Steal some time for your mental health
9 easy ways to sneak mindfulness into your busy schedule
Multiple studies have shown mindfulness, meditation, personal time, whatever you want to call it, can do amazing things like:
reduce stress 1, reduce inflammation in chronic inflammatory conditions 2, reduce anxiety symptoms and improve coping 3, help reduce depression symptoms 4, and the list goes on and on. This area of study is exploding as more and more people benefit from taking a bit of time for themselves.
Many cultures have known this “secret” for hundreds if not thousands of years. We in the west are a bit slow on the uptake however. But it is never too late! Being a creation of western civilization type thinking, and needing information fast, I am here to give you a few sneaky, quick, hacks to get the quiet time you and your brain so desperately need.
Meditation can seem daunting but it doesn’t have to be. You don’t have to have a quiet place and sit with your legs crossed while chanting “Ommmmm” although that is very nice. Many of us have to get to work, pick up kids, grocery shop, doctor’s appointments, zoom calls and all the other things we have to do to keep our life moving along.
I have come up with 9 ways to sneak in some mindfulness. These may seem too easy, like they couldn’t really work; but I promise you they will benefit you more than you know. It won’t happen right away, the effect is cumulative so it does take some time. I challenge you to make a quick note on how you are feeling and what may be stressing you out right now, then put that note on your calendar a month from now with a “I was feeling this way a month ago” when it comes up on your calendar I am guessing you will see the benefits in many aspects of your life.
OK so how do we incorporate quiet time in our hectic lives?
- Right now! Let’s get this party started. You are taking some time to read this so let’s take advantage of that. Just 3 breaths can make a huge difference. Breathe into your belly, not your chest, to get the most benefit. Ready, ok! Breathe in as slowly as you can and out as slowly as you can, relax your shoulders on the exhale
- Morning coffee. Most of us need our morning coffee and part of what makes it special is that it is something we do for ourselves. You may think you are a slave to the caffeine but the bigger benefit is giving yourself a treat. Don’t take that cup for granted. Take a moment, smell the aroma, watch the cream swirl in your cup and just breathe. This can be the best way to start your day. Set a timer and give yourself 10 minutes to enjoy that cup of coffee. If you don’t have 10 minutes take 5, surely you can spare just 5 minutes for your mental and physical health.
- Walking to or from the car. When you are out running errands or parking for work give yourself some distance. Choose a spot further away from the door than you usually do. Then as you are walking to your destination count your steps, up to ten, then start over. Take your time and walk a bit more slowly then usual. Even if you only count to ten twice you have still slowed down your brain, on purpose, and given it a break.
- Stopped at a light. Take a deep breath (into the belly) and welcome the short quiet time you have been given.
The science is piling up!
- While driving Turn off the radio or podcast or radio, even for just a few minutes. Sorry podcasters everywhere but we are fighting for mental health here, just turn off the input – radio, music app, podcast, and enjoy the quiet. Appreciate the brief respite from your busy day. Again take a deep belly breath and let your shoulders relax as you exhale.
- Brushing your teeth. I highly recommend the timed electronic toothbrushes for this, as does your dentist 😉 If you don’t have an electronic toothbrush just set a timer on your phone for 2 or 3 minutes. Then brush your teeth just like you normally do. Count your strokes or breaths and again appreciate this small bit of quiet you are giving yourself.
- Walking the dog or walking yourself. You are taking time out to nurture your body and/or your pet so let’s get a double whammy from it. While you are out walking count your steps up to 10 then start again. Do this for several intervals of 10, take some deep slow breaths and appreciate that you are being kind to yourself in that moment.
- Face masks. No not the ones we wear because of Covid19 the other kind. The best excuse ever to pamper yourself. Men don’t think you are excluded from this activity it is fantastic and your partner will be blown away by your silky soft skin. Face masks usually recommend leaving them on for 10 minutes. Take that time to relax, count your breaths, close your eyes and enjoy the quiet. You can play soft music, light a candle, visualize you are at some exotic spa whatever helps you take a break. Make this a weekly thing – Sunday evening before the busy week starts perhaps.
- Any time. Take 3 deep belly breaths, like we did at the start of this article. Breathe in as slowly as you can and exhale as slowly as you can. Just that little respite can boost your morale and clear your head.
The thing all these activities have in common is that you are taking time on purpose. You are acknowledging the short break you are giving yourself. You are giving yourself permission to just stop, even for a moment, and just breathe. Take the time, you deserve it. Who knows you may find all this so pleasant you start meditating, like, for real.