6 Easy Exercises for Everyday MindfulnessNone By Beth Stebner
We could all use a little help focusing on the present instead of worrying about what the future holds. Here are 6 simple ways to incorporate more mindfulness in your days.
Mindful Mornings: Waking Up With Purpose
Mornings can be painful. The alarm goes off way too early, you keep hitting the snooze button, and you end up rushing through your morning because you waited too long to get ready. But it doesn’t have to be that way. When your alarm goes off, try lying in bed for a few moments, consciously feeling your breath and beginning to feel your body. Notice the position in which you’ve been sleeping; start wiggling your toes and slowly flexing your muscles. As you start to feel more awake, focus your energy to the task at hand—getting ready for the day—and how you’ll tackle the obstacles before you. No guarantees that this will make you like mornings, but at least you’ll becoming at them from a position of calm.
Mantra: When my alarm rings, I remind myself to wake up with purpose, being mindful of my body and how I transition from sleeping life to waking life.
Overcoming Fear-Based Thinking
Maybe you’re a naturally anxious person. Instead of enjoying a road trip with your family, your mind is drawn instead to worry about how cramped the minivan feels or how icy the roads are and how you’ll definitely, probably, maybe get in a horrible crash. Life can be paralyzing in its wealth of unknowns. Our bodies have developed fear as a primal response to keep us alive and safe from perceived danger, whether or not the danger is actually real. Fear-based thinking is problematic not only because it doesn’t let you enjoy life the way you should, but because it’s a vicious, unrelenting cycle. The more you allow your mind to entertain fear-based thoughts, the more your brain spirals them out of control into a ferocious Fear Monster that refuses to leave you alone. But your brain is malleable and can change itself, with some help from you. How, though? You could practice deep-breathing exercises to calm yourself. Simply asking yourself why you’re afraid or fearful can help separate perceived threats from actual treats. Think about how you would feel if fear wasn’t present in your life, and meditate on that. Little by little, you can help yourself go from a state of fear to one of calm.
Mantra: Easing my fears, I become calm. I allow myself to be present and free of toxic thoughts.
Food for Thought: Mindful Eating
Think of this scenario—you’re at the movies with a group of friends and you’ve decided to partake of the great joy of movie theaters—the concession stand. Maybe you split some snacks like a 64-ounce tub of popcorn, a giant bag of gummy bears, and a soda. By the end of the first half of the movie, your friend reaches over to get some of the popcorn you’ve been hoarding and you find that somehow you ate the entire bag without thinking about it. When you don’t think about what you put into your body, it’s easy to shovel whatever’s in front of you into your mouth. That’s an awful way to eat, not least because you end up feeling sick ot your stomach after eating a metric ton of bucketed popcorn. Mindful eating—much like mindfulness itself—is about being present. You can do this any number of ways, like taking smaller bites and spending more time chewing while focusing on the texture and taste of the food. It’s also asking yourself if you’re truly hungry or simply bored, so you don’t snack mindlessly. It’s a small change that can help you not only be healthier but happier.
Mantra: What I put into my body is directly related to what I can get out of it. I will make an effort to savor every spoonful and be thankful for the food in front of me.
Mindfulness on Foot
There’s nothing like going for a long, relaxing walk, especially when the weather is great and there’s a gentle breeze. Being mindful while you do it is easy—just focus on how each step feels as you transfer your weight from the ball of your foot to your other heel, right foot, left foot, repeat. Feel how your joints are responding and how your muscles gradually loosen up the longer you walk. Take in your surroundings, looking up at skyscrapers or trees, depending on where you are at the time. Let your mind wander where it will and get into a rhythm. Nobody says you can only be mindful when you’re still. A walking meditation isn’t just good for your mind—it’s good for your whole body!
Mantra: One foot, then the other. Peace, then understanding.
Mini Meditation: Mindfulness in a Minute
There will be come days when you feel like you just can’t get up early to practice mindfulness, or you’re so busy that it’s hard to find time during the day to be present. Not ideal, but it’s understandable! When you feel pressed for time, simply do a quick check-in and remember your breathing. Are you breathing deeply or are your breaths shallow? Are you holding tension in your face, neck, shoulders or belly? Give yourself 10 to 16 seconds to breathe deeply and rotate your shoulders back, thinking about the present moment. It’s like a small reset button that’ll help you stay focused and centered. Still don’t think you’ve got that kind of time? It only takes 15 seconds to take and upload a selfie or make plans with friends via text. What are you waiting for? Time’s a-wasting!
Mantra: Using my breath to keep my centered, I can quickly refocus my energy.
Feel Better on Blue Days
If you live in a temperate climate with marked seasons, you’re probably seen it all. Snowstorms. Blizzards. Nor’easters (if you’re on the Eastern Seaboard). Heat waves. But the weather where you live is probably sunny more times than not (unless you live in Seattle or San Francisco). Sunny days are great because you get to go outside, go on a hike, or go for a swim, if the weather is warm enough. But without rain, you wouldn’t appreciate the sunshine nearly as much (just ask anyone from Southern California). In the same way, some days are just going to be dreary inside your brain. But you know what the great thing is? It’s only temporary. When that day is done and over, you get to start a whole new day that carries the promise of being even better than the last. If you’re bummed about something or just can’t shake the feeling of the blues, try thinking of a happy memory or upcoming adventure. It could be looking forward to a spring break trip, or a really great memory of time with your family. Whatever it is, realize that it’s okay to feel blue, but in time, the sun will come out from behind the clouds, and everything will be better than it is now.
Mantra: There’s nothing wrong with feeling blue. I know that the clouds sometimes cover the sun, and there’s beauty in that. There’s comfort in knowing the clouds won’t last forever.
Excerpted from Stop. Breathe. Chill.: Meditations for a Less Stressful, More Awesome Life by Beth Stebner. Copyright © 2016 F+W Media. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
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