I’m a dreamer by nature. So, of course, it’s only natural that my mind wanders on the regular. In other words, I’m also a worry wart, prone to anxiety, stress ball, imagine every possible scenario type a gal. Mindfulness? Ha! Let’s say it’s a struggle most days.
With the everyday getting busier, more chaotic, and filled with all the things to do, it can get stressful.
And if you’re like me, stress equals extra anxiety. It’s not easy some days.
It can feel like you’re rushing through each day, without fully living.
Have you ever gone through a whole day without enjoying even one moment? Me too. In fact, I did it for many years.
It was like I was just going through the motions of life like a robot. Being busy. Rushing from one appointment to the other. Drive home in rush hour traffic. Make Dinner. Rinse and repeat. I felt like I was rushing through each day enjoying very little. Like I was preparing myself for some unknown distant moment in retirement when I could stop and enjoy it all.
But that’s not what life is about. We’re meant to enjoy every moment.
Sure, sometimes it’s easier said than done — mindfulness is a habit you have to build. And it’s not an easy one to build when the whole world around you is telling you that you should be rushing here and there and doing all the things.
So, I’m sharing a few of my mindfulness habits you can adopt into your daily routine that are quick and simple to help relieve stress and anxiety.
Ready? Take a deep breath….here we go!
What is mindfulness?
If you’re new to mindfulness, you may be wondering what this ever so popular word means.
Well, put simply (cuz I love simple), mindfulness is a state of awareness. Self-awareness. It’s where you focus your attention on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging (and accepting) your feelings, thoughts, and whatever is going on in your body.
Yoga is infamous for mindfulness. The practice is designed to focus your awareness on what your body is doing, what your mind is thinking (hopefully nothing), and how you’re feeling.
I find practicing mindfulness and/or yoga to be very grounding and centring.
It’s all about throwing off the crazy monkey mind that thinks a billion thoughts and bringing yourself right back to the now. What is happening right now. Not what will happen 4,567 days from now.
How can you add mindfulness habits to your busy day?
I’ve put together a list of my favourite mindfulness habits I use that help me to relieve stress and anxiety. Some are quick and easy and can be squeezed into the middle of your day. Others are meant for longer break times and/or when you’re at home.
1. Use social media wisely. It is a tool, not a lifeline.
Have you ever been sucked down the rabbit hole of Facebook? Or Instagram? Ugh, right? I can’t count the number of times this has happened to me. I start scrolling through Instagram and the next thing I know, two hours have gone by. Not a good use of time. It’s highly addictive. And, it becomes a habit.
To break yourself of the habit, remember: social media is not your life. When you get sucked into it for hours, you are not living your life or being mindful and present.
Instead, you’re allowing comparison, fear, doubt, inadequacy, and anxiety into your life. It’s taken me quite a while, but I’ve begun to break my nasty social media habit.
A few tricks I’ve used to break the habit:
- I tell myself it’s a tool, not a lifeline. Meaningful life experiences begin away from my phone and outside in the world, not on my phone.
- I set a max amount of time at a certain time of day (never first thing in the morning!).
- I always use it with a purpose in mind (research hashtags, posting, replying to comments, or a few moments of inspiration scrolling).
When I used to get stressed while stuck in traffic, or when I had extreme anxiety attacks that would keep me awake at night, a few deep breaths made me feel much better.
This is a mindfulness habit that can be done anywhere — in your car, on the train, or at your desk.
When I feel my brain getting ahead of me, or feelings of anxiety, fear, or impatience, I stop and take 3 deep breaths.
Practice breathing in through your nose slowly, holding for a few seconds, and breathing out through your nose slowly. Repeat three times.
3. Savour your food.
I once attended a free yoga/meditation session offered by a local yoga practitioner that included a mindfulness moment. It changed the way I thought about eating food. We were each told to close our eyes and hold out our hand. A piece of food was placed in our hand. The instructor told us to place it in our mouth. And a funny thing happened! She told us to let it sit there in our mouth. Not chewing, not tasting, nothing. Weird, right? You get so used to immediately chewing whatever food you put in your mouth, it’s strange to have it sit there.
After a few moments, we were instructed to move it around feeling it with our tongue. It was a good minute before we were allowed to chew. After chewing slowly, we were asked to describe the food. It was an enlightening activity we could all use more of.
When we eat, we usually do it in front of the TV, talking with others, while reading emails, or without paying attention. This is not mindful eating and doesn’t allow you to savour what you eat.
I have a few tricks for savouring my food:
- First, I use chopsticks! Yep, I will eat food with chopsticks to purposely slow down the eating process which reminds me to savour what I’m eating.
- Other times, I’ll tell my brain to chew my food 30 times or tell myself to take my time. I’ll bring myself back to the activity I should be enjoying.
4. Declutter slowly.
You’re sick of seeing clutter and you just want it gone. You feel the process should be faster, so you mindlessly start tossing things you believe shouldn’t be in your home.
At first, this was how I decluttered. It wasn’t the right way to go about it. It fostered feelings of negativity, anger, and impatience.
Now, I declutter slowly. Mindfully and with purpose. I choose a small area and declutter it slowly.
Try asking yourself: what is the purpose of this item? Is it useful and practical for your everyday life? Do you enjoy seeing it in your space? If the answer is yes, the item stays. If the answer is no, ask yourself why or is the purpose of it practical or trivial?
5. Listen with purpose.
Have you ever jumped into a conversation, offering your opinion before someone else has finished speaking? Me too. It took me a bit of time to create the habit of listening with purpose — to listen and contribute to a conversation instead of just voicing an opinion.
We all have a tendency to start creating a response or rebuttal before we’ve even finished listening to a person speak. We think only about us. Not the other person.
My trick? I use the listen, listen, and pause technique. (I made that up). I listen to the person speaking, then I tell myself to listen to what they’re saying (in my head), and then I pause for 3-5 seconds before replying.
Being a mindful listener will help you develop better relationships with co-workers, family and friends.
6. Observe the world around you.
When was the last time you looked up at the sky? Do you remember your surroundings on your way to work?
We rush so much sometimes, we forget to look around at the beautiful world around us.
This trick is a fun one I used to use when I was in corporate. Every time you change locations or environment, pause and look around you. When you enter the lobby of a building, pause and look around. When you get off the train, pause somewhere out of the way and look around.
When you take a few moments throughout the day to look at the world around you, you’ll feel less like the world is passing you by and more like you’re immersed in its beauty. You’ll feel more connected.
7. Cook. Bake. Make something.
I feel most relaxed and connected to the world when I cook something or bake. There’s something soothing and calming in making something. Creation is the best form of mindfulness.
Have you ever coloured, or snapped photos, or written in your journal and gotten lost in that moment? And not realized how much time has gone by?
That is being mindful and present.
When you’re feeling really disconnected and that life is rushing by, take some time out of your day to make something. Cook, bake a batch of cookies or make something. Anything. You’ll feel happy and fulfilled.
8. Listen to calming music.
While I’m writing, I enjoy listening to calming music. It keeps me focused on the task at hand. And it keeps me relaxed. When I worked in an office, I listened with noise cancelling headphones and it blocked out a lot of the chaos and other conversations going on around me. I was able to focus on my work better.
Try listening to some calming music and relax.
Super easy mindfulness habit right here! When you have a free moment or notice pain or cramping anywhere in your body, take a moment to stretch. Pay attention to what part of your body needs to move most.
When I’m typing, the base of my neck and shoulders get sore. I’ll do a quick arms overhead stretch and then stretch from one side to the other.
If you’ve been sitting for a long time, try standing up, interlacing your fingers, stretch your arms overhead and stand up on your tippy toes. It’s perfect to get your body happy and in the moment again.
10. Parisian cafe time.
When I travelled to Paris in 2009, I loved sitting in small cafes on street corners people watching. I would sit, slowly sipping my coffee, and take in all that was going on around me.
Whenever you think life is rushing by way too fast, think to yourself that you’re sitting at a Parisian cafe and how grateful you are to be there and notice all the different and uniquely dressed people walking by. Take everything in and enjoy it.
This works wonders! It not only puts you in the moment, but it’s also a gratitude practice.
11. Read in silence.
Find some quiet time, a comfy space, and read a great book. Turn off the TV and focus on reading your book. Let yourself get into the story and focus on the words.
I love reading a great book when I’m stressed out and feel I need a little escape from the world.
These are just a few of the habits I use to be more mindful. They’re great reminders to add more mindfulness to your day. Today, try a few of them and bring more mindfulness into your life. You deserve to appreciate each and every day.