Mindfulness is associated with better health, positive self-image and lower stress levels. It’s no wonder so many people are participating in this form of self-care these days. Adopting mindfulness practices may seem challenging, but you don’t have to commit to meditating at 5 a.m. or depriving yourself of the things you love to live more mindfully. Here are several suggestions for adding mindfulness practices throughout the day that don’t require more time out of your already-busy schedule.
1. Practice gratitude
Before you get out of bed in the morning, take a moment to tune into your breath. Notice five things for which you are grateful. Keep a journal by your bed to record your favorites. The act of writing them down helps you remember what you’re grateful for throughout the day.
2. Shower meditation
Rather than thinking about all the things you have to do in your day, use your shower time to meditate. Breathe deeply and notice how the water feels when it falls on your head and down your body. When you wash each part of your body, notice how it feels under your hand. Thank your arms for their strength; thank you stomach for doing its job and supporting you by creating energy from the food you eat. You can use this time to set your intention for the day without adding another task to the morning.
3. Eat breakfast
It’s easy to skip out on breakfast, especially if you’re very busy in the morning. Eating breakfast gets your metabolism moving for the day. If you’re trying to lose weight, this is especially important, as a skipped breakfast tells your body that it needs to conserve energy instead of using it. In fact, experts say that when you skip breakfast, you may be eating slightly fewer calories throughout the day, but you probably have a higher body mass index (BMI). Eating breakfast, at your table and without your phone in-hand, is just another way to ease into the day. Take this time to notice how each food tastes. Think about how many people were involved in bringing this food to your table and say a little thank you to them as you eat.
4. Pay attention to the road
When you drive into work, look around and see if you can notice anything new on the way. It’s so easy to travel to the office mindlessly, but tuning into the world around you can help you stay in the moment. If you commute via train or subway, notice what’s different. Look around and take it all in. Find one thing to appreciate on each commute.
5. Start with a mantra for the work day
When you arrive at your desk, decide how you want the day to go. Think of a mantra or affirmation that can help you achieve your goals. It can be something simple like, “Peace comes from within,” a verse from a religious text, or a personal affirmation. One of my favorites for work is, “I am productive.”
6. Set reminders to get up
Use your phone to your advantage and set reminders to get up and walk around during the day. Sitting for long periods of time is associated with serious conditions like metabolic syndrome, back problems, and heart disease. A recent study found that workers who stood at their desk or moved around often throughout the day had lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. Getting up also provides a much-needed brain break on tough work days.
7. Avoid eating lunch at your desk
It can be tempting to grab your lunch from the fridge and take it back to your desk. Instead, move to the kitchen or breakroom to eat. The change of scenery provides a mental break in the day and helps you relax for a bit. Just as you did at breakfast, notice a few things about your meal: the work that went into it, the smells that waft off of it when you heat it up, or how each part of the meal will bring nourishment to your body.
8. Talk to people
You and your coworkers share a common interest – the company for which you work. If you take the time to chat with them, you might find you have more in common than just a CEO. Research shows that people who socialize live longer, have better physical and mental health, and feel better about themselves. If reaching out is difficult for you, take it slow. Accept an invite to walk to the cafeteria with a coworker or just be open to the conversation around the kitchen.
9. Use a to-do list
Multitasking can stress you out, so instead, write out a to-do list and mark your tasks off as you work through the day. When you end your day, take a moment to note what you accomplished. Create a list of to-dos for the following day so you can leave those cares behind when you go home. Studies have shown that when you write things down, you can remember them and process the information easier. Not only will a to-do list help relieve stress in the upcoming evening, but it might also help improve your memory.
10. Take five after work
Take just five minutes to be quiet when you get home from work. Shut yourself in your room and set a timer on your phone and then put it down. Make sure you don’t have music or a podcast playing. The goal is to reduce noise. You can change clothes, wash your face, enjoy a cup of tea, or just sit in silence on your bed. Don’t feel like you have to meditate during this time. Just enjoy the quiet.
11. Exercise mindfully
No matter when you exercise throughout the day, do so mindfully. Make sure to truly feel your body. Before you begin, take note of any pain or discomfort so you can adjust your routine as needed. Notice how your feet fall on the treadmill with each step you take, or the posture in your back when you run. How can you shift your posture to be more supportive of your overall wellness? If you exercise outdoors, look around you; notice the temperature. Try running without headphones to listen to the world around you and the way you interact with it.
If you prefer to skip morning meditation, take some time out of your evening for a soothing meditation practice. Use an app if you would like, or simply close your eyes, tune into your breath and body, and let your mind let go.
Write about your day every evening. One of my favorite journaling practices is to write down five things that went well during the day. You can also simply write down your thoughts as they come to you. Psychologists James Pennebaker and Janet D. Seagal advocate writing a narrative about a troubling event in your day, to help combat depression or anxiety. It truly helps you let go of those worries. As Dr. Pennebaker states, “having a narrative is similar to completing a job, allowing one to essentially forget the event.”
The blue wavelength light from our phones and devices increases cortisol levels in the brain. Cortisol is a stress hormone and inhibits our production of melatonin, the hormone we need to fall asleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends setting your phone aside – and not picking it back up – for an hour before bedtime. Disconnecting from your phone and the rest of the world an hour before you go to bed also gives you ample time to practice some self-care at night. Make sure you get to bed early enough to get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep for optimum mental and physical health.
Do you have a mindfulness practice for a part, or all, of your day?
— Megan Winkler