Even with the hot, long days of summer in full swing, almost everyone is busy. Whether we’re at work, taking care of kids, or taking summer classes, most of us don’t get to take naps on the beach nearly as often as the ads on TV lead us to believe.
Busyness may be an unavoidable part of the modern lifestyle, but the stress and anxiety that accompany it have also ingrained themselves in our culture at a great cost. Our minds move from present tasks to past regrets to future worries in rapid succession, making it difficult to focus, relax, or even sleep. We become so distracted with what’s in our heads that the moments we’re living in pass by us, unacknowledged and unappreciated.
Mindfulness is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. Awareness of our thoughts, feelings, and surroundings can clear the mental fog that stress and anxiety create and can help us become healthier people. Here are five simple ways to practice mindfulness when it seems like there’s no time in the day:
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Check social media? Watch the news? Start planning your workday?
Before your mind begins buzzing with new information, give it some time to wake up gently by meditating. You can start with as little as two minutes and can do it anywhere you won’t be disturbed by others.
Find a quiet, comfortable spot to sit, maybe a cushion on the floor with your back against the wall. Then, sit up straight with your eyes closed or lightly gazing at the floor. Pay attention to your breath as it goes in your nose, through your throat, and into your lungs and belly, and try to clear your head of any thoughts that distract you from the simple act of breathing. It may be difficult to focus at first, but with some practice you’ll find yourself starting the day with a clearer, calmer mindset.
Enjoy your food
The temptation to work through meals and scarf down whatever is easiest to prepare is a common one, especially in Western culture. We often treat eating as a function rather than a pleasure, so we miss out on the simple joy of preparing and tasting food.
Take advantage of your lunch break, or any meal time for that matter, and prepare something that you’re excited about eating. It can be as simple as your favorite sandwich and slices of fruit, but if you put it on a plate (rather than eating it straight out of a plastic baggy) and take time to savor each bite, your meal will be much more satisfying.
As often as you can, avoid eating alone. Conversation slows your eating speed and makes a meal exponentially more fun.
Keep a journal
Whether we realize it or not, we reflect on moments in our day as soon as they happen, analyzing them to draw conclusions. It’s easy to become overwhelmed or confused by our own interpretations of experiences. Did I do the right thing? What did she mean by that? Was it something I said?
A journal can act as an objective onlooker, displaying the day’s events and our reactions to them.
Take time in the evening, or whenever you start to feel anxious or overwhelmed, and write out what you’re feeling and the events surrounding it. You may uncover problems you didn’t realize you were facing, or you may find out that the problems you are most concerned about aren’t really problems at all. Plus, you’ll have a written account of your daily life to look back on when you’re older and facing different challenges.
Make time for things you enjoy
As bizarre as it seems, most of us treat the things we enjoy as luxuries and nothing more. Whether we set career goals to achieve before we allow ourselves to relax or we prioritize to-do lists in an attempt to make enjoyable times more enjoyable, many of us work so hard to earn an enjoyable moment that we forget to make time for one.
Take a walk. Do some creative writing. Draw. Eat chocolate. Nap. Do the thing that brings you joy on a regular basis, and make it a priority even if you feel judged by others or by yourself.
We only get one life. If we convince ourselves that we don’t deserve to enjoy it on a regular basis, we’re adding unnecessary dissatisfaction to a life that can so often be wearisome.
We live in a fast, chaotic world, and it’s easy to become distracted and overwhelmed by the information we’re taking in and the way we perceive that information. Take time every day to be mindful of where you are in life, and you’ll find that clarity and gratefulness will become your instinct rather than your struggle.