As we jump into January, you may experience different waves of emotion from anxiety, to hope, overwhelm and anticipation. There is a lot of unknown to the year ahead and the shift from a holiday break to the gray, busy-ness of January can be a difficult transition. With that said, I wanted to share a few ideas for how to take 5 minute mindfulness breaks in your day to help relieve tension and create peace.
I talk often about mindfulness and that is because it is a practice that is often misunderstood but also can have a big impact in only a short amount of time. You don’t need a full weekend yoga retreat or isolation on a mountain top to experience the benefits of mindfulness, though obviously those would also be wonderful! The beauty of mindfulness is that it is a practice within your day to day life that you can incorporate as a way of life, rather than an extra thing you have to do in your busy day. It is a mindset shift to complete the tasks you are already doing, but allowing yourself the space to tune in to your surroundings, focus on your breathing, choose where you are placing your energy and providing space for self care and self compassion.
Here are a few ideas to work 5 Minute Mindfulness into your day this week:
-Mindfulness in what you are already doing The beauty of the lifestyle of mindfulness practice, is that you can use the time you are already using for other things. Use the time doing laundry, unloading the dishwasher or preparing dinner to stop thinking about what is next, and focus just on the task at hand. As new thoughts come into your mind, allow yourself to put that to the side and simply focus on where you are in that moment. With each chop of the carrot, with each shirt that goes into the washing machine, take a slow and deep breath in. Hold that breath for about 4 seconds and then slowly let it go. With each cup into the cabinet, deep breath in, deep breath out. This may seem impossible, and I recognize the chaos many of us are experiencing in our day to day life right now but as best you can, shifting these “have to” tasks to mindfulness exercises can provide us the dual benefit of getting out to do list finished while also relaxing our mind from the rush of thinking “what’s next”.
-Carve out 5 It may seem overly simple, but waking up 5 minutes earlier or going to bed 5 minutes later can carve out a few mindful moments in your week. Starting or ending your day with a 5 minute guided meditation, 5 minutes of reading, 5 minutes of stretching or intentional breathing, can have a lasting impact beyond the few minutes you dedicate to this practice.
-Tune into your senses Create mindful practices through simple grounding techniques. I shared in another recent blog the idea of using the 5,4,3,2,1 grounding technique when having difficulty quieting your mind as a way to tune in to your senses and release stress. Strategies like this allow us to divert our attention from what is worrying us or causing distress and refocus on what is immediately present around us. Allowing ourselves to be in the present can help us think more clearly, calm our heart rate and other physiological symptoms of anxiety. You can adjust these strategies to what works best for you, but here is a sample idea to get you started.
-Focus on gratitude. Taking time in your day to identify 1 or more things that you are grateful for can be a simple, fast mindfulness practice that is effective in reducing negative thoughts and feeling stuck inside of your stress. When we focus on gratitude, we think about what IS working for us or what we LIKE about our current situation rather than our automatic negative thoughts we may swirl in our minds about the “what-ifs”, the things that didn’t go correctly, the disappointments or fears. It is okay to feel those feelings, all feelings are welcome, but when you are taking a 5 minute mindfulness break, it is okay to focus on the good things and gratitude can be a stepping stone for that path of thought.
-Give yourself permission and forgiveness With any new habit, it can be hard to get started. There may be second guessing, self doubt or even just forgetting that you wanted to try this new skill. Give yourself permission to try each day. 5 minutes here and there can still have a benefit even if not practiced daily. Also, forgive yourself when you totally forget, get caught up in the swirl of worry, snap at your kid or partner, feel stressed and rushed… the list could go on and on. We are human. Practicing self compassion is a reminder that we will mess up and that messing up is part of the process.
As you tune into your senses this week, release your to do list while you are folding laundry, identifying one thing you are grateful for or whatever 5 minute mindfulness may look like for you, I encourage you to let yourself try and see what 5 minutes of mindfulness can do for your day!