Who the heck has time to meditate? With an endless to-do list, constant distractions, and the societal pressure to worship at the altar of busy, we’re lucky to make it to the end of the day with our sanity intact. By now, we’ve all heard about the many benefits of adding meditation and mindfulness to our lives, including improved physical health, mental function, and emotional stability. We know it’s good for us, but the thought of one more thing we should be doing can add to our feeling of overwhelm. “Yeah, right…like I really have time to sit for an hour!” The good news is that all you need to do to reap the myriad benefits of meditation is breathe, pause, and notice. I’ve found some easy techniques to incorporate these three key elements into a daily mindfulness practice.
Our breath is our most powerful and accessible tool on the quest to a more meditative life. Start your day with five to ten deep, mindful breaths before getting out of bed. This will ground you in the present moment and set the tone for your day. Set the intention to check-in with your breath regularly throughout the day. Perhaps you commit to exploring so-hum meditation (a silent “so” on the inhale, and “hum” on the exhale) while sitting at stoplights or waiting in line.
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Create opportunities to come to a full stop in the middle of a busy day. This is an effective way to break the constant stream of unconscious mind-chatter and reorient you in the immediate moment.
Practice mindful eating. Make it a habit to express a moment of gratitude before each meal, followed by three slow, fully aware bites. Explore the taste, texture, and temperature of your food, as well as any physical or emotional sensations you experience. This practice can change your relationship to food and improve your health on many levels.
Also consider using sound cues as a method to build pauses into your day. Simply stop and take a few deep breaths every time you hear your cue–maybe a clock striking the hour, a cell phone ringing, or car horn honking. Or you can set a timer to remind yourself to pause and be present at set intervals throughout the day.
We tend to spend a lot of time on autopilot, checked out of the here and now while our minds travel to the past or future. Commit to finding ways to root yourself in the sensory experience of the precious present moment. A gentle stroll, even the walk to or from the car, can become walking meditation, where you tether your awareness to your surroundings and the basic mechanics of each step. Housework can shift from chore to meditation by simply giving it your full attention. As you sweep, notice the sound of the broom on the floor, the feeling of the sweeping motion in your body. Count breaths or add a simple mantra such as, “I Am Present” to keep you focused. Body scans are another great way to hone your attention. The act of noticing how your body feels is a simple, grounding practice you can explore anywhere and anytime.
Meditation doesn’t have to be formal to be effective. There are endless opportunities to weave mindfulness into your busy life, and a little bit helps a lot. If you need more help, there are hundreds of user-friendly apps and guided meditations available to explore.
Experiment, and have fun! And remember, like any worthy undertaking, integrating meditative practices into your life takes time, patience, and commitment. Start small, and keep going. The rewards are limitless!