Are you feeling more overwhelmed than usual with work stress? Is multitasking not helping you keep up? Is your mind racing so much at night that you can’t sleep? Yep, it’s time—time to carve out a few minutes daily to reconnect with your heart. And a mindfulness practice or meditation is the best way to do it.
The truth is that meditation is a must for everyone! Meditation and mindfulness help to unclutter your mind and disperse the tremendous amount of stimulation and information assaulting our brains every day. They are tools to soothe the nerves and reactivate the body-mind connection.
But what do we mean when we say “mindfulness” or “meditation”? Well, meditation is an ancient practice of raising your mental consciousness. You might associate it with Eastern religions like Buddhism, but really, it’s just a larger term that encompasses a technique of self-discovery. “Mindfulness” is a small part of meditation as a whole. It means to practice your focus on a small act, like drinking a cup of hot tea, or watching the sun set, or waves lapping up against the shore of a lake. Many of us don’t have a lifetime or even a full day to devote to a practice (not yet, anyway), but we can find a few minutes or even just moments, to practice mindfulness.
Still not sure? You’re not alone in your skepticism. In our hectic lives, we often feel like there’s just not enough time to add one more thing. But the brain research on meditation is compelling. Even Nightline anchor Dan Harris, at first a skeptic, gives a very convincing TED talk about mindfulness.
If you’re game, here are a few ways you can start to exercise some brain muscles. And if you're still asking yourself, "Why should I meditate?" these examples below will give you great reasons to consider a new practice. Using three common situations, you can practice greater awareness and release work stress while enjoying your life more. By interrupting daily stress with a healthy response, such as taking a moment to breathe deeper, you will have begun mindfulness. It's that easy. It's that simple.
Practice Shifting Stressful Situations Mindfully
Situation #1: You’re procrastinating—again!
So how to overcome procrastination? We're actually not trying to "overcome" anything! Are you asking "Why do I procrastinate?" Procrastination can be a way for your body or mind to rebel and go on strike. And no wonder—if you’re making productivity or checking something off your list more important than yourself and your balance. Procrastination feeds self-criticism, which fuels stress, which in turn pushes us to go, go, go. STOP and breathe deeply whenever you find yourself procrastinating. (And remember that sometimes procrastination is your intuition telling you something you need to know about yourself and your life.)
Situation #2: Your mind is racing, and you can’t sleep.
A racing mind is often a symptom of stress and worry. Stop and take three long, deep breaths. Consciously relax your shoulders and neck. Feel your body relax from the top of your head all the way down to your toes. Release stress as you exhale, then inhale calmness. Repeat until you feel refreshed.
Situation #3: Creativity is frozen. You are stuck.
No matter how hard we try, sometimes we just can’t make our minds come up with anything fresh, new, or innovative. Albert Einstein once said: “People are like bicycles. They can keep their balance only as long as they keep moving.” When you’re stuck, get moving. When we’re stressed, our breath is usually shallow. Don’t tolerate frozen energy. Breathe deeper. Go for a walk. Step outside and look at the sky. Spend a few minutes coloring. Ride a bike, or do some squats in place while breathing deeply. Interrupt the staleness of energy and move. Move the breath through your body, and move your body to shatter inertia.
It’s not the size of the change, it’s our intention and attention that count.
The beginning of all change is awareness. And it is far better to make small changes you can sustain than to make big changes that don’t last. Start with five minutes a day, and move from there as you get more comfortable and it can become a sustainable practice.