Mindfulness. We hear this word thrown around constantly in yoga studios, wellness articles, and self-help books. To many, it seems like a far-out concept fit for monks on a snowy mountain peak--not something accessible for those of us with busy schedules. But truly, at its core, it is a simple way of life that can be practiced at any moment, in any place, at any time. We’re here to demystify this topic for you and give you some tips for living a more peaceful, present, and mindful life.
So what is mindfulness really? Mindfulness is simply the practice of being present in the space that you are in. Noticing (without judgement) the sensations in your body, the happenings around you, and the state of your mind and breath all make a part of this art. Especially in our busy lives with packed schedules, a day can seem to pass by from one act or responsibility to the next until you find yourself finally done at night, exhausted and drained mentally and thinking “how did I get here??” Stopping throughout the day to find presence and mindfulness can contribute to a greater peace of mind, higher amounts of joy, and improved overall health and well-being. Something so simple as allowing the thoughts to stop and focusing on the breath while driving can make a big difference in the way that you feel throughout the day.
Here are some simple ways to incorporate mindfulness into a day-to-day busy lifestyle:
Be present. This seems simple--almost too simple--but it’s something that most of us skip out on. We find ourselves chopping vegetables while making a to-do list, only to find the knife slipping and slicing a finger. Let’s be real here. This moment, right now, is the only moment you have. What is happening right now is the only thing that truly exists. Anything else is happening in your head. Tomorrow will be a different now and yesterday was a different now, and this moment right here is all you have. Of course, planning ahead and reflecting is important. But spending all your present time focusing on something other than the now is not healthy. Set aside time for planning and scheduling so that the rest of your time is spent doing what you are actually doing. When you spend your time thinking about other things, planning what you’re doing next week, or dwelling on yesterday, you are missing out on the precious moment that you are in. You are not showing up fully for yourself in your life.
Throughout your day, do a body scan every so often to really tune in to where you are. Soften your face, relax your shoulders. How are you feeling right now in your body? How is your mind? What things are happening around you?
Doing these simple things does not have to take time out of your busy day. Even when you have a million things to do, you can practice doing them in full presence.
Before entering a meeting or a social situation, take a breath and point out 3 different things happening around you. Then, point out 3 different sensations in your body. Soften the face and set the intention to fully show up for whatever situation you are about to enter. Allow yourself to fully show up. Even if you are doing something as simple and mundane as checking your social media, notice what you are doing and show up (you’ll notice less mindless scrolling and deeper presence). Not only does this make you feel more at ease, but it also helps you to be more productive! The best way to be the best at what you do is to show up fully for it. Take each task on with all of your presence. When you are spending time with your family, do so fully. Take in each moment and each sensation. When you are writing an email, having a conversation, or filing taxes, put distractions aside and focus on the task at hand. This makes everything you do much more intentional and purposeful. I promise, the work that you do will come out better when you are mindful than it would if your mind was doing a million things at once!
You breathe constantly, but how often do you do it consciously? Studies have shown that the breath has incredible power over emotions and mental health. Taking deep and conscious breaths aids in releasing feelings of anxiety, anger, and stress, and it helps us to sink back into our bodies when our surroundings feel out of control. Practice slow breathing throughout different points of the day. Breathe in for 10 seconds, hold for 10 seconds, and exhale for a count of 10 seconds. This can be done while driving the car, doing the dishes, and at any other point. Again, this doesn’t require extensive time set aside, so there are no excuses! When your chest feels tight or you are experiencing stress/anxiety, notice how the breath becomes shallow. Deepen from there. Perhaps set the intention to do this right before any meals, in the shower, and while you drive. If you have the time, set aside even just 5 minutes a day to sit and breathe deep. You’ll find that your mental stamina and emotional stability will improve immensely through such a simple practice!
3. Notice your thoughts
If you are zooming through your day trying to get things done, chances are that any negative internal dialogues going on in the mind are going unnoticed. Thoughts of inadequacy or insecurity don’t often reveal themselves until they bubble up in the form of stress, anxiety, or depression. Pay attention to your inner voice. What kind of messages are you constantly giving yourself every day?
This practice can be tricky because it requires presence, focus, and introspection. But if you are able to notice negative thought patterns when they begin to arise, it can be easier to deal with them in a healthy way. When you notice a thought stemming from insecurity, anger, or any other unhealthy place, notice it without judgement. Try to replace the thought with a deep breath or a positive affirmation. Do your best to transform those thoughts of “I’m not doing enough” into “I’m doing the best I can and I am doing great.” Re-programming these negative thought patterns can be difficult at first, but it is a big part of the mindfulness practice. Mindfulness doesn’t stop with noticing the things around you and the things happening in your body. It needs to extend into your mind and thought patterns as well. Creating a positive affirmation to repeat through the day such as “I am enough,” “I am peace,” or “I am here” can help to create a more positive mental environment throughout the day. Be kind to yourself. Be your own biggest fan and supporter!
4. Set aside time for yourself
Setting aside time for yourself each day is crucial for your well-being, especially if your lifestyle is very busy. If you don’t have the time for this, realize that you can make the time for this if you prioritize it. This doesn’t need to mean 2 hours a day (although if you can and you want to, go for it!). Even just 10 minutes when you wake up in the morning and 10 minutes before you go to bed at night can make a big difference.Setting time aside to be with yourself, notice your thoughts, and center your mind through breathing or movement is not selfish and is so necessary as it can create big waves of change in your mental health throughout your busy life. This time should not be set aside to create to-do lists or scroll through your phone. It should be time for you!
Be mindful of how you are feeling on a given day, notice your state of mind, and ask yourself what you can do to support yourself. If this means a glass of water, a walk, or some quiet time in the sunshine, honor this. You are never too busy to take care of yourself. If this means you need to wake up a little bit earlier, do it! Time to yourself, even if it’s short, helps you be mindful of how you feel and what you need. Your day will go smoother when you’ve checked in with yourself and are giving yourself what you need to be healthy and content.
Living slowly and truly taking in your life is something that we all deserve and can do, even with a busy schedule. Savor your food, savor your breath, and show up fully for yourself and others. Find what works for you and enjoy the little things. Mindfulness practices can be hard at first, but with persistence and diligence, they can become a way of life. And by being present and actually experiencing the life around you, your life can become an active meditation.
It all begins here. Now. You got this yogis!