Mindfulness is a phenomenal tool for increasing calm, dealing with stress, making better choices, improving productivity and a host of other amazing benefits. I’ve written about it before here, and many other people have done fantastic jobs of disseminating good information all over the web.
For many of us who lead busy, full lives, finding the time to sit and meditate can be a real challenge. I have been fortunate enough to meet and learn from a few genuine Buddhist monks, one of the most helpful lessons I have been taught is that mindfulness is a state that can be practiced anywhere and in any task, not just sitting on the cushion. The benefits of engaging mindfully in various everyday tasks are almost as potent as the benefits of engaging in deep meditation, especially when you are somewhat practiced at the latter.
Here are five strategies I have found extremely helpful to incorporate mindfulness into a busy life. I find these small pockets throughout my day help me to gain the calmness and control over my stress levels when I’m struggling to keep up my practice on a regular basis.
The Mindful Drive.
Driving to work can be a great opportunity for mindfulness. So many times we are guilty of half listening to music and half paying attention to the road, often reaching out destination without really even being able to remember how we got there.
Instead. Try really being mindful on your next short journey. Pay complete attention to the road, the way the car feels, the sounds of the engine, the way the wheel feels on your hands. Think of nothing else, listen to nothing, don’t search for distractions to entertain you. Allow yourself to completely focus on one thing, with the absence of the hundreds of stimuli you’ll inevitably face for the rest of the day. Enjoy the quiet, just drive.
Mindful eating is not only an excellent opportunity to sneak in a little mindfulness. But a great strategy to lose weight and get healthy. It’s quite well studied that eating mindfully as opposed to looking at screens or working through lunch will lead to greater satiety at lower food intake. Want to lose weight? Well eating mindfully is a simple hack that will help a lot and its much less of a pain in the arse than counting calories.
You’l also end up chewing your food more, digesting better, tasting more and thus enjoying more. Its really easy and simple to do. Simply eat, close the laptop, leave your desk, put the phone on do not disturb and sit the fuck down to eat. Take 10 minutes for yourself and do nothing but eat. Pay complete attention to act of eating without distractions. You have lunch every day? Here’s 10 minutes of mindfulness at no extra time cost. Huge benefits await!
A Mindful Walk.
Mindful walking is a very easy to incorporate strategy. Most people probably have a short walk they routinely do as part of their day. From the carpark to the office for example. Often this will be twice per day, once to wherever you’re going and once back to where you came from. What do you normally fill that walk with? Texting, Facebook, mentally preparing for the next thing in your day, ruminating on the irritating arse you just encountered or the argument with your spouse earlier? Probably something akin to one of these.
How about just walking? Just take the few moments on your walk to rest your ever ticking internal dialogue. Embrace the short mental break and the impact on your presence at your next encounter can be quite profound. These few little breaks multiple times per day can add up to a greatly improved calm and resilience.
My personal example is my walk from my car to the gym every morning. Its usually around 5:30am, sometimes I’m lost in thought, I’m obsessing about some small inconvenience somebody caused yesterday that I’ll have to sort out today, I’m convincing myself that postponing my early workout to later in the day and replacing it with another coffee is a god idea. Etc. Etc. Etc. But when I decide to sneak in a quick mindful walk it’s a much different experience. I notice the fantastic church I walk past every day without appreciating that it’s actually quite a lovely building to walk past. I notice birds singing, (painfully cliche, I know), Sometimes, depending on the time of year I’m treated to an awesome sunrise. After this practice I arrive at work noticeable calmer, noticeable less harassed, and measurably less likely to ingest even more caffeine.
By Pete Edwards
Training for me has always been very meditative. I enjoy training most when I’m completely alone in the gym with zero distractions. It’s hard to practice the full snatch while ruminating on bills and stressing about VAT. It’s incredibly easy to play a game of basketball completely immersed and completely absent from the rest of your life. Training intensity, rep quality and even skill level will be greatly improved if you begin to train mindfully.
You do not have to be a zen master for the entire hour you’re in the gym. Think of a weight training session as being like an interval session for your attention and focus. Trying to remain focused throughout the entire hour is not beneficial nor necessary, but during each set you should practice cultivating a pure attention and intense focus. You should be able to block out all the noise, banter, and any other distractions for the 20 - 40 second sit will take you to complete your set. Between sets you can relax your focus, even engaging in friendly chat, joking etc. This will not harm the benefits. But when it’s your set, you should be able to switch it on quickly and briefly. This actually represents the typeof focus required in many team sports, The hockey players I train, for example, have to focus intensely during a shift, which actually only lasts about 50 seconds, then they get to relax their focus for about 2 minutes while on the bench. This repeats for three 20 minute periods. Often, actually, the players / performers who are able to switch off and relax during down time, are most able to switch on and focus during crunch time.
I’ve often observed that the best progressing clients are the ones who are able to focus intensely on the set. Even when they are the most disruptive, load and relaxed between sets. (You know who you are)
The Sacred Pause.
The sacred pause is an extremely brief, but remarkably potent micro meditation. You can incorporate this in to your daily life, multiple times per day. It is as simple as stopping everything, taking three deep, nasal breaths. Being completely present, completely aware, completely paused, for just three short breathes can help you relax, make better choices, gain perspective, catch knee-jerk reactions and even connect with people in a profound way.
It literally takes thirty seconds, and can be done anywhere. I often use it between clients to wipe the slate clean and attempt to cultivate presence for the next session. I also try (being the operative word) to use this technique when dealing with difficult situations, such as clients complaining about the results they didn’t get with the work they didn’t do and the advice they didn’t take (you also know how you are).
Either way it can be a potent few seconds.
Mindfulness can be a potent tool in your arsenal against the stress and strain of daily life. It can also be a fantastic tool for simply cultivating greater presence, performance and connections. Try applying just one of these tactics per week for the next few weeks and I assure you you will feel the benefit in your day to day life, relationships, and yourself.