At this point, I think we’ve all heard of mindfulness. It’s talked about all over the place! Mindfulness is essentially the practice of being present in the moment in a non-judgemental way.
There are lots of ways to practice mindfulness, from meditation to mindful movement like Yoga and Tai Chi. The variety is great because it means you’re bound to find a form of mindfulness that works for you.
This all sounds fantastic, but sometimes life is just too busy! It can be really hard to make time to fit mindfulness into your schedule when you have so many responsibilities and your day is packed full.
Sometimes this perfect vision of setting aside half an hour to quietly meditate alone can be unrealistic for your lifestyle. Don’t worry though, there are lots of ways you can fit mindfulness into your busy schedule.
Let’s take a look at some ways you can integrate mindful minutes into your day:
1. Set Goals For The Day
You could take a moment to be mindful right when you wake up. Starting off your day with a positive mindset can make a huge difference.
A great way to do this is by setting two or three small, achievable goals for the day ahead. You could jot these down or just keep them in your mind: whatever works for you.
I find that setting my intentions for the day helps me focus on what I want to achieve and keeps me on track. It’s helpful when I get distracted or lose motivation (which, let’s face it, happens to the best of us). By making sure the goals are realistic, I get to feel proud of myself as I ‘tick them off’ throughout the day.
2. Mini Mindfulness Sessions
Mindfulness sessions don’t have to be half an hour long. If you have five or ten minutes during the day, you could fit in a mini mindfulness session. You’ll still get all those great mindfulness benefits.
Set ten minutes aside when you’re on your lunch break from work or while the kids are napping. You don’t even have to do this every day. Even fitting it in a couple of times a week can be useful.
You could do a quick mediation, a breathing exercise, or a guided visualization. Evidence shows that short mindfulness sessions are more realistic for most people. Even three to five-minute sessions have beneficial effects.
Here’s a good three-minute breathing exercise you could try to see if you like it:
3. Make Everyday Tasks Mindful
You don’t need to set aside a specific time to practice mindfulness. You can practice the fundamentals of mindfulness while you’re doing everyday tasks, from washing the dishes to eating your meals.
For example, you can eat mindfully by taking the time to really engage your senses. Look at the food on your plate and take notice of all the colors you can see. What ingredients can you smell?
Chew slowly and take your time to enjoy your meal. Notice how the food tastes. Think about how it feels in your mouth. What are the textures you can feel on your tongue?
This might feel a bit silly at first but the more you practice it, the more natural it will feel. Of course, you probably don’t have the time to do this throughout your whole meal, but even just practicing it for a couple of minutes at the beginning of your meal can be beneficial.
You can apply this act of being present and taking a few seconds to really immerse yourself in any experience. I like to do this when I’m taking a shower, getting ready in the morning, and when I’m out walking my dogs. I find it very relaxing and feel it helps me to recenter myself and let go of any tension I’ve been holding in my body.
4. Mindful Movement
Mindful movement can be more structured (like Yoga as I mentioned earlier) or you can simply make an exercise you’re already doing mindful. This technique is very similar to making everyday tasks mindful as we just discussed.
I love doing this when I’m out hiking with my dogs. When you’re exercising, notice your environment: think about what you can see, hear, and smell.
Take deep breaths and really appreciate what’s around you. As you’re moving, think about how your body feels. Can you feel your muscles stretching and contracting?
Do you hear any sounds when you’re moving? I find the sound of my feet steadily making contact with the floor as I hike very relaxing.
Mindful movement can be beneficial if you struggle to quiet your mind when you’re sitting still. With mindful movement, you’re also getting all the benefits of exercise, so it’s a win-win!
Being out in nature is great for your mental health, so if you can be outdoors while you’re exercising, even better!. A 2021 study discovered that the use of nature walks can improve mental health, enhance general wellbeing and reduce stress.
If you want to find out more about how to start walking mindfully, check out our guide.
5. Use Cues
When we’re super busy it can be easy to forget about being mindful, so I love the technique of using cues to remind me.
Your cue could be anything that occurs every now and then throughout your day. It could be when you walk into another room, when you take a drink, or when you hear a specific sound (like a sound on your phone or a noise on your workmate’s computer).
Every time the cue occurs, stop for just a couple of seconds. Take a few deep breaths: inhale slowly, hold the breath briefly, then breathe out slowly. This can help you to center yourself and release stress.
I find adding a simple visualization to this exercise really useful. When I inhale, I visualize positive energy coming into my body and when I exhale, I imagine all my stress and anxiety leaving my body.
6. Mindfulness While You Wait
Waiting around is a normal part of our day but it can be incredibly frustrating. So why not turn it into something positive?
Whether you’re waiting in line at the store, you’re on the bus home from work, or you’re stuck in traffic, you can use this opportunity to practice some mindful minutes. You could do a quick meditation, a breathing exercise, or even just refocus your mind on your next goal for the day.
7. Time to be Grateful
Just as we talked about starting the day off right, we can end the day with mindfulness. As you get ready to head to bed, why not set aside a few moments to think about what went well today?
You could think of three things you did today that you’re proud of. Take the time to praise yourself and encourage yourself. Or think of three things that you’re grateful for today.
Ending the day with a positive mindset can be so beneficial to your mood. Harvard Medical School explains that regularly focusing on gratitude helps us to feel happier, increases our positive emotions, helps us appreciate good experiences, and even helps improve our health!
8. Mindfulness at Bedtime
Practicing mindfulness at bedtime can be a great way to unwind and prepare your body and mind for sleep. In fact, mindfulness is proven to help tackle insomnia and improve sleep quality.
Guided visualization is a fantastic option for bedtime. You simply find a guided session you like, lie down, and follow the instructions. I find listening to the voice guiding me can be soothing in itself.
There are lots of excellent guided visualization and meditation sessions to be found online. If you’re like me, you might find yourself drifting off to sleep before the session is even finished.
A body scan is another useful exercise to help you unwind. This can be guided or you can get the hang of doing it yourself. You simply focus on each area of your body, tensing and relaxing each muscle group to encourage complete relaxation.
Here’s a relaxing fifteen-minute body scan meditation you could try:
Sleep sounds can also be calming. Sometimes having tranquil background noise stops your mind from racing and soothes you to sleep. You can find sleep sounds on music apps and YouTube: there are lots of options so you can experiment to see what type of sounds work best for you.
Find Mindful Minutes in Your Day
Making mindfulness realistic for you is key. It’s more important to find a mindfulness practice that you can be consistent with and feel good about, rather than trying to stick to some impossible ‘ideal’.
Don’t be afraid to do some experimenting to figure out what works for you and your lifestyle.