One of my all-time favorite internet memes shows a picture of a man and a dog, both with little images in thought bubbles rising out of their heads. The man has a whole collection of thoughts bubbling up…his work, his house, his money, his car. But the dog just has one thought, one picture…and it’s the very same picture of the man and the dog. In this meme, the dog is living purely in the moment. In medicine, we call this “mindfulness,” and it’s a practice that most of us could benefit from. This article by my team at UpWellness gives you six simple strategies to be more mindful in your everyday life.
“In a world full of doing-doing-doing, it’s important to take some time to simply be.” – Melli O’Brien
If you are like most Americans, your life is busy, really busy. Whether you are carting kids from school to ball practice to birthday parties and more, or working a crazy schedule and balancing a family as well, you are busy. The truth is, stress is dangerous, really dangerous to both our physical as well as mental health. Luckily, there are ways to navigate your stressful life and remain calm and focused. Becoming more mindful in your everyday life has tremendous benefits and will help take the edge off the doing, doing, doing. Let’s take a look at how you can employ mindfulness techniques into your everyday life.
Start your day with a purpose
Do you fly out of bed as soon as the alarm goes off, already harried by what your day holds? Becoming more mindful begins with starting your day with a purpose. When you wake up, sit on your bed or in a chair in a relaxed posture. Close your eyes and connect with the sensations in your body. Take several long and deep breaths – in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then, settle into a slow and steady breathing pattern, watching your chest and belly rise and fall. Ask yourself this question, “ What is my intention for today?” Things to consider include:
- How might I have the greatest impact today?
- What can I do to take better care of myself?
- During difficult times how can I be more kind to myself and others?
A good intention for yourself might be:
“Today I will be kind to myself, kind to others, patient, eat well, sleep well, trust what my body wants to do and have fun.”
Check-in with yourself throughout the day to see how you are doing. Bring your intention to mind. Doing this daily for a while will result in you becoming more conscious of your daily intentions and will improve the quality of your communications and relationships
One minute breathing breaks
Although it does not sound like much, incorporating five or more breathing breaks into your daily routine is a great way to calm your entire body down, reduce blood pressure, and re-focus. Set a timer on your watch or phone to remind you to take a minute, sit down, and bring your attention to your breath. Breathe in deeply through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. After you have finished, you should feel calm yet energized at the same time and have a clear thought.
Eat with awareness
Do you carve out space in your day to sit down and enjoy your meals, or are you lucky if you get the chance to munch down a muffin in the car on the way to work or quickly reheat something in the fridge for dinner on your way to a meeting? Most of us don’t take the time we should to slow down and really embrace meal time. Eating is a pleasurable activity that should be enjoyed. When you sit down to eat, remove all distractions, and focus on what you are doing. Look at your food, smell your food, and admire your food. Be thankful and eat slowly, enjoying each bite. Research suggests that eating more thoughtfully can help with weight loss, digestive health, and promote healthier food choices.
When you feel yourself spiraling out of control, don’t keep pushing till you fall over. Slow down instead. Even if you feel guilty doing so – it is vital to your overall health and wellbeing to slow down a bit. When you physically slow down, it makes it easier to slow down mentally. Slowing down allows you to enjoy the simple pleasures of life more freely. Take a walk, sit in the park, read a book, and connect with friends and family in a relaxed environment. Try walking barefoot in the grass and taking in the warmth of the sun on your skin.
Single-tasking goes hand in hand with slowing down. Multitasking is a popular pursuit that is touted as making us more productive, when in fact it actually drains us faster. Doing one thing at a time and being present from start to finish is a type of mindfulness that has great rewards. When we spread ourselves too thinly and try to keep up with too many things, we are prone to mistakes. We are not productive, just busy…mentally, and physically, exhausting ourselves needlessly. Doing one task at a time mindfully, you are less likely to rush, make mistakes, and forget details.
No matter how you workout – be it hiking, riding a bike, lifting weights, or running on a treadmill – all can become a practice in mindfulness. This starts with switching from simply working out to burn calories, master a skill or improve your conditioning; you can move and breathe in such a way that you reap all the former benefits but also re-energize every cell in your body and cause you to feel grounded, strong and capable.. Not just busy. Here’s how to do it.
- Be clear about your aim – Envision your exercise session before you begin. As you hop on your bike, tell yourself that “I am going to breathe deeply, feel the sun on my back and the wind in my hair.” As you enter the swimming pool, you might say to yourself, ‘I am going to feel each stroke and sense the water touching my skin as it slides through the pool.”
- Warm-up – Take five minutes to warm up before engaging in exercise. Try some simple stretching and concentrate on aligning the rhythm of your breath with your movement. As you move rhythmically, your brain activity, heart rate, and nervous system line up and stabilize.
- Get into a rhythm (10 minutes) – As you pick up the intensity of your workout, continue to pair your breathing and your movement. As you do this, you will get into your groove and feel refreshed and invigorated.
- Challenge stage (10 minutes) – As you speed up, tackle more repetitions, go for heavier weights, etc., You should feel alert and alive even when you are pushing yourself harder.
- Cooldown (5 minutes) – Steadily slow down your pace until you come to a stop. Get in touch with how your body feels.
- Rest (5 minutes) – Get in touch with how you are feeling. Your senses will be alert, and you should feel alive from your head to your toes.
-The UpWellness Team