While mindfulness, defined as increased awareness to the present moment, is certainly nothing new (practiced for thousands of years in ancient Asian/ Indian traditions) it is definitely having a moment here in the Western world.
If you’ve ever tried to meditate, chances are you don’t think you’re very good at it. In our world of hustle and bustle, it’s very difficult to find time to sit down and quiet the mind. This is especially true when we sit peacefully on the ground for the first time, attempting to silence a brain full of to-do lists, personal emotions, and thoughts that “you probably aren’t doing this right.” I’m here to tell you that if you’re trying, you’re doing it right.
With that being said, it’s understandable that it may be easier for some people to create little pieces of mindfulness throughout the day, rather than trying to set aside 20 minutes of silence in a house full of dogs, three-year olds, or hungry husbands. (I have none of these things and still can’t sit for 20 minutes.)
Here are ten little moments where you can incorporate mindfulness into your hectic, life-filled existence. Pick one or two of them that you think will best fit into your day, and you’re on your way to mindfulness!
- First thing in the morning: Yeah, you probably could have guessed this one. However, the morning is an amazing time to set aside a few minutes with your coffee or tea, and make an intention for how you would like the day to begin. In yoga practice, we begin most classes with setting an intention. This is intended (get it) to guide the practice and acts as a central space to return to when the mind is wandering. One intention that I love is “I allow the space between where I am and where I want to be, to inspire me, and not terrify me.” This is especially helpful to me on busy days where the workload in front of me seems like too much to handle. I take a step back, reflect on how relieved and accomplished I will feel once all the work is completed, and get to work. Simple ones such as “I will have fun today.” or “I will make today great.” work just as well as long ones. Find an intention that gives you motivation and positivity for the day ahead.
- In the shower: We all know how pleasant and calming a long shower can be. Showers are an awesome time to step back from all the screens and technology that we are constantly surrounded by, and make time for yourself. Next time you’re rubbing conditioner through your hair, take a moment to be thankful for the body you’re given. Pick a body part that you’re especially thankful for that day. Examples include: the legs that give you the ability to go anywhere of your choosing, your beautiful hair that makes you feel feminine, or the belly that gave life to your children (man parts work too! 🙂 ).
- Right before leaving the house: This is a great time to acknowledge all the material (and non-material) possessions you have. Instead of rushing out to your car, appreciate things like your ability to make fresh ground coffee for your commute, your animals that will be waiting with smiling faces for your return, and most importantly the home where you can lay your head at night and everything inside of it. You’ve worked hard to earn what you have, take the time to appreciate that.
- Commute on the way to work: Sometimes the situations that are the most stressful can be opportunities to create peace in chaos. Turn off the music for a song or two, and acknowledge what’s around you. Even places you may not consider “peaceful” or even “pleasant” such as the grocery store can reflect good memories with the right mind. Instead of thinking about how packed it’s going to be at 5:30 pm when you’re finally out of work, think about that one time you made the bagger’s day by asking how he was doing, or the time your friend dropped a gallon of milk in the aisle and you both fell to the floor laughing, or even the bottle of wine you’re planning to buy for your date on Friday night. Then, turn back on your favorite music and enjoy the time spent sitting in the car. If you’re on public transportation, kindly give a quick “have a wonderful day” to the older man reading next to you. Tiny moments like this can give you an invisible cloud of happiness when walking into the office for a rough day ahead.
- At lunchtime: So many of us rush through lunch, hoping to refuel our bodies quickly and then return to work. Lunch can actually be a great pause to the day in which we focus on nourishing our hard-working body. Eliminate distractions when possible. Turn off your emails for an hour, I promise they’ll still be there when you get back to your desk. Meet up with that friend you always say “Let’s get lunch” to, or on your way out of the office, ask the new IT guy from Kansas to check out the new burger place on the corner. Then spend that time focusing solely on that lunch. If you’re a desk-luncher, turn off your desktop and at least take a few moments to focus on the food you’re eating, where it came from, how it tastes/smells, and how much freaking fun it is to eat yummy food.
- Mid-afternoon slump: Ah, everyone’s least favorite part of the day. For you 9-5’ers, this typically comes around 3pm where you’ve come to the conclusion that a new task can’t be done by 5, but you’re not totally sure how to best utilize your time unless you’re fully immersed in your work. Now is a great time to take a walk outside. Appreciate the weather outside that you can’t see from your cubicle. Walk to a nearby coffee shop to use the bathroom and get a quick glass of water. If you’re confined to your workspace, close your tabs, and take a few minutes to listen to calming music to re-center. Come back to the intention you created in the morning. A quick reminder that you began making this day peaceful and productive can completely refocus your thought patterns.
- During your workout: Workouts can be an incredibly meditative time for people. I find focus and clarity during a long yoga session, especially during savasana (if you don’t know what this is, go to a yoga class! Alright.. Spoiler: it’s the final pose at the end of the practice where you lay completely down and take in all the work that you’ve just done) For some people, running is a great way to calm the mind and block out negativity. If you’re not huge on working out, take a long walk. Appreciate your surroundings, the feeling of asphalt beneath your shoes, the kind wave from your neighbor as you’re walking by. As long as you’re in the present moment, you are practicing mindfulness. Once your workout is over, thank your body for how it performed, how it took you to a new place, and how gracious you are to be exactly how you are at that moment, be it sweaty, out of breath, or even just a teeny bit calmer.
- Before Dinner: I’ve found that this is a huge way where people find they can incorporate a little mindfulness. You probably already do it. One of the most beautiful pre-dinner meditations I’ve experienced was at one of my friend’s house as she gave the blessing for the dinner I had cooked for her and a few of our other friends. To her, she was doing her typical Baptist prayer before a meal. She acknowledged the process that it took for the food to come to the table, how great it was that we were all together to share a meal, and a gracious request for continued blessings such as the one we were experiencing. This allowed all of us involved to verbally acknowledge how blessed we were to share this meal together. If you already have a pre-dinner ritual, keep it going! If you don’t, now is a great time to start.
- During your nighttime rituals: You probably don’t even realize that you have nighttime rituals. But even “mindless” tasks can be refocused into pleasant mindful experiences. When taking your contacts out, show gratitude for the science and technology that allows you to see like you used to. When putting anti-wrinkle cream, fully feel your fingers on your face, filling each line with softness. When putting your dog into his crate for the night, silently thank him for being a furry face to wake up to. Lock your doors with the thought that you are safe, and you are protected.
- Right before bed: Yeah, you probably saw this one coming too. This one is probably my personal favorite. I typically do a mini-flow of yoga (mostly really slow sun salutations) followed by a suuuper long child’s pose where I reflect on the day with zero distractions (as I am literally face first into my carpet with my eyes closed, making it pretty hard to see anything else.) Have a moment of gratitude for the day you just endured, the fact that you woke up this morning, and acknowledge that even if all you did that day was breathe, you are blessed.