Distractions, stimulation, and the buzz of constant busyness are norms in today’s average lifestyle. Whether you’re a student, teacher, entrepreneur, artist, engineer, retail worker, or anything in between, I can assume that you spend the majority of your day occupied by something, whether it be music, television, work, conversations, or social media. We rarely spend time simply with our own thoughts, forgetting to relax throughout our hectic lives. Although this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it can be if we don’t balance it out.
‘Relaxing’ can mean a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but in this context, I want you to think of it as an exercise. I know, it seems completely backwards, but hear me out. Our minds and bodies are constantly under stress, as we are always exercising practices that put us under pressure. However, these stressful practices can only help us grow if we also practice relaxation exercises. Meditation is a relaxing exercise that can drastically improve your mental clarity, wellbeing, and physical health over time. Recent studies through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health have found that, by “[comparing] brain images from 50 adults who meditate and 50 adults who don’t meditate… people who practiced meditation for many years have more folds in the outer layer of the brain. This process (called gyrification) may increase the brain’s ability to process information."
There are many different kinds of meditation, and there are many different ways to meditate. Different methods work for different people, but one of the most commonly used practices is mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness is the practice of being mindful, or the process of bringing focus and attention to the present moment by focusing on tangible sensations and environmental factors, such as breath, heartbeat, the rising and falling of the lungs, the texture of the grass or ground underneath your feet, or even something as simple as the scent around you.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to take up large spans of time throughout your day, especially when you’re just starting out. If you want to start with something small and doable, then just take a few quick meditation breaks throughout your day, which can be as short as one minute each, and they will make drastic effects in your daily life.
Here are three simple ways to incorporate meditation and mindfulness breaks into your day:
Daily chores - Daily chores, such as folding the laundry or doing the dishes, are perfect opportunities to take a moment for yourself. Yes, you may be thinking that this would be the perfect time to think about everything you need to do afterward, but that’s the beauty of mindfulness: it’s about staying in the present. While washing dishes, try focusing on your breath, your heartbeat, and the sound and feel of your deep breaths. Watch your thoughts pass by. Before you know it, you’ll feel a little calmer, and you’ll come out of it a little more centered.
The first moments in your day - Starting your day off on the right foot is extremely powerful when it comes to how the rest of your day will turn out. Before checking your notifications, or getting up to make coffee or breakfast, take the first few moments of your day to ponder over three things you’re grateful for. Take a few deep breaths, and with each one, think about one thing that you’re grateful to have in your life.
Walking breaks - If you are able, walking breaks are very powerful. Not only do they have many positive impacts on the body, such as increasing blood flow, but short 3-5 minute walking breaks have been shown to enhance mood, energy, and overall productivity. Combining this peaceful activity with mindfulness is a simple way to enhance your wellbeing.