing. Sometimes, we are aware of the thoughts we chew on, and we sometimes drift into autopilot and chew on a bunch of thoughts that don’t make us feel good. You are not your thoughts, you are the observer of your thoughts, and you get to choose which ones you focus on and which ones you let pass.  

Pick which thoughts you want to focus on and which to let go of.

3 Mindfulness Practicing Techniques

Mindfulness is something you can practice on a daily basis by following certain methods that are not considered to be difficult at all.

1. Choose good thoughts ahead of time:  

The great and wise Oprah Winfrey once said “what you dwell on is what you become.”  Some people refer to this as “setting your intention.” If you’re going to be faced with a stressful situation, take a test, go on an interview, be around people who are difficult; make a short list of thoughts ahead of time to focus on. The thoughts can be as simple as “I’ve got this”, “I am not giving up”, “I’m uncomfortable, but I’ll be alright”, “I will do my best, and let the chips fall where they may”, and “I can figure this out”.

Going into tough situations can set the table for your brain to offer thoughts that fuel anxiety, fear, panic, and sadness. It’s easier to ignore unhelpful messages and to choose thoughts that fuel resilience when you’ve already set your intention ahead of time. You’ve got this!

2. Focus your attention on an activity:

Do you ever notice yourself thinking the same thing over and over, have no clue how it got there, and can’t seem to let go of it? No matter how many times you put that unwanted plate of stressful messages back on the conveyor belt, it feels like you constantly keep choosing and chewing on the same unwanted thoughts. Focusing your attention on an activity can help interrupt this cycle by giving your mind something else to concentrate on.

Focusing on your breath is known to calm both body and mind.

Individuals in the industry, myself included, like to say “focus on your breath” which is decent advice. The activity of breathing is always available as an option to focus on, and also provides the opportunity to breathe slower, calming your body and mind. You can turn anything into a mindful activity, the trick is giving it your full attention. For example, you can focus on the activity of pouring water into a glass and give that your full attention. Notice everything about it, from the sound the water makes as you pour, to how much pressure you’re using to hold the glass, to the way the water refracts the light.

Focus on taking a walk, focus on sipping a cup of coffee, focus on listening to music playlists, focus on journaling. Will your mind continue to bombard you with unhelpful thoughts? Yes. Does the continued existence of those annoying thoughts mean you are doing something wrong? Not at all! Those thoughts are on the conveyor belt and they will eventually loop their way back to you, and that’s ok. Choose to let those thoughts pass and instead, gently divert your full attention to your breath, that glass of water, your favorite song, your afternoon walk.

Pay attention to every aspect of pouring water into a glass.

3. Identify the bad thoughts and then ask yourself “what else?”

Imagine you are back at the sushi restaurant and you see someone across from you grabbing stuff off the conveyor belt indiscriminately. Food, sauce, empty plates — if it's in front of them, they’re taking it. That is not how you want to be with your thoughts. Be curious and discerning about what thoughts you are grabbing and setting in front of you. Be the decider and chooser of your thoughts. See that thought come into your field of vision, consider it, be curious about it, and if it’s not something you want to think about, ask yourself “what else?”, “what other thoughts are floating around in my mind that I can choose to think about?”. Just because your brain has presented a thought to you, doesn’t mean that you have to give it your time, attention, or energy. You don’t have to do anything other than identify it and ask yourself “what else?”.

To sum up, know the thoughts you want to dwell on ahead of time, focus on an activity to help yourself reset, and take the time to ask yourself “what else?”. Of course, this is all easier said than done, so don’t get too hung up looking for immediate results. Be kind to yourself, find opportunities to practice mindfulness throughout the day, and enjoy the process.

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