Super busy, rushing between work and home and no time for yourself?
Often the times we would most benefit from the transformative power of mindfulness are the times when we simply cannot imagine finding a single second for ourselves. Here are three mindful exercises that can fit into even the busiest day. Starting with one that aims to ease you in gently to the practice in just ten seconds!
Yes, 10 seconds (you read that right), that is all it takes!
- When you have read through these simple instructions, close your eyes for the next ten seconds and try to notice and acknowledge the sensation in your body where your body makes contact with the surface on which you are sitting, laying or standing – this may be the sensation on your bottom or back where either meets the chair or bed, or the sensation on the soles of your feet where they meet the floor or the inside of your shoes.
- Simply notice and acknowledge this sensation, in other words hold it in your awareness, focus your attention on it and allow it to take centre stage at the forefront of your mind – nothing more than that. Not so much thinking about it, but curiously exploring, and noticing the feeling and the sense of touch of your body making contact with the surface.
- Should any thoughts pop into your mind about the exercise, any judgements or opinions about it or anything else at all (maybe about your body or what you need to get done generally), just notice these thoughts, do not try to push them away and gently bring your attention back to noticing and focusing on the sensation in your body.
- Just rest in awareness while you notice and concentrate on this sensation for ten seconds right now before reading on. Do not count the seconds, just take a rough guess of how long to do the exercise for, during which try to pay full attention, being as curious as you can be, to the sensation in your body described above.
- As we said, it might help to close your eyes. What did you notice? Did you notice the sensation in your body or thoughts in your mind or both? Most people report how they become more aware of their ‘awareness’ when doing this exercise and certainly about noticing the difference between being in ‘awareness’ versus being in their thinking mind.
Do not worry if you were not able to stay in your awareness mind for the whole ten seconds; that was not the goal anyway. It is more like a dance, our attention moving in and out of awareness, sometimes our thinking mind is taking the lead and at other times it is our awareness that leads. Noticing where your attention is, is being mindful. Just like a professional dancer or an athlete who both train to stay at the top of their game, we all need to train the mind to focus our attention and be more aware, and this takes practice.
Here’s another exercise you can easily work into your daily routine – as you’re drinking that all important cup of coffee get into the habit of practising mindfulness at the same time.
Wake up and smell the coffee!
- First, hold your cup of coffee in both hands (and, if you usually do this, experiment by holding it some other way). Notice the weight of the coffee cup plus the liquid inside it. Notice the heat of the cup against your hands and fingers.
- Acknowledge and be aware that you are noticing the weight and the heat of the cup. There is the weight and the heat of the coffee cup and then there is you noticing it. Allow the weight and heat of the coffee cup to take centre stage in your awareness.
- Do not worry if you cannot feel the weight or heat enough or properly, remember this is not about the weight and heat, it is about awareness and acceptance of what is, just as it is. Bring the coffee cup closer to your face and notice the aroma, soaking it up as it fills the space in front of your face.
- It is natural for your attention to wander or become distracted. When this happens, just gently guide it back to noticing your coffee and the sensations you experience.
- Now, as you bring the cup closer to your mouth in anticipation of the first sip, notice the movement in your body, hands and lips.
- Acknowledge the fact and be aware that you are noticing the movement in your body, hands and lips. There is the movement in your body, hands and lips and then there is you noticing this movement. Allow the movement in your body, hands and lips to take centre stage in your awareness.
- Now, as you take a sip of coffee, notice the temperature of the warm liquid enter your mouth and any physical responses in your body.
- Notice and experience the taste of the coffee.
- Be aware that you are noticing the taste of the coffee.
- Before you swallow, notice the natural impulse to swallow. Once you have swallowed, acknowledge how your body is now one sip of coffee heavier.
- Now, notice the gap of time after you have swallowed before you take the next sip of coffee into your mouth.
- Your experiences of drinking coffee change – but the part of you that notices all these experiences does not change, it remains simply aware, nothing more, nothing less.
- Should your attention wander or become distracted, just gently guide it back to noticing your coffee and any sensation that you experience.
And lastly here’s an exercise for when you’re super stressed with thoughts going round and round and round in your head.
Stepping off the hamster wheel back into reality
- Think of a thought that stresses you out. It might be: I am never going to get all this stuff done in time, or the like.
- Spend a moment or two thinking your stressful thought, silently repeating it to yourself in your mind, really buying into it.
- Notice how stressed you can feel as a result of letting this thought get its teeth into you.
- Now, repeat the thought but, this time, add a few ‘mindful’ words before it. These mindful words are, ‘I notice that I am having the thought that …’, so it might sound like: I notice that I am having the thought that I am never going to get this stuff done in time (or whatever your stressful thought was). Repeat the thought with these few words added before it, a few times silently.
- Notice what happens – did you feel any sense of distance between you and your stressful thought? Did your level of stress change at all? (Remember, if it did, this is just a fortunate by-product of using this present moment awareness technique.)
When using this technique, it may be only one second (or less!) before your thinking mind pipes up once again to replay the stressful thought (or another one) and captures your attention with it once again, and that is OK. All you have to do is repeat the technique above.
It is important to remember that all these exercises are not designed to stop stressful thoughts occurring, to make them occur less frequently or to make you feel less stressed (these are just fortunate by-products, should they occur). These exercises really help to wake us up, to the fact that we might be running on autopilot, replaying stressful thoughts over and over again, worsening our stress level and, perhaps, behaving in ways that move us further away from the life we would prefer to have or the person we would prefer to be.
Mindfulness for Busy People by Michael Sinclair, Emily Shaw and Josie Seydel is out now in paperback and ebook. You can find it on Amazon here.