Working self-care into our dizzyingly busy schedules can seem daunting and stressful — yet another to-do on our endless lists of responsibilities. Fortunately, integrating mindfulness into our daily lives is fairly easy, even when we’re breaking a sweat at the gym.
Mindfulness during exercise — focused attention on the movements of your body — predicts satisfaction and commitment to exercise, studies show, which ultimately boosts our fitness results. But we can also harness the empty moments between sets to get our minds fit. Whether your weightlifting or circuit-training, most of us use our recovery time to scroll through news updates on smartphones or space out to our favorite tunes, but we can capitalize on those dead spaces to set ourselves up for a happier— less stressful! — day.
Research suggest resting 20 to 60 seconds between sets — that’s ample time to work in these three mindful practices.
Reflect on what you’re grateful for
It could be as simple as expressing thanks for the power and health of your body, but multiple studies demonstrate you have a lot to gain by giving thanks. It boosts your hope and happiness, improves sleep, which is critical to repairing and building our muscle mass, increases the efficacy of your immune system, decreases depression and anxiety — and cuts the stress hormone cortisol (by 23 percent, in one study). So skip scrolling through your phone and take a moment to give thanks.
Take a breath
“If you can breathe, then you can meditate,” Agapi Stassinopoulos, a renowned meditation expert and author of the best-selling Wake Up to the Joy of You: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life, tells Thrive Global. On four counts, take one deep breath through your nose, then exhale through your mouth on another four counts. “One conscious breath alone can reset the brain and shift you into being more present with yourself,” Stassinopoulos says. Studies show that learning to observe your breath (and thoughts) rise and fall with detachment improves your ability to cope with life struggles and stresses.
Let your mind wander
Use the dead spaces in your workout to dream wild and big. Research shows that boredom facilitates creativity. So take those minutes between sets to let your mind wander far and wide — even beyond the pragmatic limitations of our world, go way out there. Albert Einstein hatched his most radical and revolutionary ideas by allowing his brain to rove aimlessly. Maybe your mind will ponder a solution to a problem, or the meaning of a plot point in a book you’re reading. Whatever it may be, working the muscles of your mind is just as important as getting your body in shape.
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