A colleague recently asked me, “What is your favorite quick tip for better mindfulness?” For busy professionals, this is the billion-dollar question. I’m asked to speak or write about this topic often, in addition to frequent discussions with people trying to manage ever-increasing stress and anxiety. They’re all trying to answer one question:
How do I maintain a healthy life balance amidst a high-pressure job, a demanding schedule of personal and professional activities, and a laundry list of goals and aspirations?
I’ve noticed one common element in these conversations: time. Our most precious resource in busy modern-day life is time. We rarely feel we have enough of it, and therefore are often resistant to new things or people that ask any additional time from us. As it relates to mindfulness, I’ve been fascinated by this question over the years. Any type of formal mindfulness practice requires a dedicated, long-term investment of time. I have personally found this investment to offer returns far beyond what I could have imagined, but the question remains: are there ways we can integrate mindfulness practices into our already existing daily routines? The answer is yes, and I’ll share two with you that I practice regularly and why I find them to be easy to implement and effective.
Why it works: Breathing is one of the best focal points for mindfulness practice because it is literally and effortlessly with you every single moment of your life. Additionally, the breath provides fascinating insights into what’s going on in your brain and body at any given time.
How it works: This practice is as straightforward as it sounds. Simply find the sensation of your breath somewhere in your body. This could be the feeling of the breath in and out of the nostrils, the rising and falling of the chest, or anywhere else you can physically feel yourself breathing. Once you’ve found a point of focus, just observe your breath without judging or changing it. You can practice this any time: during a high-stress conversation or meeting, during a scary movie, while driving or while eating. TIME Magazine recently published an article about breathing as a mechanism to improve sleep, exercise, relationships, even sex. And that all starts with observing the breath just as it is.
Why it works: This is a variation of loving-kindness meditation, which is a powerful, brain-changing mindfulness practice. It can be woven into your daily commute, which means you have the opportunity to practice at least twice daily. I used to hate driving. But this practice helped me realize traffic is a microcosm of life and helps me differentiate between seeing reality as it is and getting stuck in what I believe reality should be. It’s when I get caught in the latter that my calm and peace of mind get swept away by the raging current of the dangerous river of Expectation.
How it works: During your commute, notice your experience of traffic. You may get frustrated with someone who cuts you off or is following too closely. You might feel anxious that a big truck ahead of you is going to flip up a rock and crack your windshield. You might be running late and angry that others aren’t driving fast enough. As you notice any upsetting traffic event happen, take one deep breath in and out your nose and then bring to mind the face of someone you dearly love and imagine they are the other driver who has just done something that upset you. Chances are they have (or will eventually) committed the very same vehicular offense that currently has you in a rage. You might notice some patience, compassion and forgiveness start to creep into your mind as you feel a desire for your loved one to be free from harm and to receive acceptance and tolerance in their moments of unintentional folly.
After one or two weeks of this daily practice, begin to imagine yourself as the other driver instead of a loved one, offering yourself the same loving-kindness. (Spoiler alert: This practice cultivates a calm, non-reactive mind that will in turn improve your relationship with yourself and others, both at home and at work.)
You may be skeptical about the apparent simplicity of these two mindfulness tools and their ability to provide the level of balance, calm and mental clarity that you’re seeking. I was a skeptic myself when I began practicing mindfulness ten years ago. But with over 6000 studies demonstrating the effectiveness of these techniques, it’s worth giving them a try for at least 3 weeks. What do you have to lose?
Looking to establish or deepen your mindfulness practice? Join one of our upcoming MBSR courses offered year-round. Learn more and register at MindfulnessUtah.com
Originally published at www.linkedin.com