We all have days where it seems like our to-do list never ends and we can barely keep up. We might start with the best intentions, beginning our morning mindfully, perhaps with meditation, a run, or simply enjoying a relaxing cup of coffee or tea. What follows after we get out of our zone is usually where things return to a hectic lifestyle. By noon we might wonder how we got to this restless state of mind when we started out at such a peaceful place in our heart. The busyness of our day can often mean that we forget to take a moment to check in with ourselves and be mindful. It doesn’t have to be that way! Mindfulness and being in a meditative state does not need to have a clocking in and out time where we check in at the beginning and end of the day. With just a few simple steps to keep ourselves grounded and motivated, it is possible to stay mindful throughout our busy day.
In this article, we’ll explore five essential activities that will help you stay mindful in the midst of it all, so you don’t feel overwhelmed or lose sight of the bigger picture. From breathing exercises to tuning in to ourselves, we’ll cover it all so you can stay mindful and balanced no matter how busy life gets.
1.Start Your Day Early
I used to be a person to sleep in whenever possible but this was when I was a student, before I had a job and family. Once my family grew, I began noticing how my personal me-time was slipping away from me and I missed it. Moments of just being with myself have always been important to me since I was a toddler. Whether it was time to craft, explore nature or gaze into the sky or lake, time with myself and imagination supported me staying grounded, at peace, joyful and it inspired me with new ideas. It gave me the energy I needed to keep going. Once I had my own children, it took me a while to realize that this alone time was not a privilege that I might get back some day in the future, but that even a few minutes to myself were exactly what I needed to be able to be there for everyone else without losing myself. Giving myself time to be here for just me is what empowers me to be the best version of myself, my true self, and it thrives me in my life. I realized that only when I can show up for myself, I can show up for others. Now that I have work and a family, I had to learn how to carve out time for myself. It was never just given to me. There are small moments throughout my day, where I can take a little time out for myself, and I will get to those in my later points, but the biggest game changer was when I decided to go to bed a little earlier but instead get up earlier before anyone else did. I began setting my alarm clock about 30 minutes before I knew the rest of the family would get up and I was astonished by how much these extra 30 minutes gave me. It did not feel like a sacrifice of my time or sleep. It was the opposite. I felt like a queen being given the time to be. “Doing” turned into “being”, and it was life changing for me. Getting up became easier and soon I began waking up one hour before the rest of the household. Even on weekends, my internal clock began to wake me up, reminding me that it is time to recharge my batteries.
I highly recommend you try this if you are not doing this already. If you find 30 minutes too early, begin with 15 minutes and see how that feels. 15 minutes isn’t too much of a stretch yet it can make all the difference you might need in your day to start your day mindfully and refreshed. Make it a goal to go to bed 15 minutes earlier and wake up 15 minutes before your usual time. You might be surprised how your 15 minutes begin to expand into 30 minutes or more before you know it.
If you are wondering what to do in those extra minutes, the key is to move away from the sense that you are “doing” anything. Instead, enjoy the “being”. Find something that makes you feel alive, joyful, playful or peaceful. This looks different from person to person and can change over time as well. There is no rule as long as it feels right and empowering. For me, I begin with affirmations, meditation, journaling, and smiling. Yes, smiling! Give it a try for yourself! Consciously smile for no reason at all for two minutes and find out what happens. I am not going to write about it today because that is for you to find out.
2.Grateful - All Day
You have probably heard it before that being grateful raises your vibration so high that this too is a game changer in your life, from simply feeling good to manifestations of your visions. For me, this did not come easily. It was not that I did not have things to be grateful for but I found it challenging to keep the momentum going of seeing something to be thankful for throughout the day without making it feel forced and unnatural. When I was trying too hard it almost had the opposite effect and began irritating me. I wanted to learn how to appreciate my life sincerely and not because it would be good for me. That would not resonate with me and so I tried it again and again in different ways. I am sharing here what works for me now, so that you might find some ideas or even inspirations from my experience but it is in no way the only or best way. The following is what works for me now and it may change again in the future as I continue my journey of learning and exploring. Find what works best for you and stay open to go along with any changes that come along on your own journey.
I now have a gratitude journal but instead of writing sentences starting with “I am thankful for…” or writing out lists of things I appreciate, I use it to write freely, kind of like journaling. Not every sentence begins with a certain formula of key words and I do not have a list of words. At the end of the day I reflect on my day and focus on the things that made me feel good, no matter how big or small. I then begin writing as if I am talking to my best friend, talking about my experiences today, but I stick to the parts I appreciate only. On days where it was a rather difficult day, I focus on the tiniest things that DID go well or I am thankful for. I am not ignoring the challenges, but turning them into positive outcomes. For example, it might sound something like this:
“I am really proud of myself because despite my day being rather challenging today, I managed to remind myself to take deep breaths throughout the day. I took care of myself as much as I could. I ate well and allowed myself to feel what came up without being judgmental about it. I took my time to breathe through the tough moments and carved out a little bit more extra time for myself, even if it was just two extra minutes in the bathroom, just to get that space I needed. I am so thankful for the privacy I have in my bathroom. It gives me the space I need. I am thankful for being able to close the door and set boundaries. It felt so refreshing washing my hands with cool water, and listening to the sound of the water. I consciously washed my face and turned my fullest attention to how the water and coolness feels on my face, the gentle touch of my hands and the warm, soft towel to dry my face. I felt like I was in a spa just for me.”
This is just an example of how I like to acknowledge the tough times but instead of dwelling in them, I find something to lift me out of it. I am not depending on anyone to do this for me, I find any way I can do it. It can be as simple as washing my hands, wearing my favorite sweater, drinking my favorite cup of beverage, or smelling a flower. I give it all my attention and then I soak it up to make this my new experience, and this is what I write about in my gratitude journal.
What happened after I began my gratitude journal is that I began to notice all the things that I appreciate throughout my day as they occurred and not just at the end of my day when I did my reflections of the day. I would notice the small things that made a difference in my day as they were happening. Now, I consciously look for these things as I experience my day. I keep my radar open for what does go well or what helps me get through the challenging moments.
This is what I mean when I say to be grateful all day. It does not mean that we ignore challenges, but it means that we move beyond the challenges and CHOOSE to find the things or moments that are supporting us. You might find it helpful to begin with reflecting at the end of the day and then start to consciously look for these things in each moment of your day. What do you appreciate? The sun shine, the sound of the rain, my dog smiling at me, the smell of fresh air, freshly washed laundry, the sizzling sound and wonderful smell of garlic in the pan, birds singing outside, children laughing, green trees, colorful trees, a smile of a stranger, a good book, a funny meme, a walk in nature, good music, a comfortable chair, favorite sweater….anything! Begin to look at the small things but notice how they make a big difference.
We breathe without having to do so consciously. It keeps us alive. Isn’t it amazing how our body just does what it needs to do to keep us alive? I remember when my children were born and took their first breath, followed by that crying sound that was a blessing to hear. It meant that all is well and we have welcomed a new member into our family. That breath was the beginning of the journey for a new soul that I am blessed to share my life with.
The breath is with you since you began your journey. Your faithful body is working for you and doing its best with whatever you give back to your body. Regardless of how we live our lives, our body is programmed to work for us, to live and be healthy. This alone is another thing to be grateful for.
The breath happens automatically but it serves so much more than just survival. When we begin to breathe consciously, it means that we are listening to our breath and we feel the air moving in and out of our body. Conscious breathing is slow and deep breathing. It is not the shallow throat breathing, but deep, slow belly breathing. Take a moment right now to breathe. You may start with only 5 conscious breaths, but keep your attention on the way it feels. Be fully present and aware of all the sensations you experience as you slow down your breathing and notice your belly rise and fall with every breath. Stop reading for now and continue after you took your 5 conscious breaths.
How do you feel now? Do you notice a difference? For me, conscious breathing is part of my daily routine, all day. It means that I remind myself to bring awareness to my breath every now and then but especially when I need to stay calm and clear headed. To make sure I remember to do this, I would tell myself, every time I wash my hands throughout the day, I take that time to be aware of my breathing. You can set yourself a goal and say, for example, every time when I sit down, I first take three deep breaths, or before every glass of water, on my walks, or simply remind yourself by posting sticky notes on your mirror or phone case. Throughout the day, come back to your breath and remind yourself that you deserve these conscious breaths.
Another great way to stay connected to your inner peace throughout your day is when you begin shifting your mindset of how you move. Instead of thinking of moving from point A to point B because you need something from point B, become aware of your journey to point B even if it is simply a few footsteps. Begin shifting your mindset by setting an intention as you walk or move to your next destination. It does not matter how far your journey is, whether it is a car ride, a few steps away or an airplane ride. The distance or matter of transportation is not the main focus. The focus stays on all the sensations you notice as you are moving along. The attention is on being in the moment rather than anticipating the point of destination. How do you do this?
For me, it begins with giving myself reminders like in the previous point about breathing. In the beginning, you might need to set reminders on your phone or with small notes to be aware of your journey. Once I set my intention to be in the moment as I am moving, I narrow my focus on every sensation I receive, without judging it as good or bad, simply it being so. When I walk, I notice how my feet feel in my shoes or how it feels as my foot rolls along from the heel of my foot to the toes. How do my hands perceive the sensations of the warm or cool wind as my arms swing gently by my side? I notice the skin on my facing soaking up the warm sunshine. I notice the seat in my car supporting my body. I notice the sounds around me. I notice the smells in my environment and how they keep changing as I keep on moving. My attention is in the moment, my body and how my body perceives these small details. I still arrive at my destination whether I am aware of these details or not. But my state of well being can shift dramatically when I begin to bring awareness and intention to my movements. It is a conscious choice one can make to enhance every experience.
As you have probably noticed, I have already mentioned nature quite a few times in this article. Nature is where I personally feel my strongest and I can be myself. Nature reflects such power, grace, and purity to me that I often like to reflect in it. I can see parallels of nature and life. Nature IS life and it can teach us so many lessons if we only take our time to listen, to reflect and apply the lessons into our own lives.
Nature is also a very grounding place to be. Often, we tend to live in our head space most of the day. We think, we plan, we imagine, we problem solve, and although all of those things are necessary and part of life, it is not serving us if we do not root ourselves and ground in stillness. I like to think of a strong tree with the roots deep into the ground. We might not see the roots, but they are present. Without them, the tree would not exist. Our visions and problem solving skills need secure and strong grounding in order to be able to thrive.
We can envision a tree like this in our meditations. I often do. It is very helpful to do this in the morning before stepping into the day. It is especially helpful, if you live in a place where nature is not widely available to you. Your meditation can take you anywhere it is just as effective. However, if you do have the chance to go outdoors, I highly recommend doing this everyday. Again, mindfully bringing awareness to your surroundings is the key here. Listen to the sounds you hear, notice any smells, feel the breeze, touch a tree, just BE. Standing bare feet is a very effective way to ground yourself whenever you feel lost, confused, or emotionally drained. Feel your feet on the ground and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and feel. Allow your emotions to rise to the surface and let them flow down, into your feet, into the ground. Imagine your feet have roots and you are releasing any energy that you do not wish to carry any longer, into the ground. Release and relax. Soak up all the beautiful energy from the earth beneath you and the sky above you. Take it in and relax.
We live in a very noisy world sometimes with constant distractions, to-do-lists, and high expectations of ourselves and others. It can be easy to get swept away in the chaos and lose sight of what truly matters. That's why it's essential to incorporate mindful activities into our daily routines.
The world does not have to be noisy. The quiet also exists. It is everywhere if we take the time to be still and listen. The stillness is within you and if you recognize it, you will see it in your external life as well.
Throughout this article, we've explored five essential activities that can help us stay grounded, present, and balanced amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life. From simple breathing exercises to taking a mindful walk, these practices can help us tune in to ourselves and stay connected to the bigger picture. Let's remind ourselves of the importance of mindfulness and its impact on our overall well-being.
As we close, I leave you with this thought: "In today's rush, we all think too much - seek too much - want too much - and forget about the joy of just being." - Eckhart Tolle. Take a moment to breathe, to be present, and to find joy in the simple moments. Let's make mindfulness as non-negotiable in our lives and see the positive changes it brings. So, let's go out there and live our lives, but let's remember to stay mindful too. The door to a more balanced and fulfilled life is always open.
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