Most of us tend to go through our daily routines in a similar manner every day. We are so used to this daily rhythm, to the point where our actions can become automatic – we can go through a whole day in that robotic fashion, following the same fixed orders our brain sends us. But shouldn’t you be the one in control of your mind rather than vice versa?
When we get out of bed mindlessly in the morning, without a guiding thought or a specific goal for the day, we give our minds “permission” to operate through the subconscious. When that happens, our decision-making process is aimless and can feel random or meaningless. You can overcome that feeling by creating a mindful morning routine. Instead of checking your phone and your e-mails first thing in the morning, try to do the following:
1. When You Wake Up, Sit Up in Bed For a Few Moments – Close your eyes, and feel the sensation in your body when you’re sitting up. Feel the weight of your body and the softness of your bed. Make sure you are sitting up straight.
2. Take 3 Deep Breaths – Inhale through the nose, exhale through the mouth. After that, let your breath take its natural course and listen to it. Pay attention to the movements happening in your body when you breathe – how your chest and abdomen rise and fall.
3. Ask Yourself ‘What Are My Intentions Today?’ – Think of the people you’re about to see today and the activities and tasks you will do. What are your intentions? Maybe leaving others with a positive impression of you? Or feeling more at ease in your interactions?
4. Set a Goal For the Rest of the Day – For example, “today I will be kind to myself, joyful and patient with those around me”.
5. Check on Yourself During the Day – Stop what you’re doing from time to time, take a breath and remind yourself of the goal you set in the morning.
Practicing these steps over time can lead to an overall improvement in your mood, and in your relationships.
It’s easy to get distracted while eating and to get in a rhythm of just chewing and swallowing. However, eating is one of the most pleasurable moments in our day, and it would be a shame not to savor it fully. Eating mindfully will allow you to have a richer, more satisfying experience. Moreover, it’s a good way of controlling the quantity of food you consume, as each bite will become more meaningful and important in your mind. These are the steps for mindful eating:
1. Breathe Before Starting to Eat – Busy schedules make us go from one task to the next without taking a moment to breathe in between. Have that awareness in mind, and before you start your meal take a moment to breathe deeply, calm down, and let your body transition to a state of eating. Sit comfortably, slowly take 8-10 breaths and only then go on to the next stage.
2. Listen to Your Body - After breathing, gain awareness of your physical sensations, mainly in the stomach. Ask yourself ‘How hungry am I on a scale of 1-10?’ You might also ask why you’re hungry; is your stomach empty? Are you bored? Try not to think of the last time you ate and just listen to your physical sensations in the present moment.
3. Eat According to Your Hunger Level - Now that you are aware of your feeling of hunger and its reasons, you can choose better what and how much you want to eat.
4. Eat Calmly – Don’t try to finish the meal quickly. Eat slowly and breathe between bites.
5. If You Aren’t Enjoying, Don’t Force Yourself to Continue – During the first 3 bites, feel the taste and texture of the food and think of how much enjoyment you are getting from what you are consuming. If you find that you aren’t experiencing joy, simply stop eating. You will find that if you practice this step – even sweets sometimes become less appealing.
The busier our lives, the harder it can get to fall asleep. A constant stream of thoughts and worries is washing over our minds as we try to unwind. Falling asleep mindfully, which has proven helpful to a large part of the population, is done through practicing meditation before bed.
1. Dim the Lights - You should do this as early as one hour before your planned sleep time. Lighting plays an important part in calming our thoughts.
2. Avoid Screens - Once you have deemed the lights, you can engage in a relaxing activity outside of your bed, but try not to look at any screens - phone, computer, or TV. The light they produce can keep you awake and alert.
3. Meditate - 10 minutes before bedtime, begin a focused mindfulness exercise. If you are new to meditation, there are many great apps to help you get started. You can check out this article on sleeping apps to find the one for you.
Experts claim that about 95% of our daily actions are done on ‘autopilot’, in a process which is controlled by the ‘fast brain’. The neurotransmitters that control our repetitive habits do it with such efficiency, and that is what makes breaking a habit (e.g. smoking) difficult. Mindfulness is the exact opposite of automatically giving in to habits, and when we practice it, we put our ‘slow brain’ to use.
The more you practice, the stronger the sense of control over the mind becomes, and new habits can form. But there is one problem. While our ‘slow brain’ is doing the work, the ‘fast brain’ is still trying to get us to take shortcuts. To remind ourselves that we’re the ones in power over our minds we can take a number of steps:
1. Create a Motivating Environment – If one of your goals for the day is to stretch instead of sitting on the couch watching TV, place your workout mat in the middle of the living room. It will remind you of your decision, and invite you to take action.
2. Mix Up Your Motivation Methods - The previous tip might work for a week or so. After that the ‘fast brain’ will prompt you to go back to your old habits, and caving to it will be harder to resist. Therefore, you need to freshen up the ways in which you motivate yourself to take action. For example, instead of placing the mat in the living room, stick a note on the TV screen saying ’10 minutes of stretches’.
3. Intentionally Create New Patterns of Thinking - Create a new thought pattern using the ‘X means Y’ model. For example, if you want to be more relaxed and happy when you get home from work, repeat the mantra ‘Coming in through the door means a smile’. If you’re nervous about making phone calls, repeat ‘phone calls mean deep breaths’. This intentional conditioning will help you be more aware of your actions and behaviors, by using the ‘slow brain’.
There is nothing more irritating than being stuck in traffic. The thought of being late for work, or just stuck for hours initiates our ‘fight or flight’ response. Some of us feel like we’re ‘going crazy’ on the road, and say or do things that we wouldn’t have said or done normally. The worse the traffic jam is, the higher the stress level. It may not look like it, but that is actually the perfect time to try a few mindfulness techniques, that might help balance your mood and change your perspective on your current situation.
1. First of All, Take a Deep Breath – It might sound corny and simplistic, but inhaling oxygen into your body does help to reduce stress levels. While you breathe, remind yourself that the choice is yours, and you choose to stay calm.
2. Ask Yourself What You Need – If you need to regain your composure, try to notice exactly how you feel in each part of your body and find the parts that are tense. If it is a feeling of security that you need, remind yourself that even if you’re late for work, everything will be alright. If you’re 15 minutes late you can stay an extra 15 minutes at the end of the day – every problem has a solution.
3. Look Around at Other Drivers – Everyone on the road wants to feel safe and calm, but not everyone manages to do so. Try to find a driver that feels the same way as you, to understand how a stressed driver looks like from the outside. You might find people who manage road stress by singing in the car or even smiling. When you spot them, you will instantly feel better.