Ever have one of those days when you’re jumping from one thing to the next, your mind racing, and you feel like you’re on autopilot?
Maybe you’re in the car and you get to your destination but don’t remember driving there. Or you’re halfway through your morning routine and don’t remember eating breakfast – even though the dishes in the sink prove that you did/
This may sound overly dramatic, but it’s much more common than you think. I’ve experienced both of these scenarios, and I know plenty of people who would admit to the same. This disconnection is when your brain is engaged in an activity well enough to complete it (even being fully aware of your surroundings while driving), but your mind is somewhere else, probably running an endless loop of worry and to-do lists.
The good news is that you can change this behavior pretty easily – it just takes a little practice. The key is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness slows down the monkey mind so you can focus on the present moment, rather than all the random things running around in your head. It’s simple, yet powerful, and here’s how to get started:
Here are three simple ways to practice mindfulness:
1) Check in with your body
This exercise only takes a minute, and can be done anywhere, even in the car or on the train.
- Stop what you’re doing. You can be standing or sitting, it doesn’t matter.
- Take a deep breath, and fully exhale through your mouth.
- Let your shoulders relax (chances are they’re somewhere up around your ears, so let them drop).
- Notice any areas of tension in your body. As you breathe, imagine your breath filling those areas and relaxing them.
- Take another deep breath, exhale through your mouth.
As you go through your day, revisit this exercise every now and then. Make note of when you’re more tense, where you hold it in your body, and how you feel afterward. If you discover that you hold tension in a particular place, like your shoulders, bring your focus there throughout the day, and intentionally relax that part of your body. Breath2 in, let go.
2) Practice being fully present
Notice what you’re doing right now (you’re reading this, obviously, but where are your thoughts running off to?). You can practice being present by simply telling yourself “I’m reading right now”, or “I’m washing the dishes” when you’re at the sink doing dishes.
Whatever it is, say it. Say it out loud if that helps, or silently to yourself – it doesn’t matter. Just repeat that thought over and over as much as you need to fully immerse yourself in what you’re doing.
It’s so simple, and the more you do this, the easier it will be for you to 2eep your mind from wandering.
3) Experiment with meditation
Meditation is a powerful tool that will not only encourage mindfulness, but can also bring you an incredible sense of peace and calm.
If you’ve never meditated before, don’t overthink it. It’s not complicated, but it can be challenging at first.
- Find a quiet spot where you can relax and won’t be disturbed. This may be your bedroom, a quiet corner in a coffee shop, a spot in nature, or even your car (parked!) or a closet.
- Close your eyes, and bring your focus inward.
- Focus on your breathing, on the rise and fall of your chest or belly.
- You can sit for as little as one minute – or longer, if you like. I usually practice for 10-20 minutes, depending on where I am and how much time I have.
The key to meditation is to focus on your breathing. Notice yourself breathing in, then breathing out. Notice where you feel that in your body – is it in your chest, or your belly? I like to practice ujjayi breath, which you may be familiar with if you practice yoga. When my mind is especially busy (which is often), I find it much easier to focus on my breath when I use this technique.
Want some guidance in your meditation practice? I love the Headspace app. If you’re new to meditation, this is a great way to get started and get comfortable with the concept with gentle guidance and prompts. But even if you’ve been meditating for years, there are lots of themed packs to explore. Get the 10-day Basics pack for free. Then if you want to go further, there’s an affordable monthly subscription that gives you access to all the tools.
Now it’s your turn!
Now that you have some simple tools to work with, how will you incorporate these practices into your day? The more you practice, the easier it will be and the more natural it will feel.
I’d like to challenge you to try it, and commit to doing this for 10 days straight. Keep a journal of how you feel each day, so you can look back at the end of 10 days and see if you feel different. I’m pretty sure you’ll notice a significant improvement in your level of calm and focus.