Today is that day for me and I know that in addition to catching up at work I have a couple of other deadlines to meet – this blog being one of them.
So what’s my approach? Mindfulness.
There’s abundant research on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation but most people still avoid the practice due to a misconception that it’s difficult, time consuming, and they don’t know how. So let’s take another look at what mindfulness is and how to bring it into an already busy schedule.
Mindfulness is simply that. Being mindful about what you’re doing and thinking about, right now. One of the easiest ways to get started is by doing ‘spot’ meditations. Rather than trying to find a teacher, a class, or somewhere to practice, look for a few opportunities throughout the day to take five deep breaths. Yep, that’s it. Just five.
Opportunities exist everywhere: before you clean your teeth, eat a sandwich or start the car; when waiting for a bus, train, lift or in a queue; or before you get ready to start your next task; simply stop, focus completely on your breath, and take five.
Another super technique for becoming mindful is practicing gratitude. You don’t need to buy a journal, commit to writing every morning or night, or call and thank anyone for anything. When you’re getting anxious, annoyed or agitated about something, simply stop and spend a moment thinking of three things you can be grateful for. If it’s your first day back to work after a break then having a job to help pay for holidays and bills, being well enough to go to work, and having transport options to get there could be your first three. Try thinking of three new things, a couple of times a day, and you will realise how well off you are compared to many others in the world.
Combining gratitude and spot meditations can bring calm in an instant. Admiring a tree, feeling the wind or rain on your face, or basking in the warmth of the sun, and taking five deep breaths is enough to bring about physiological changes that will help reset your stress response allowing you tackle your next task refreshed.
A third trusty technique is is action. Not mindlessly rushing into ‘doing’, but taking action mindfully to get things done. If there’s one big thing you know needs doing first, then start that one immediately. Otherwise, make a list and work out what’s reasonable to achieve in the day, or even just before your first meeting. If the list is the only thing you have time for, you’ll still be better prepared for the rest of the day. And when you arrive on time and your colleagues are late, you can be grateful for getting yourself organised, then use those few spare minutes to take five deep focussed breathes. You can then move through your day calm and refreshed – which was probably what you hoped to achieve on your holiday.
So that’s my three easy steps to mindfulness. I’ve now tackled my biggest task and my bus ride has about 10 minutes to go - perfect timing to pause for a few breaths before I start on my list.
If you’re interested in knowing more, a great meditation resource is Erich Harrison’s ‘The 5 Minute Meditator’.