Thank you to Gill for her new blog on finding ways to introduce mindfulness into a busy day.
Five sure fire ways to find time for mindfulness
You’ve read the research and you’re sold on the idea of mindfulness but however much you want to practice, it’s hard to find the time. You’re not alone, this is something that we hear frequently at Positive Change Guru. So what can you do to make mindfulness part of your day? We’ve put together five sure fire ways to start where you are and add mindfulness into your day with just a few minor tweaks.
Start your day with mindful breathing
It’s a way of setting the tone for the rest of your day and can be a great way to embed mindfulness as a habit. Think about your morning routine, how do you typically start your day? Waking, getting out of bed, cleaning your teeth, having your first shot of Java? Is there space for one minute of mindfulness practice? A mindful minute perhaps? Or a quick body scan? If you’ve ever decided to run a marathon and followed a running plan you may be familiar with the strategy of run a minute walk a minute on day 1, run two minutes, walk two minutes on day 2 as a starting point. Surprisingly, training your brain is no different to training your body.
Start with a minute of practice first thing in the morning on week one and build up to two minutes on week two. Start where you are and see how far you can build your morning practice. As you begin to see the benefits, you’ll be surprised at how easy it becomes to incorporate mindfulness into your morning routine.
One of the things that we like about the STOP exercise is its simplicity. Sometimes mindfulness sounds more complicated than it really is. STOP is deceptively simple and it’s something that we can all do, at any time during the day for 60 seconds.
- Take a breath. Notice the flow of your breath in and out of your body.
- Observe your thoughts as you breath in and out, what is popping into your head, right here? Right now? How are you feeling you, your body? What sensations are here? Do you notice tension, aches, or are you relxed? How is it for you, right now in this moment?
- Once you’ve practice STOP keep calm and carry on with your day.
The waiting practice.
You know what it’s like, you’re stuck in traffic, the lights are at red and you are wishing them to change with every fibre of your body. Perhaps you’re in a queue and the conversation between the cashier and the person in front infuriates you as you glance at your watch. Or perhaps your train is waiting at the station, delayed for some unknown reason. Don’t they know you have somewhere to go. Annoying isn’t it? The irritation as you wait is an opportunity in disguise and a prime moment to practice mindfulness. Try this three step waiting practice instead;
- Bring your focus to your breath. Notice the cool stream of air above your upper lip as you inhale and a warmer sensation in the same area as you exhale.
- Move your attention to your body. How are you feeling? What sensations are you able to detect?
- Notice your thoughts; annoyance? Impatience? Irritation? Recognize them and then allow them to be, just as they are.
Multitasking is a myth. As much as we want to believe that it’s possible we know from a plethora of research in the field of neuroscience that the ability to focus on several tasks at the same time just isn’t possible. Studies by Gloria Mark, Professor of Informatics at the University of California found that when we’re continually distracted we may work faster but we produce less.
Dr JoAnn Deak author of ‘Your Fantastic Elastic Brain” states that “When you try to multitask, in the short term it doubles the amount of time it takes to do a task and it usually at least double the number of mistakes.” Worse still, researchers at Stanford University found that regular multitaskers are particularly bad at it, suggesting multitaskers are easily distracted.
Still not convinced? Try this quick test from the Potential Project:
- Draw 2 horizontal lines on a piece of paper, now, ask someone to time you as you carry out the next two tasks:
- On the first line write “I am a great multitasker”
- On the second line: write out the numbers 1 – 20 sequentially, like these below 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20
How long did it take to do the two tasks?
Let’s try a spot of multitasking.
Draw two more horizontal lines. This time, with someone timing you, write a letter on one line, then write a number on the line below, then the next letter in the sequence on the first line and then the next number in the sequence, changing from line to line. For example, write the letter “I” and then the number “1” and then the letter “b” and then the number “2” and so on until you’ve completed both lines.
I a ……
1 2 …
See how long the second task takes you and notice how you feel as you complete it. A bit frustrated? And were there errors? This is known as ‘switch tasking’ and is what happens when we think we’re multitasking (here’s the clue. We’re not).
So the next time you’re tempted to multitask, slow down and take it one step at a time focusing fully on the task at hand until you’ve finished. Now you can start on the next task.
A mindful minute of breathing
It only takes a minute but it will have an impact on the entire physiology of your body as well as your mood. Use it during times of stress, or at regular periods during the day by setting an alarm on your phone or using a free app that rings a bell to alert you to the practice like ‘Zazen lite.” We think that nobody describes this better than Thich Nhat Hanh in Shambhala Sun;
“So the object of your mindfulness is your breath, and you just focus your attention on it. Breathing in, this is my in-breath. Breathing out, this is my out-breath. When you do that the mental discourse will stop. You don’t have to make an effort to stop your thinking; you bring your attention to your in-breath and the mental discourse just stops. That is the miracle of practice.”
We couldn’t agree more.
Find out more by taking a look at this video of Mirabai Bush speaking about mindfulness at Google: