I resisted mindfulness meditation for years because I was convinced I was too busy to take a beat to chill out. It turns out it doesn't work like that. You can actually incorporate this form of meditation in your daily life, and there are tons of ways to quickly practice mindfulness when you (think) don't have free time. "Think of it like going to the gym to train your brain," meditation teacher and executive coach Amy Sandler noted on her website Inspire Meditation.
You likely do a lot of stuff in your everyday life to stay physically healthy, and your mind works the same way. Personally, I struggle with mindfulness more than other forms of meditation because my anxiety makes it difficult for me to stay in the present moment, which is what mindfulness is all about. However, it's also about removing judgment from the reel of thoughts cycling through your head and just observing them.
There are tons of health benefits to having a mindfulness practice that make it worth finding the time to do. Mindfulness can potentially relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, the American Psychological Association noted on its blog. It can also help diffuse stressful situations, which all of us encounter from time to time. Here are 10 ways to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday routine — even if you're super duper busy.
1. Simplify Your Morning Routine
Not being organized in the morning can cause a lot of stress, especially if it makes you late for work. Mindfulness expert Patrick Groneman told gardening company Flymo that you can make your mornings more mindful by doing some things to set yourself up for success. Identify everything you need to do in the morning, then set a realistic time frame for your tasks. If possible, decide what you're going to wear the night before. During your morning shower, instead of ruminating on the day ahead, or something dumb you said five years ago, try to focus on the feeling of the water on your skin instead. Eat your breakfast mindfully, with an eye towards the flavors and textures you're experiencing.
If you spend you morning scrolling through Instagram, consider making your mornings tech free. Set your phone to "Do Not Disturb." It's no secret that texting your bestie and scrolling for cute dogs can be a major time suck, so it's best to remove the temptation altogether. Additionally, "If you listen to music when you wake up, avoid songs with words because they tend to pull you out of the present moment," Groneman recommended to Flymo.
2. Revamp Your Commute
While meditation has helped me become a lot more patient about a lot of things, traffic isn't one of them. If you drive to work in a congested city, or take public transportation, there are plenty of things to get annoyed about on your way to work. For me, this usually happens when I perceive other commuters as totally clueless instead of people like me who are just trying to get to where they're going. For a more mindful commute, Groneman suggested avoiding news in the morning. If you take the subway or the bus to work, consider reading a book instead of scrolling through Twitter. If you drive, choose music that's going to make you feel totally boss. And, while it's difficult, try to show consideration for other commuters by letting them merge or offering them your seat. Because your getting mad about that person who cut you off or farted on the subway is not going to change their behavior, so try your best to not let it ruin your day.
3. Get Away From Your Desk
Being mindful at work can be pretty difficult, which is why a lot of companies are integrating mindfulness into their workplace wellness offerings. Aside from deadlines and meetings that could have been emails, feeling like you're chained to your desk can trigger stress. Groneman recommended taking time to practice mindful breathing and walking.
You can also make time in your day to move around and stretch your body, even if it's just a few minutes an hour. Relax your eyes by gazing out the window, or at a faraway wall to give your eyes a break from staring at the computer. If you like your co-workers, take some time to talk with them about non-work-related things as Groneman said that getting along with colleagues can actually reduce stress.
4. Shift Your Shopping
I still have not mastered this one. I loathe shopping of any kind, except online shopping. The slow walkers, people who take up the entire aisles with their carts, horrible lighting, and overall sensory overload activates my anxiety. If you too need to bring a little mindfulness to your shopping routine, Groneman advised making a list so you're going into the store with purpose versus wandering around aimlessly.
He also suggested eating before you shop so you don't feel faint or scattered. Another way to make your shopping experience more meditative is by expressing gratitude for the items you place in your cart. Rather than tossing them in and hurrying to the next aisle, gently place your items in the cart before calmly moving on to the next thing.
5. Experience Eating
Personally, time to eat is one of the things I usually end up sacrificing during a busy day. This leads to me getting hangry and shoving food into my mouth as fast as I can, which is the complete opposite of mindful eating. Groneman noted that it's important to not only take time to eat, but to truly experience and appreciate your food. "Take time to enjoy every bite, indulging yourself in the tastes and textures."
Additionally, if your meal time generally includes your phone, computer, or TV, consider eating without any of these distractions. When your focus is totally on your food, you'll be able to savor each bite and you'll be more likely to notice the taste, texture, and aroma of your food.
6. Focus On Mindful Fitness
If the goal of your fitness routine is to get it over with already, it might be causing you more stress than it's curbing. "Exercising time is where you should focus your attention solely on your wellbeing," Groneman shared with Flymo. "Be mindful of your actions, whether you are using gym equipment or are in the great outdoors. Breathe easily and feel the rewarding sensations as your body benefits from the exertions.
You can bring more mindfulness to your fitness or wellness routine by setting your intentions at the beginning of each practice. Stay focused on what you're doing, and no matter the end result, give yourself props for doing something to improve your health and wellbeing.
7. Launder Your Worries Away
By practicing mindfulness while doing things you have to do anyways, you can make things like laundry less of a chore. Groneman advised that if your tendency is to throw everything into the washer at once (guilty), it's time to slow your roll. "Avoid rushing. Leave enough time to bring gentleness and and care to your clothes," he noted. "They'll be your closest friends on the day you're wearing them."
8. An Uncluttered Home = An Uncluttered Mind
Personally, I can't relax in a dirty, messy, or cluttered space. For me, cleaning is not only meditative, it's actually enjoyable. According to Groneman, "Cleaning is an ideal way to increase mindful feelings, and as you organize your living space you'll be decluttering your mind too."
What's more, if you do this a little bit every day your house will always be a clean and peaceful sanctuary, and it won't feel like you're really spending any time cleaning. Think of it as part of your daily routine, like brushing your teeth. If you don't brush your teeth for six months you're likely in for a lot of pain and frustration at the dentist. It's the same with cleaning. If you neglect your living space for months at a time, when you finally do decide to clean it will feel like an insurmountable task. When you make being mindful about your living space part of your day, you get both immediate and long-term benefits.
9. Get Your Hands Dirty
Spending time in nature is a perfect way to unplug and an easy way to practice being mindful. If you like to garden (I don't), then using your hands to help create something beautiful and bountiful can be a rewarding experience. The outdoors are an often-overlooked glut of riches. From the colors, to the scents, to the sounds of bird and animals, there's a lot to appreciate.
If you don't like yard work, but you have to do it anyways, you can make it a little more enjoyable by bringing the mindful awareness of Edward Scissorhands into your gardening game. Stay focused on your task, and if your mind starts to wander, stop and smell the flowers — literally — to recenter yourself.
10. Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
When you first start practicing mindful behaviors, it might feel super strange. You're probably going to be uncomfortable sitting in silence or staring out the window instead of filling every second with some kind of activity. Eventually you'll stop feeling weird and you'll start to reclaim your sense of awe.
"When I happen to catch a glimpse of a beautiful full moon, or a butterfly flits across my eyeline, I'm spontaneously brought into the present moment, and I realize just how wonderful the world around me is," Elle Taylor wrote of her mindfulness journey for Pop Sugar. "This helps me feel more grateful for all the simple things, and that in turn makes me behave in a much calmer, happier way."
Changing habits and behaviors takes time, and you're certainly not going to become the poster person for mindfulness overnight. However, the goal of anything is progress not perfection. And, integrating mindfulness into day-to-day activities can reduce your anxiety and increase your overall sense of calm and wellbeing. And, let's be honest, who can't use more of that?