Mindfulness Tricks for When You’re Too Busy to Meditate from Mindfulness Tricks for When You’re Too Busy to Meditate
Mindfulness Tricks for When You’re Too Busy to Meditate
Living a high-stress lifestyle has its perks — you’re immensely productive, for example, and you can probably handle many of the curveballs life throws at you. But stress has its drawbacks, too — it can actually affect your health in more ways than you might think. Not to mention how miserable and chaotic it feels to be constantly stressed out.
Just like getting enough sleep or eating nutritious foods, lowering your stress can be an important health investment. Meditation is proven to work — it lowers your stress, improves your health, and can even improve your overall life satisfaction according to some studies.
But here’s the thing: Meditating takes time. That’s time that you, as a busy, overcommitted member of society, do not have. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how easy those mindfulness apps make it. You do not have time for a 20-minute meditation. Or, even if you do have the time, you might rather be doing something else.
Mindfulness and meditation can take many forms. They don’t have to take tons of time, and meditation doesn’t have to come in a lengthy audio recording. There are lots of little things you can do to reap the benefits of mindfulness — these tricks are quick and simple enough to fit into even the busiest of schedules.
People often think of meditation as something active — something you have to try at, something to do. But any seasoned meditator will tell you that it’s really quite the opposite. Mindfulness and meditation are extremely passive practices. They aren’t always comfortable. They don’t always involve taking action to fix things. At their core, mindfulness and meditation involve just observing and experiencing things, both internally and from the world around you. Incorporating this into your day to day is simple. If you were feeling sad, for instance, a mindful approach would be to pause and observe. What does this feeling actually feel like? Let it happen without judging it or trying to change it.
Check In With Yourself
One of the most important aspects of mindfulness is awareness. If you’re not used to practicing awareness — of the mind, of the body, of your emotions — then you might benefit from simple check-ins. Set a reminder on your phone or calendar. Ask yourself simple questions: How am I feeling? How has my day been? What do I need right now?
It might seem childish to color as an adult, but don’t knock it until you try it. Mental health experts often recommend coloring as a form of art therapy. And there’s a reason it’s called “therapy.” A study from 2005 showed that anxiety levels dropped significantly when people colored in mandala patterns. So science is on your side with this one — go ahead and restart your childhood hobby. One of our editors tried it, and it really worked!
Your breath is a powerful tool for reducing anxiety and regaining control over how you feel. Your breathing is intimately tied to your nervous system, since it’s actually controlled by the automatic nervous system. Just like quick, uncontrolled breathing can rev up your nerves, slow, controlled breathing can calm them down. Try a breathing exercise or two to get started, but once you figure out what works for you you’ll be able to use your breath to find mindfulness anywhere, anytime.
Do you often feel like your mind is cluttered and restless? Use that extra mental energy toward something creative — even if it’s just a small doodle in a notebook. The great part about doodling is that it’s low-pressure. Unlike a painting or a piece of written artwork, this art project doesn’t have an outcome attached to it. Use doodling as a mental escape or as something to keep your hands and brain busy while you contemplate whatever else is on your mind.
Two key aspects of mindfulness are getting rid of distraction and honing in on your senses. Turn a simple cup of tea into a mindfulness practice by adding in a little conscious awareness. Instead of just haphazardly preparing your beverage, pay attention to the color change of the water. Feel the warmth of the mug between your palms. Smell the aromas of the herbs before you take a sip. Simply awakening your senses goes a long way in practicing mindfulness and bringing you back to the present.
Get in Touch With Your Senses
You don’t have to be sipping tea to awaken your five senses. You can engage in this practice anywhere. Bring your focus to one of your five senses. Whether it’s taste, touch, or smell, simply think about how it feels to experience that sense. If you’re on the subway, maybe you pay attention to the rumble of the train beneath your feet. If you’re at work eating a snack, maybe you hone in on the taste as you chew.
Cultivating gratitude for yourself and your surroundings can help you feel uplifted and connected with others. There is no wrong way to incorporate more gratitude into your life. Small things like thinking of three things you’re grateful for before you go to bed or making a point to tell one person something you appreciate about them are good places to start.
Grounding is part of a simple meditation that takes less than two minutes and that you can literally do anywhere. But even without the meditation, you can practice grounding on a daily basis. It’s the simple action of feeling the bottom of your feet against the ground. Focus on the sensations beneath the soles of your feet.
Journaling, like meditation, doesn’t have to be tedious. You can write down as little as one sentence per day, and it will already make a difference. Journaling is so powerful because it forces you to reflect. How are you feeling? What matters to you today? What’s on your mind? Journaling has other perks, as well. It could even help you sleep better.
Meditation doesn’t have to be time-consuming — or silent. Meditation is really just a purposeful awareness of your senses. If you’re in a noisy or busy place, pay attention to the sound around you. Let yourself really listen to the voices of passersby, to the rustle of leaves, or to the rattle of the train on the tracks.
Literally. Stop looking at your phone screen, computer screen, or the floor. Turn your gaze upwards towards the sky. Take a pause and enjoy the view of the clouds, the stars, or whatever else you see. The simple stare to the sky will help remind you how big the world is and put your own life in perspective.
Practice Body Awareness
Many longer meditations will do this on a full-body level, but you can do smaller versions of this practice on your own. Focus on one part of your body at a time. You could be sitting at your desk, on a train, or lying in bed — it doesn’t matter. Work from your toes upwards. Clench and unclench your muscles as you go. Notice the difference between the tension and relaxation. Become acutely aware of how it feels to be in your body. You’re meditating already, and you didn’t even know it!
Practice Kindness to Others
There’s a poem by Jack Kerouac (who was actually a more mindful guy than you might think) that includes the line: “Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.” People like to surround themselves with the energy they most resonate with — the more positive your own energy, the more positive the energy of those around you will be. Additionally, practicing kindness can help you to cultivate gratitude and appreciation for those around you. But if you don’t feel comfortable giving someone a verbal compliment, even cultivating kindness in your head will work. Think something simple, like: I wish that person happiness today. You’d be surprised the difference a little positivity can make.
Practice Kindness to Yourself
Just as important as cultivating kindness towards others is your commitment to a positive relationship with yourself. Mindfulness is meant to be nonjudgmental — there’s no doing it right or wrong, and there’s no judgment to be placed on whether or not you succeed. Practice the simple act of forgiveness. Forgot to engage in your mindfulness practice? Forgive yourself. Feel like you need some space from your responsibilities today? Let yourself take the time you need. Take good care of your mind and your body — mindfulness is all about being present and noticing how you feel. Use the information you gain to improve the way you feel every day.
Read on Your Commute
Even if your schedule is jam packed from the time you wake up until the time you finally hit the hay, you might have some down time on your commute. Most people don’t use this time at all, or they endure annoyance and impatience during its entirety. But there’s a productive and — you guessed it — mindful solution to this problem. Simply read a book. Reading can help the brain to cultivate skills such as concentration and focus. It can also help you to heighten your brain connectivity, learn empathy, and expand your attention span.
When’s the last time you took 20 minutes to just stretch? No matter if you exercised or not, your body benefits from stretching. It helps circulate your blood, helps with mobility, and can even make you feel better emotionally. Stretching is something you can do anywhere. It forces you to get in touch with your body and how it feels, which is inherently meditative.
Take Time to Reflect
Take five minutes every day or every week to simply reflect. Think about yourself, your friends, your life. How are things going? What do you envision for your future? It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of day-to-day tasks without stepping back to look at the big picture.
Turn Chores Into Meditation
Yeah, it’s unfortunate that you have to vacuum and wash the dishes and organize your desk drawer and drive to the grocery store, but the upside of these tasks is that most of them are mindless. So you have space in these moments to choose to be mindful. Relax as you endure your daily to-do list. Go through the physical motions of cleaning your counter while your mind drifts somewhere else. Take five calming breaths as you stroll through Costco.
Turn Off Technology
How many times per day do you look at your phone? How many times per day do you check social media? What about your email? All these constant impulses to seek satisfaction, or ease an itch that something might be waiting for you in your inbox, or whatever else you gain from checking your devices can build up. Technology becomes a constant distraction, something nagging at the back of your mind. Shutting down your technology, even for just one hour each day, can go a long way in training your brain to be patient and self-sufficient.
Do you default to driving everywhere? You might want to consider walking to some of your closer destinations. While heart-pumping exercise like running or HIIT training can definitely do wonders for your mental health, walking is good for your mind in a different way. It gives you time to let your mind wander and observe your surroundings. Even if you only walk for 10 minutes, it could be one of the healthiest habits you have.