Hectic? These Mindful Routines Help You Become Calm, Clear-Thinking and Happier
Most of us have days where there is only enough time to get dressed, eat, go to work and try to fit in time with our loved ones. Who has the time to stop and smell the roses? And if you stop to ask anyone how you are? The likely response is ‘Busy’, ‘Crazy Busy’, ‘A bit Manic’. Certainly not CALM
But did you know that allowing just 10 minutes a day for some breathing space throughout the day helps to relieve the stress of busyness? And move from frazzled and frantic to calm.
Check out these four simple routines that can move you from frazzled and frantic to calm and in control.
Mindfulness is a hot topic today. But it’s still not always clear how mindfulness can be continued beyond the class and out into people’s daily routines. As someone recently said to me, “I’ve heard of mindfulness and how it can be good for stress, anxiety, depression, addiction, chronic pain, etc..,. but I have kids and work 40 hours/week, where would I ever find time to sit and meditate?” A meditation practice can be supportive, but it can be difficult to do without guidance. There are lots of great meditation apps to support your practice, but I’ve observed in my clients that without additional changes to their habits, they download the app with good intention and then it sits there on the phone getting used sporadically as life’s demands take over.
Mindfulness is most effective when you practice it every day. Like anything, you want to become good at, sport, playing a musical instrument…. Practice is the keyword. You don’t need much time to practice mindfulness. 10 minutes meditation a day allowing time for some breathing space throughout the day helps to relieve the stress of busyness. And if you keep it up then you’ll reap the benefits. And move from frazzled and frantic to calm.
You can use mindfulness practices from the minute you wake up to the moment you go to sleep. Building a regular mindfulness practice will help you to have greater focus, calm, and peace in your life. If this sounds something you want, and to be honest who doesn’t then here are my favourite mindfulness hacks to get you started. And combined with a great app like Thrive https://thrive.uk.com/be-stress-free/ that teaches you tried and tested techniques to manage the stress of a hectic life. Your ability to cope with what life throws at you will soar:
Start The Day Well:
If you’re like most of us, your typical morning consists of being jolted to life by an alarm, a quick shower, maybe grabbing some breakfast and then a mad dash out the door to get to work on time. To be honest, my mornings used to be just like that. But now I start my day differently and the results of this new morning routine have been fantastic. I wake up most mornings bursting with energy, and I’m happier, healthier, and more productive than I used to be. These are the critical steps that I do and that you can try to get your day off to a flying start:
- Wake Up Naturally: First thing in the morning, try to wake up without an alarm and just let yourself wake up naturally. If you still feel you need some help waking up in the morning then use one of the following: The Sleep Cycle alarm clock app or a Phillips light-based alarm clock. Both options wake you up at the optimal time. Sleep Cycle uses your phone’s accelerometer to sense what phase of sleep you’re at. The Phillips alarm clock emits a light that gradually brightens over a half hour, nudging you into light sleep before using a progressively loudening sound to gently wake you up.
- Stop and Check-In: Once awake instead of jumping out of bed or reaching for your phone. Stop, take a breath, check-in with your body and then proceed. This helps to set you up to be more calm and steady during the more challenging moments of the day.
- Make Shower Time Me Time: Use your time in the shower to bring your mind to the present. Ask yourself what is my purpose right now? What is most important? The answer is getting clean in the shower or waking up. Bring your attention to your senses, smell the soap, feel the water on your body, listen to the sounds in the shower. Becoming more present.
I like to do this simple meditation. Stand facing the shower head and allow the water to run down directly onto the back of your neck. As you let the water to run down on your neck, take a moment to become aware of the sensation and focus all your attention on how it feels. Allow your mind to be quiet and just focus on what you are experiencing for a few moments. To help, take five deep breaths in and out as a way to help still your mind.
Make Your Commute A Time for Mindfulness
Make the most of your daily public transport or walking commute by using the time to train your mind to be present. Our commute represents a time of transition – going to work or returning home. In times of change, we are prone to be leaning toward the future; after all, we are going somewhere! Alternatively, we may find it hard to “leave” work, unconsciously choosing to obsess over the day’s events, for instance. Hence, it can be easy for our minds to get a bit stuck in the past or absorbed in the future rather than the present when we’re commuting.
Practising mindfulness during the commute can help you to arrive at work feeling relaxed, refreshed and ready to take on the day ahead. And it’s a great way to transition from a busy day at work to home so that you arrive prepared to be fully present for the remainder of the day. On the way home remember, it doesn’t pay to rush back, see if you can relax, drive slower and play some soothing music. Can you reflect on what was positive about the day?
- Mindful Driving: When driving, it’s so typical to tune things out and get lost in thought. Fortunately, our brains can do this and still get us to our destinations safely (most of the time!). Have you ever had that experience where you got on the road, and then you arrived at your destination, but in the back of your mind, you’re wondering, “how did I get here?” That’s getting lost in thought. We all do it. Mindful driving is about cultivating presence, being in the here and now. We are so conditioned to engage in habitual behaviours that take us out of the moment. If you drive, try using times at red lights or sitting in traffic to be reminders to notice your breathing
- Make Your Bus or Train Ride Meditation Time: Do you travel on public transport? Then this can be a great time for meditating, journaling or just sitting in silence and focusing on the breath. I meditate when I travel by bus and love how my body just moves with the motion of the bus while I focus on my breath. I arrive much calmer and ready to start the day. Mindful commuters all over the world have reported they feel less stressed; they can dismiss thoughts that might otherwise spiral quickly from “Oh no, I’m going to be late!” to “I’ll probably get fired! There’s no research on the impact of mindfulness on commuters’ emotions or behaviour. However, it’s logical that the general health benefits of mindfulness like lower blood pressure and reduced anxiety transfer to a calmer, more clear-minded commute.
- Walk and Be Present: If you walk this is an opportunity to be present. Try breathing in with every three steps, and breathe out with every three steps. Notice the sensation of walking, your feet touching the ground as you walk. You could also practice being aware of your surrounding and being grateful for the things you, however small. Even weeds in the cracks of the pavements.
Doing the same journey every day puts you on autopilot so mix it up a bit to notice your surroundings. This might mean ending your bus or train ride journey a stop earlier to walk through the park or over the river. Don’t worry if it slows you down, the change in perspective will be worth it.
Practice Mindfulness At Work:
At our desks, there are simple mindfulness practices that we can do to keep us sane and in the present moment. Our offices are full of pressures from constant emails and other people. Learning to be mindful around our computers helps to keep us calm. It’s good to pause, breathe and observe how you feel before checking the computer for emails or updates. This way you’re learning to respond rather than react.
- One Thing At a Time: If you want to be more productive then try to do task one at a time rather than flicking between many tasks. There are no such things as multi-tasking whatever anyone tries to tell you. If you can, block out time to focus on a group of similar tasks and if possible turn off your email during this period then you’ll find you get more done and that makes us feel better. One of the techniques that have worked for me is the Pomodoro technique http://workawesome.com/productivity/pomodoro/
- Schedule in Micro-Breaks: It’s important to schedule in breaks throughout the day to refocus and refresh the body and mind. I recommend to take a walk(if the weather permits) at lunchtime and spend some time in nature. Go for a walk in a local park and use all your senses. Smell the flowers, notice the colours, feel the sun or wind on your skin and listen to the birds or the insects. Tune in to everything around you. Being in nature helps to balance the nervous system and releases serotonin which puts you in a better mood to power through the afternoon.
Micro-breaks are also critical just to keep you from getting into auto-pilot which can lead to exhaustion and negativity. Practising short breathing meditations throughout the day is a great way to take a break. I especially like using a slow breathing technique where you count in for 4, hold the breath for 4 and breath out for 4. Just repeat this for a minute. It is also good to check with your mood in to see if you are in a proactive, reactive, distracted or exhausted zone. Then decide what’s best to do at that moment. It could be slow breathing or if you feel a bit more frazzled then try slow music, put on some music with beats lower than 70 that is below the beat of an adult human heart and notice after a few minutes how your heart rate drops and how much calmer you feel.
Ending the day well is essential so that you can get a great night’s sleep. It’s all about winding down an hour before bedtime. Turning off phones, TV’s and computers and spending some time reflecting on the positive aspects of the day. You can check out my blog for tip to a great night sleep https://thelittlebreathingspace.com/2017/09/26/sleep/
- Journal or Just Relax Some people find listening to gentle sounds of nature helps them get to sleep. If your mind is still racing, try journaling. Just before bedtime, it can help to get all those thoughts out of your head and down onto paper.
- Meditate Practising body based meditations help the body to let go of tension and tightness aid restful sleep. I’m a huge supporter of using Yoga Nidra meditation to bring on a profoundly relaxing night. I started using a yoga Nidra meditation a few years ago and to support me to fall back to sleep if I woke up during the night. Yoga Nidra is such a powerful technique. It very quickly stopped the waking up thing! I felt so refreshed in the morning. Now I make sure it’s part of my night routine. I have put a link to my favourite meditation here http://bit.ly/2ggn3Fz Give it a try.
You ’ve not anything to lose. So dive in, ‘mindfully’ of course, and start breaking the cycle of mindless busyness. And begin to feel calmer, brighter and happier
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