When I ask people “do you practice mindfulness?”, many respond they don’t have time for it. In a recent informal survey that I conducted online with 21 participants, 95% of people stated their biggest obstacle to practicing mindfulness is lack of time or procrastination. We have school, work, chores, taking care of kids, pets, and elders, and everything in between. We really do have busy lives.
I used to practice with a mindfulness group downtown, but since I have moved outside the city, I have been practicing more on my own. With no one to hold me accountable, my practice slipped. I became more cranky and restless in the mornings. Eventually, I got tired of being in a low mood and slowly incorporated a daily mindfulness routine. I found the following 5 things to be helpful.
5 tips to kick-start daily mindfulness practices:
1. Link mindfulness with an existing routine.
We usually have a morning routine – wake up, brush teeth, shower, and get dressed. The easiest way to incorporate mindfulness is to link it to an existing routine. For example, you can take 5 deep breaths before getting out of bed in the morning, or focus on the sensation of hot water while in the shower. The activity becomes a signal to get back into the present moment. For me, brushing my teeth is my mindfulness practice. Since I have to brush my teeth everyday, it becomes a moment that I dedicate to myself. I try not to think of the past or future while I am brushing. In that moment, I am grateful I still have teeth and that I am alive today.
This is one of the easiest ways to start mindfulness everyday – focus on a task and only on the task in that moment. Temporary let go of any worries for the day.
2. Do it on the go.
Some people have a picture of what meditation looks like: someone sitting in cross-legged with their eyes closed. You don’t always need to sit in perfect posture to practice mindful meditation. I used to ride the subway everyday to work downtown. My morning habit was to grab the local Metro newspaper and read it on the subway. Since it was a short newspaper, it was the perfect length for me to browse through from the first page to the last as I reached my destination. However, I discovered that on days that I didn’t read the newspaper, I was less agitated for the rest of the day. I found that sitting and not letting my thoughts get carried away by world news was very calming. There was nothing wrong with reading news, but I tended to get attached and worried too much.
You can try meditating on-the-go. Simply pay attention to your breath for a few moments on the subway or while driving to work (while paying attention to the road conditions). Or bring along music or books that provides positivity for you.
3. Set yourself up for success.
In the book, “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg, the author talks about choosing a cue to start exercising each morning, such as leaving your running clothes next to your bed.1 The same holds true for mindfulness. Find something that reminds you to practice: it could be a mindfulness app on your phone, a bell on your kitchen table, or a mindfulness podcast connected to your car.
During my last accounting job, I would arrive at work and then sit quietly at my cubicle while my desktop computer was loading. I would stare at my cubicle wall where I had a quote posted as a reminder: “Peace in oneself, Peace in the world”. Instead of checking voicemails or chatting with my colleagues (or being upset at the computer for being so slow!), I used the down time as a check-in. I would ask myself, “How am I feeling? Can I take a few breaths here? This is my moment and everything else can wait.” When it is not possible to have a moment of silence at work, you could try the locker room or bathroom as your private space.
Here you’ll find 3 mindfulness apps that I’ve found useful:
4. Don’t beat yourself up for missing a session or two.
Take it easy on yourself if you feel like you cannot practice mindfulness everyday. There is no “magic” meditation time that you have to achieve. It is not a competition to see who can sit the longest. If you are feeling sick and can’t make it to sit on your meditation cushion, that’s ok. If you are feeling tired after a sleepless night, it is perfectly acceptable to sleep-in and miss morning meditation. Once you feel better, try again. There is no “A” grade to accomplish and be compassionate to yourself.
Mindfulness is part of the life journey and not a destination.
5. Find a mindfulness buddy.
Find someone you trust, either in your home or a close friend, to be your mindfulness buddy. Just like working out at the gym, you can find someone to be your mindfulness friend. They don’t have to practice with you, but you can check in with each other from time-to-time to see how your practice is going. My husband is a good mindfulness buddy – we very rarely meditate together, but he can usually tell if I have not practiced mindfulness. I would usually be a bit more agitated that day and he would catch it. He is a great reminder for me to spend some time doing some meditation or mindful reading when I have a spare moment.
Find a buddy in your area to get started!
Do you have any mindfulness tips to share? Leave a comment below!
1Duhigg, C. (2012). The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do In Life and Business. Toronto: Doubleday Canada, p.51.
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