Do I do any of these things on the regular? Na. I have a few meditation apps but I haven't yet gotten into using them. If I was curled in a blanket and drinking tea, let's be real, I'd probably be looking at my phone or reading or writing or doing some other form of multi-tasking. And I don't do yoga unless it's in a class.
Does this mean I'm not mindful? I always dream of a life that involves waking up early and going for a run and savoring a really healthy breakfast and taking my time. Is mindfulness some faraway dream just like all the other ways I someday hope to get my life together? Or is it possible right now, as I am right now: my worry-wart, phone-in-hand, constantly-rushing self?
I think it is. And while I'm no expert (I'm still yet to get past a 4-day streak of meditating daily) I'm a real, imperfect, multi-task-addicted person who's figured one or two things out and is on her way to figuring out more.
What is mindfulness?If you've already read 47 blog posts about this, feel free to skip this part. But since 'mindfulness' is one of those words that seems to mean everything and nothing at the same time, I thought I'd whip out a definition via mindful.org:
"Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us."
That may seem like kind of a hard thing to accomplish, but there are 2 main ways that really work to get some mindfulness in your life, no matter how busy you are: Taking a pause, and being more intentional.
How can I be mindful when I have no time/ a crazy life?
1. TAKE A PAUSE'A pause' is a microscopic little moment sandwiched between layers of stress or bad habits or worries in which you separate yourself from whatever is happening for a few seconds and really recognize what you're doing rather than just doing it without thinking. A pause provides the opportunity to make a decision or have a change in perspective: 'I'm going to go for a walk and clear my head' or 'I'm going to do something else and not engage in my bad habit' or 'this thing that I'm worrying about isn't that big of a deal.' And above all, 'a pause' is just a moment of calm (we could all use that, am I right?). Anyways, here are a few ways to 'pause.'
Mindfulness Daily Pause button
If you download the app Mindfulness Daily (it looks like a lil' blue plus sign) there's a kinda fun 'pause' feature. Basically, there's just this button on the home screen that you can press, and it will instantly give you a fifteen second 'pause': a little video of something calming (from oceans to flowers to babies) all the while telling you to breathe in and out, etc. The app itself is a mindfulness/ meditation app with lots of guided meditations and emotion-reflection things that you can do throughout your day.
Use a "check-in marker" throughout your day
A good way, or so I've read, to center yourself mindfully is to remember to do little mindfulness check-ins throughout your day. This could consist of doing a few deep breaths, and just asking yourself "what am I feeling right now, girl?" or "what am I worried about?" This sort of thing has helped me feel more chill at my new job, which is kinda fast-paced and stressful. The problem with this is that you'll probably forget to do it, especially when you're stressed. The solution is to come up with an arbitrary "check-in marker" which is something you do many times throughout the day which can be your marker to do a mindfulness check in. Some examples that I've read about in magazines are: whenever you sit down after having been standing, whenever you walk through a door, whenever you're walking outside, whenever you check your phone, etc.
Listen to a Buddhify for a sec
Whenever I do use mindfulness/meditation apps, (which isn't consistently, but I'm trying) I really like Buddhify. It's not free, I think it costs 4 dollars or so, but it's pretty sweet (and no sneaky additional costs inside the app). Basically, instead of the clear-your-head-and-close-your-eyes method of meditation that a lot of people struggle with, Buddhify provides a lot of mindfulness meditation that you can do at your desk without looking like a freak, you can do in the car, and you can do while going for a walk, etc. This isn't the kind of meditation you fear-- it's just an opportunity to be mindful with the life you're already living rather than creating a new life full of yoga and pretzel-sitting and free time (but those things are also good).
Listen to a song that puts you in the zone
This is quite self-explanatory, but listening to your favorite song or a song that makes you feel calm and at home is a great way to center your mind/ chill out a bit. There's even science behind how listening to your favorite song, regardless of genre, makes the brain behave kinda like you're in a daydream. So if you're feeling stressed, pop in some head phones.
Imagine a place
Another way to "get in the zone" without full-on meditating is to practice imagining a peaceful place. This meditation idea comes from the philosophy that, especially when you're starting out, it's easier to focus your brain on something calming rather than clearing your brain of everything. Basically, you imagine a calming place from your life. Like a beach that you've been to. Or a hike you went on. Or your grandma's house. And then you imagine yourself walking around that place, looking at it, seeing all the details of every object, feeling everything with your 5-senses. Ask yourself questions inside your head, like "how does the sand feel? Is it cold or hot? Soft or hard? How does the breeze feel?" You don't even have to close your eyes for an exercise like this-- you can do it in the middle of your stats class or whenever you need a little second of calm.
2. BE INTENTIONALIn addition to all those ways you can 'take a pause' another way to be more mindful in your busy-as-heck life is to be more intentional with all the stuff you're already doing. Rather than feeling like you're rushing through everything so much and always being preoccupied about what you have to do next, try to focus on the task at hand. Don't multi-task. Focus on whatever you're doing like a small child who's trying to for the first time. Here are some examples:
Do a mindful morning routine.Everyone has a morning routine that's more or less the same each day: wash face, brush teeth, eat breakfast, etc. And a lot of people also breeze through that morning routine on autopilot, barely conscious of what they're doing. We've got other things to think about, right? But when you do it right, repetitive actions can actually be pretty meditative and a great way to center yourself before you start your day. You've just got to 1.) Not multi task and 2.) focus on the sensations of your five senses/how it feels when you do anything from brushing your teeth to enjoying a gourmet breakfast (or, like, eggo waffles).
Don't look at your phone when you walk outsideHello, world. Didn't see you there, I was too busy looking at my phone.
But in all seriousness, a lot of us forget to notice the beautiful and interesting things that surround us. Whenever you're walking from your car to work, or between classes on your campus, try to remember to put your phone in your pocket and be mindful of all the crazy details in the crazy world around you.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: get yourself some nice soap or lotion or whatever you can find for 3 dollars at TJ Maxx and make your shower into a undercover spa. You don't have to spend an hour in there, but intentionally pampering yourself during one of life's most predictable chores (showering) is a pretty great way to unwind.
Anyways, those are the ways that I experiment with this whole "mindfulness" thing. Maybe someday I'll write a post about meditation and how I do it every single day, but that day has yet to come.
Let me know your de-stress or mindfulness strategies!!