I think a lot about how we insist on being busy. There is always another task, something else for the kids to sign up for, chores, etc. Somehow, it’s cooler to be in a hurry than it is to slow down and savor the present. I know a lot of people who try to schedule a little mindful downtime with a yoga class here or there, but you don’t need a mat and some stretchy pants to benefit from the lower stress levels that come from really experiencing the present moment.
These 5 mindfulness tips don’t cost anything, and you can do them right now. In fact, you should. Unless you are saving a life, taking a moment to breathe and be present is more important than what you’re doing now.
Go for a Walk: Counting steps is all the rage, and there is endless research on the benefits of walking. While it’s not the fastest way to get ripped and shred pounds, walking is the best way to live longer and make moving part of your life for decades. I’m not talking about a power walk while you chat on your phone and monitor your heart rate, though. I’m talking about leaving the phone on your desk and experiencing the walk. Feel each step. Watch the sun cast shadows on your path or follow a snail. Crunch acorns. Smile at strangers and notice the birds. Even just 5 minutes of walking and mindfulness will erase stress and even lead to more productivity.
Reach Out: If you’re bored or lonely, chances are someone you know is, too. Give them a call or, better yet, drop in and say hello. Ask them how they’re doing and really listen. Studies of longevity point to human interaction and connection as a key to a long healthy life. Whenever I call someone up just to chat, they almost always tell me how great it made them feel. The interaction plus positive energy always makes me feel wonderful, too.
Snuggle a Pet: I love my cats, and they are super snuggly little fur balls. They’re always jumping up in my lap to cuddle and purr, and I often find myself ready to push them off my lap and get back to work rather than lingering in the moment. I challenge you to cuddle your pet as long as they want. If they sit on your lap for an hour, enjoy those 60 short minutes of rest. Be present with your pet, too. Set your phone aside, turn off the TV, and just meditate on what your animal finds important. I’m guessing they value nourishment, naps, and love. These things should be essential in our modern human lives, too.
Sit Outside and Breathe: No matter what the weather, being outside improves our mood. Take a moment to just focus on a single place and experience everything that is happening. Notice the ants marching along or the melting frost. Listen to the leaves rustle. Breathe in the fresh cut grass and the mysterious floral aromas floating in the breeze. Count your breaths, clear your mind, and open up to the infinite beauties of that particular time and space.
Eat an orange like Thich Nhat Hanh: I often eat lunch in front of my computer, or grab a snack while rushing out the door. Lately, I’ve been plating my food, sitting down, and savoring each bite. I actually chew my food instead of gulping like I do when I’m oh, so busy. The next time you grab something to eat, I challenge you to slow down, notice the aroma, and wholly experience your food. Practice mindful eating: Don’t talk. Don’t text. Just eat. Let the nourishment or decadence be a complete moment in an of itself, and experience the nuanced moment with all your senses.
Friends and family are always wistfully telling me they wish they had more time to meditate. They look at their packed schedules and don’t see a spare moment, and so mindfulness becomes a distant wish like losing those last 10 pounds or organizing the basement. Every time we walk somewhere, take a bite of something, talk to a friend, or even just take a breath, we have the chance to do so with awareness. We don’t need to make room for mindfulness because the opportunities are already there.