“It’s so wonderful to be mindful” – you said with enthusiasm, coming back from meditation or silent retreat. “Monastic people seem to have a great chance to run such a peaceful life”. You start enjoying the great moments of silence and peace. What’s more, many studies and researches also showed that you can be more successful while being mindful. So you are most eager to start practicing.
But… a big BUT appears suddenly when you return to your daily life. It’s SOOOO difficult to remind yourself of the practice, and to… find time for it! Most of us run a busy life, with work, kids, and many responsibilities and activities. 30 minutes for meditation or yoga in the morning? Too difficult, when you are already all the time in a rush, even being late for picking up kids at kindergarten or at work. Time for mindful walking? Well, in the evening, you are already exhausted after a long day and the busy traffic. All you want is to just lie on your couch in front of the television!
But there are ways to remind yourself of being mindful daily, even with a busy life. Try some of my 5 minute mindfulness exercises! They are quick, easy, efficient, and… very secret! Ready? Let’s get started.
#1. Count your breaths
Count your breaths is among the easiest of mindful things to do. In the waiting line? Either you’re at the airport, at the supermarket, in a cafeteria waiting for being served… There are so many occasions that you’ll be waiting. Take these opportunities to “count your breaths”.
This practice is what Thich Nhat Hanh called “waiting without waiting”. Simply come back to your breathing. “When I breathe in, I know that I am breathing in. When I breathe out, I follow my breath until the end”. Count them silently.
In less than 5 minutes, I’m sure you’ll be the only person in the waiting line having a beautiful smile on face!
#2. Name your emotions
We are humans and emotional beings. And that’s a good thing. But many of us are not aware of our emotions. We identify ourselves with and get lost completely in them. In our daily life, how many times we get caught in anger, irritation, excitement, sadness, or just simply being bored?
Take these moments to practice mindfulness. Simply notice that you are having an emotion. Recognize if they are negative, positive, or neutral emotions. Name your feelings is one of the best ways to keep a distance from them. It is the first step to find back your mental stillness.
This practice takes less than a few minutes. Remind yourself to be in the present moment when you are having an emotion. It’s a giant step in your mindful practice.
#3. Minute meditation
Whether you just start or have practiced a long time, a 2-minute meditation is always a great thing to do, in between activities. Once in a while, during your day, just sit down in a quiet place, and simply focus on your breathing.
Relax the muscles of your face, your shoulders, your arms, and your whole body. Notice your belly going up and down at each breathing. Open all your senses. A bird singing, a small noise coming from far, a small breeze on your face… Simply be aware. These 2 minutes can bring so much peace to the rest of your day.
#4. Morning smile in bed
A morning smile in bed is one of the easiest and most precious mindful practices I’ve learned. I do this every day. And believe me, it brings so much joy. You will wake up into a beautiful day, with this effortless practice.
Smile to yourself first thing, when you open your eyes in the morning. The fact that you smile relaxes your face. And comes with it, a relaxing mind. It sounds simple, but you can’t imagine how it brings if you’ve not tried it. With your smile, tell yourself, that you are alive. It refreshes your mind that you have another 24 hours ahead on Earth.
Oh, and if one day you forget, come back to your bed again, and smile!
#5. Intentionally relax your muscles
Once in a while, during your day, intentionally relax your muscles. In a waiting line, before a phone call, sitting in a meeting room waiting for the presentation to start… There are many occasions for you to make it a habit.
When you remind yourself of this, you might notice that your face is edgy, or your shoulders are tense. Give them an opportunity to rest. It really takes only a few minutes. And so much stress will fade away. The simple fact of destressing your muscles also brings you back to the present moment awareness.
#6. Turn off television, radio, and phone for a moment
Believe me, turning off the noise, is a very important mindful practice. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, we live in a world of noise. My family members used to let the television on the whole evening in the background. Many of us let it permanently on, when we eat, when we drink a coffee, without even anybody watching it.
Needless to say, only when you turn the sound off, can you notice how noisy it was! Give your mind a moment of break and silence, how short it can be.
#7. Silently say “thank you” before eating your meal
After a long day, when finally finished cooking, you feel really tired. And your children are agitating, talking, teasing each other at dinner table. Does this scene sound familiar to you?
You doubt it, the family mealtime can be unease sometimes. Many people buy “ready-made” meals in the supermarket or swallow a sandwich while running in the metro station. We simply don’t have enough time for cooking and eating.
Remind yourself to sit down, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and silently say “thank you” before eating your meal. It even doesn’t take up to one minute. When I do this, I see such a big difference. Firstly in me, then in all people around me. The atmosphere seems to be more peaceful, and relaxed.
#8. Take 3 deep breaths NOW
The simplest thing in the world – right now, take 3 deep breaths. I’ve just done it, before writing this line. Can you do it now while you read it? It takes a few seconds to take 3 deep breaths. Decide to do it several times per day, whenever you remind yourself of it. This exercise brings you back to the present moment. Notice that you are alive. Be aware of any feelings at the time. Calm your mind. Simply notice the oxygen coming from a tree entering each of your cells. It’s a wonderful moment.
#9. Search for greenness while waiting at traffic lights
I used to do a lot of commuting before. And if you are, I can understand how it can be fastidious, tiring, and boring.
While waiting at the traffic lights, or in a traffic jam, simply search for green trees or watch out of your windows for green grass. Appreciate the greenness, instead of paying attention to the car in front of you. I do this always. It’s a small reflection, but and each time, you feel an enormous difference. A more relaxed and less frustrated state guaranteed!
#10. Lie down on the Earth
I am definitely a doer. I do a lot of things, especially housework, being a mother with kids. But in between activities, I’ve learned now to simply lie down completely, and do nothing for 5 minutes.
Lie down on the carpet, on the floor, or on the grass, wherever you feel the contact with the Earth. Not on a sofa or in bed. Open widely your arms and legs. And simply feel your body relaxed. These 5 minutes can bring so much energy to continue. I love this practice. Try it once yourself.
Try these 5 minute mindfulness exercises today
Most of us run a busy life, with work, kids, and many responsibilities and activities. It’s not evident to stick to our mindful practices. But I promise you, there are definitely ways to remind yourself of being mindful daily. Try these simple 5 minute mindfulness exercises today. Fill yourself with profound joy, have less stress, and feel more grounded daily.
Oh, and before you leave, just a word of warning: The mindful exercises will be of great benefits, if combined with a more sustainable mindful lifestyle. So I would love you to do these while thinking seriously of a gradual change in your lifestyle if you could. Organize yourself in such a way that you can cut down some activities, do less. For example, choose a vacation place where there is less agitation. Cut down your working time. Go less to shopping if it is not really indispensable… And with these, don’t forget my easy 5 minute mindfulness exercises! Enjoy!