It seems like everyone—from your yoga teacher to your whole damn Instagram feed—is always talking about being more mindful. But what does it actually mean? In a nutshell, mindfulness meditation is a technique (developed by Buddhists more than 2,000 years ago) that helps you be present with whatever is happening. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D., a molecular biologist and meditation teacher, mindfulness is an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” Proponents say that mindfulness meditation can contribute to stress reduction, improved sleep, heightened focus and increased creativity, to name just a few benefits. That sounds great and all, but it also sounds time-consuming, right? Here are five ways to be more mindful when your days are packed from sunup to sundown.
How to Incorporate Mindfulness into Your Daily Routine (When You Have Zero Time to Be Mindful)
1. Start Small
Alexis Novak, an L.A.-based yoga instructor, tells us that baby steps are the key to easing your way into incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine. Here’s how to do it: Find a quiet area where you can sit comfortably without interruption for five minutes. Set your timer and close your eyes. Don’t worry too much about the correct posture, and instead focus on being comfortable and relaxed. Now try a technique called a body scan. Basically, bring attention to individual parts of your body from head to toe with your breath, taking inventory of how you feel without any judgment. Notice how the parts of your body feel individually and in relation to each other. “Play with visuals of your breath, creating an image of soft white light or a fluffy substance that grows with an inhale and softly deflates on an exhale,” Novak tells us. If your mind wanders, just remember to bring your thoughts back to the breath. Repeat a couple of times this week and see if you can work your way up to ten minutes and then 15. See? Totally doable.
2. Don’t Expect to See Results Immediately
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a mindfulness practice, explains Michelle Zarrin, an inspirational speaker, meditation teacher and spiritual guide. “The more we expect results from our meditation practice,” Zarrin says, “the less we will attain results.” If you expect to be transformed immediately, you’re probably going to end up feeling disappointed and discouraged. Know that it will take time to see results and, as corny as it sounds, simply enjoy the journey.
3. Practice Mindfulness On The Run
If you just can’t sit still, try mindful running. The basic concept is to use focused attention to reduce stress, improve sleep and heighten focus and creativity. To try it, go for a run like you normally would, but make a concerted effort to clear your mind and focus on your breathing. You can run without headphones and be totally alone with your thoughts, or you can listen to calming music. For a little more guidance, check out the partnership between the meditation website Headspace and Nike, which offers guided meditation runs through Nike’s Run Club app.
4. Chew Your Meals More Thoroughly
Huh? It might sound strange, but mindful eating can actually make you feel happier, calmer and more self-confident, according to food and wellness guru Cassandra Bodzak. Here’s a more in-depth explanation of how to do it, but one easy way to start eating more mindfully is to focus on chewing your food. Chew it twice as long as you usually would, focusing on the act of chewing and enjoying the taste of your meal. This gives your mind a break from the day and is also the most calming, beneficial way for your body to refuel. “Your stomach doesn’t have teeth, so chewing your food well will improve digestion and keep you in the present moment with the delicious meal in front of you,” Bodzak says.
5. Start A One-word Journal
One of the mainstays of mindfulness practices is daily journaling, but let’s be honest: Setting aside time to aimlessly write in one of those gorgeous notebooks that have been collecting dust on your shelf can seem a little…time-consuming. Enter the one-word journal. In her book, Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments, author Nataly Kogan suggests a word that captures the spirit of your day—no other requirements or restrictions. Then, if you have time, add some stickers, doodles or sketches. It sounds simple, but research conducted at Eastern Michigan University has shown that journaling, even if only for a few moments every day, can cause a major reduction in stress and anxiety. And seriously, you don’t have to be Jane Austen.