It isn’t easy to operate with your higher self engaged all the time. In fact, it can seem downright tiring. How often do you find yourself reacting instead of responding, behaving in ways that fill you almost instantaneously with regret?
As you rush out the door, your little one reminds you that it’s their turn to bring the class snack — two minutes before the bus arrives. You snap — and immediately wish you could take back your harsh words upon seeing your child’s crushed face. Why didn’t you stop and think?
Fortunately, neither mindfulness nor the empathy that often accompanies it is an innate trait you’re either born with or lack. These are skills you can develop — some countries even teach them in school.
However, folks on this side of the pond can reap the benefits through independent training. Best of all, it’s fun, often free and helps you wring more enjoyment out of each moment. Here are 10 ways to practice mindfulness during a busy day.
1. Start the Day With Intention
What’s the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning? If you’re like many, you might start running down a mental to-do list, making yourself feel frazzled before you even emerge from the sheets. That’s a surefire way to adjust your mindset to feel harried and rushed all day.
The problem only compounds if you make a beeline to the coffee pot and have a caffeine sensitivity. Although most people can enjoy up to four cups a day with no ill effects, others develop a racing heart from a much smaller dose, unwittingly triggering themselves as their bodies interpret their pounding heartbeat as a sign something is wrong. They don’t know what, but they develop a vague sense of panic all the same.
Instead, claim the first 10 minutes of your day as your own — no excuses. It doesn’t matter if you set the alarm a few minutes earlier or gradually train yourself to rise. The most critical directive to follow is harnessing the hypnopompic period’s power. This mental state occurs as you arise from sleep, making you more open to suggestion.
Set a Mindful Intention
Use this time to visualize the kind of day you want to have. Some people perform this exercise by choosing a one-word mantra that describes the tone they want the next 24 hours to take. Others put a guided meditation on their playlist to begin their day. Many popular mental health and fitness apps offer this option — you might even be able to program your alarm to wake you up with mindfulness.
Perform Some Gentle Mindful Movements
Get your intention set in your central nervous system by performing a few gentle stretches as you concentrate on how you want your day to go. Try to generate the feeling you hope to project — be it kindness, serenity or perseverance — and let it radiate through each cell as you wake up your body the easy way. You can find free morning yoga workouts on YouTube, some of which start right in bed and move you to the floor.
2. Set Breathing Reminders
As your day gets increasingly more hectic, it’s natural to lose sight of the best intentions. Things come at you quickly, and sometimes you have no choice but to react in the moment. However, it’s vital to hit pause now and then. Otherwise, you risk responding in alignment with your default mode network — which may not be the healthiest choice or represent what your higher self would do.
The solution is to use technology. Nearly everyone has an alarm on their cellphone these days. If you want to get even more high-tech, you can invest in apps that remind you to breathe at regular intervals. Your Apple watch can send you mindfulness reminders.
Set your alarm to remind you to simply breathe for one minute. Use this time to clear your head and regain your focus. You don’t have to actively do anything except concentrate all your attention on your inhales and exhales, letting your brain relax for a moment, creating space for silence to speak its wisdom.
3. Text a Loved One
What genuinely matters in life? If you spend time in mindfulness, you’ll probably realize that your relationship with others matters more than material things. Why not check in with someone who makes your life worthwhile when you feel overwhelmed?
A quick text to your loved one is a mindful reminder of what matters to both of you. It only takes a few seconds — but it can create a mental reset. Just don’t get caught up in a long-winded dialogue. A simple “I love you and hope your day is going well” is sufficient.
4. Try a Singalong
Modern technology has a downside: It steals the joy you used to feel when your favorite jam came on a standard radio station. However, you can make your next singalong a mindful affair, even if you tune in via an app where you select the playlist.
Feel the Rhythm
If you’re in your car or have headphones, pump up the volume — to a safe degree. Decibel levels above 80 can cause hearing damage over time, with the danger increasing as loudness grows. Crank yours enough that you can feel the rhythm. What does it feel like in your body? What does it do to your heart rate and respiration?
Sense the Mood
Imagine you didn’t speak the language. What tone or mood would this music evoke if you couldn’t understand the words?
Listen to the Lyrics
What do you suspect the songwriter was thinking about when they penned the words to your favorite song? What do they mean to you? Is meaning found somewhere between the communication, in the middle of what they intended and what you interpreted?
5. Take a Walk
Exercise is a fabulous way to get mindful. Observing your physiological reactions as you sweat gives insight into how your physical sensations impact your mood. Interoception is the sense of how your perceptions — such as feeling cold — influence your mental state.
You can practice various mindful techniques as you stroll. For example, you can perform a gentle body scan, paying attention to your feet as they strike the pavement and your knees as they absorb the shock.
Alternatively, tune into your powers of observation and appreciation. What do you see, hear or smell? Can you pause to extend a moment of gratitude for the gorgeous magnolia blossoms or the chorus of happy birds?
6. Eat a Snack
Even on the busiest days, you have to eat. You simply won’t be able to power through your various responsibilities without fuel.
Make your dining time an adventure in mindfulness. Perhaps you’ve heard of the exercise where you mindfully eat a piece of chocolate or a raisin. You might not have time to take five minutes to devour a single square — but you should slow your pace.
Take a deep breath, inhaling the aroma of your meal. Observe the colors and plating before digging in with your fork. Roll your food around on your tongue to savor each flavor sensation and chew thoroughly — you’ll enjoy it more and decrease your choking risk. You’re also more likely to notice when you feel full, which is a boon if you’re trying to lose weight.
7. Engage All Your Senses
Your therapist may have taught you the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 technique for quelling panic if you have anxiety. You can also use this exercise as a mindfulness practice anywhere and anytime.
Start by listing five things you can see, followed by four you can feel. Follow with three things you can hear, two you can smell and one you can taste.
Doing this exercise returns you to the present moment, which is helpful if you’re lost somewhere between “that missed zero on the budget report is going to cost me my job” and “how will I survive losing my home?” Once you pause, you can regain perspective and discover the healthiest way forward — one that probably won’t entail economic disaster.
8. Color or Doodle
Coloring may feel like a frivolous activity on a busy day. However, it can return you to the present and help you regain your focus.
You might even want to doodle in work meetings — that is, if you hope to mindfully tune into what’s going on and remember key points better. Researchers investigated the mental impact of this habit, traditionally thought of as an unnecessary distraction. To their surprise, they found that folks who doodled while listening to a rambling message recalled the substance 29% better than those who presumably paid attention.
9. Stretch It Out
Yoga is the ultimate mindfulness activity for tuning into your body’s cues. Sometimes, your physical sensations can make you behave in ways you later regret. Who hasn’t accidentally snapped at a loved one when they had a headache, then felt terrible for their outburst?
Stretching also increases blood flow to your brain, flooding your neurons with fresh oxygen. You might find concentrating easier after standing up, touching your toes and perhaps completing a quick sun salutation.
10. Play With Your Pets
Your pets bring much joy and relaxation to your life. Spending a few minutes playing with them can be an exercise in mindfulness.
Why not wind down your day by grooming your puppy or kitten? They’ll adore the attention. Meanwhile, you can mindfully tune into your physiological reactions. Can you feel your blood pressure decreasing as you relax with your BFF?
Practice Mindfulness During a Busy Day
Busy days happen to everyone. They can leave you feeling haggard and overwhelmed — but you can handle your duties with grace. Mindfulness is your secret weapon to keeping your higher self engaged without feeling like a constant battle.
Use these 10 tips to practice mindfulness during a busy day. It doesn’t take long to complete a mental reset, but doing so can improve your productivity — and sense of inner peace — for the remaining 24 hours.