Mindfulness and meditation are now recommended for numerous health and wellness related issues. But, where do you find the time for one more self-care routine? This is a common response when people decide they want to introduce mindfulness into their already busy lives. There is a misconception that meditation or mindfulness has to take a lot of time or a huge commitment. Mindfulness can be practiced in brief moments during your day, or even added to daily activities you are already practicing. Mindfulness is the practice of bringing yourself into the present moment experience. Technically, this does not need to require any added time. In the book Slow, Carl Honore suggests that practicing mindfulness actually increases the quality of our work and increases efficiency. Here are three short mindfulness practices you can try if you want to start training yourself to be more present.
“The present moment is the only moment available to us and it is the door to all other moments” -Thich Nhat Hanh
- 3-minute breathing space
This brief practice is a brief check in with your thoughts, physical sensations, and breath. It takes approximately 5 minutes to complete and is used in Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy. You can access a guided form of this meditation at HERE
If you want to try on your own, have a seat in a comfortable but alert position. Close your eyes if that feels good and safe. Notice the feeling of where your body makes contact with the surface of the chair or the floor. Now, take 3 intentional breaths and notice how your body moves while breathing. Next, take notice about what you are thinking about and what is occupying your mind at this time. Once you are aware of your current thoughts, notice what emotions are present. Are you feeling something pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral? Name the feeling (s) you are feeling. Now, notice any physical sensations you are experiencing in this moment. Do a quick scan from the crown of your head to your toes and see what sensations are present. To end the practice, take 3 slow breaths in the belly. As you take your final breath take a moment to notice the environment around you. Do you hear any sounds? Is there a scent in the air? Again, bring your awareness back to the feeling of your body touching the surface you are sitting on. If your eyes are shut you can now open them to end this practice. Make sure to take a moment to notice where you are and what is happening around you before you rush off to do something next.
- Mindful everyday activity
This activity will add no extra time to your day and will likely decrease the time you spend doing whatever activity you choose to be mindful of. Mindful eating is an example of this. Choose a time during the day when you eat on your own. Instead of scrolling through social media while you eat, or reading your favorite book, take time to notice what your food looks like. Bring it close to your nose for a smell. How does the food feel in your hands? Now notice the muscles you use to bring the food to your mouth. Place the food in your mouth, and before you start chewing, observe what is happening in your mouth. As you begin to chew, what does the food taste like? Savour it just a little longer before you swallow it and consider how pleasant or unpleasant this experience is. As you swallow, notice how it feels as the food moves down your throat and into your stomach. You can also try this kind of mindful awareness when you brush your teeth, wash the dishes, or when letting the dog out for his morning rituals! If you choose the same activity every day, you will create an entirely new experience with the activity and reap the benefits of a mind being trained in mindfulness.
- Ocean Breathing (qigong)
Ocean breathing is movement-based practice used in qigong. Not only does it help you develop your mindfulness, it is used in qigong to balance your body, soul, and spirit. Sounds like a great added bonus! This is practice is done standing, or if that is not available to you it can be done sitting. If you can get down to a beach by the sea this practice will be even more effective as you can breathe with the ocean.
This is a link to a 10-minute video of the practice done by Sandra from www.qisandra.ca based in Powell River, BC. Once you learn the basics of this practice, you can do a much shorter version of ocean breathing if you like.
Keep in mind that every time you decide to be mindful of your present moment you enter a different part of your experience that is not concerned about the past or the future. This lays to rest worry and regret and other stressors. When you are mindful, you are accessing your parasympathetic nervous system pathways. The more you do this, the more familiar your autonomic nervous system becomes with the experience, and the better it is able to access it when needed. Even if it is only 5 minutes per day, those minutes add up. Do it regularly you are literally creating a new resource for your life!