Do you ever feel like life is just constantly shouting at you? Blaring the speakers at maximum volume so it makes it hard to think?
Sometimes I feel like there is just so much noise everywhere - both actual sounds as well as just the little daily distractions and to do’s that come up and add to the“mental clutter”.
Sometimes I find all this noise leaves my brain feeling a little frazzled and foggy, definitely not at my sharpest or most productive.
This is where mindfulness comes in.
I try to find little opportunities in my day for quiet. Just small moments to give my brain a chance to slow down, away from the constant noise and stimulation.
These quiet moments have helped so much with focus, and also in being more aware and in control of my thoughts and mindset in general.
It seems that mindfulness and meditation are kind of trendy topics at the moment, and I think it’s awesome that it’s becoming more mainstream because so many people would benefit from it.
These days particularly we are so connected and “on” all the time. There’s always news to watch, podcasts to listen to, people to chase up, emails to check, to-do lists to check off…
Unless we take a step back and decide to make a little space, we can go all day without having any quiet moments (and even if we do have quiet moments, our own thoughts and internal dialogue can be pretty darn loud too!)
There’ve been studies that show actual changes in brain activity, just by practicing mindfulness;
“In a study published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience… researches found that mindfulness reduced anxiety ratings by up to 39 per cent. They also found that it increased activity in the areas of the brain that control worrying, particularly the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate gyrus. This supports the claim that mindfulness strengthens our ability to ignore negative thoughts and feelings” - Dr Michael Mosley, The Clever Guts Diet Chapter 2, page 182.
I know that for me, when I do take the time to make mindfulness and meditation a regular practice, I can definitely notice a difference in how I feel. Often though, sitting down to meditate (even for 10 minutes) just doesn’t happen and I know that for a lot of people, it can feel a little daunting when you’re just starting out.
There are always excuses - we don’t have enough time, we’re too busy, too tired, too stressed, or just can’t be bothered…etc.
So today I thought I’d share some easy ways to incorporate just a few more “mindful moments” into your everyday routine. These are opportunities to make tiny tweaks and incorporate a little more quiet and calm into your life, without taking up any extra time!
1) Take just 1 minute in the morning before you get out of bed to be present
Set your alarm a few minutes earlier, press snooze (just once!) and take the time to be fully present for just a moment. With you eyes closed, notice and appreciate the feeling of the sheets on your skin. Maybe you notice how nice it is to see the light coming in through the blinds, or how warm and cozy your bed is, or the sound of the birds chirping outside. Take a few slow deep breaths and before you let your mind wander to any worries you may have about the day, set an intention to maintain this feeling of calm. Sure, we may not be able to completely follow through with it, but you can at least start your day off on the right foot!
2) Take a few minutes to be fully present as you sip your morning tea
Instead of being distracted reading/looking at your phone/listening to something, take a moment to just “be” (even if it’s literally only for a minute!)
Notice the feeling of warmth as you hold your mug. Notice the sound as you take a sip. Focus on how it tastes, how it feels as the liquid moves down your throat. Fully enjoy and appreciate the moment, however fleeting it may be.
3) Drive (or walk, or catch the bus) to work without any music/podcasts/radio playing
I love my music and podcasts, but for the past few years I’ve actually been driving to work (most days, not all days) in silence and it is just so peaceful. It takes me around 30 minutes to drive to work, and having that 30 minutes of quiet leaves me feeling so much more calm when I get there. My job is rather noisy with a lot of background sounds surrounding me all day, so having that space in the morning kinda gives my brain a chance to rest before it needs to kick into gear!
Depending on how I’m feeling, sometimes I’ll use this time to intentionally think through a situation, sometimes I’ll focus on appreciation (I will do another blog post on that because it’s super powerful) and sometimes I’ll use it as a kind of meditation practice where I’ll try to clear my mind and let the thoughts float in and out without attaching to them.
Of course, sometimes sitting in silence isn’t always the best thing if you’re feeling particularly worried/anxious and don’t have proper control over your negative thoughts. If I know I’m having one of those days and I’m likely to spiral, I’ll distract myself with music or a podcast, but it’s really about being aware and recognising what you need in a particular moment.
4) Try to take at least 5 minutes during your lunch break to have a quiet moment by yourself - get outside and go for a walk if you can
Reading the book Quiet by Susan Cain was such a game changer because it helped me realise that as an introvert, it is totally okay to need some alone time in the middle of the day to reset and recharge (especially if your work is very people-focused, as mine is).
I usually get this alone time by going for a walk around the park, and my lunchtime walk is something I look forward to everyday. Taking the time to just be by myself, gives my brain a chance to slow down a little and helps me recharge for the afternoon.
I’ll try to practice meditation while walking or I’ll just be very present and mindful of my surroundings, noticing the warmth of the sun on my skin, how pretty all the individual leaves are on the trees, the birds flitting around etc.
It might seem silly at first but the more you do this the more “in control” you can be of your thoughts, not letting them run away with worries or concerns about the things that have happened so far in the day or the things that still need to be done.
It’s not always possible and sometimes I only have a few minutes, but even then I always try to step outside for moment and clear my head.
5) If all else fails, just take 3 deep breaths
Some days are just crazy. Sometimes the schedule is packed, you’re constantly running late and you feel like there’s no time to get all the things done, let alone have a little quiet moment. Sometimes you wake up from a stressful dream with your heart racing and you’re already feeling on edge before you’ve even opened you eyes (or is that just me?)
Regardless of the situation, just remember that there are always moments to re-set. Three deep breaths may not do much, but it can be that little chance to calm down and re-centre… just enough to get through whatever the stressful moment may be.
While none of these ideas are particularly ground breaking, sometimes we just need a little reminder of simple things we can tweak in our routine. The little habits we do everyday can all add up in the long run and hopefully they’ll inspire you to add just a little more quiet, calm and stillness to you life.
For more inspiration, check out the Airy Fairy Feminist Podcast Episode 9 - “Being. Doing. Learning.” My friend Charlotte is sharing some awesome wisdom and advice over there and I’d highly recommend having a listen!
I also loved the book Quiet by Susan Cain. If you’re an introvert, this book is seriously life-changing and if you’re an extrovert… well… this might just help you understand other people a little more :)
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Let me know your thoughts either in the comments below or over on Instagram @laurennatalia29
Lots of Love