Nowadays, it seems like we’re always rushing on to the next task, the next day, or the next goal. In the course of always chasing the next thing to accomplish, we often forget to just live in the moment and pay attention to what’s happening right now.
Without any conscious effort to be more present and pay more attention, we tend to miss out on the best parts of life. Still, it’s understandable how it’s not always practical for us to slow down and smell the roses, what with life’s responsibilities always on our heels.
Even so, there are simple ways to practice mindfulness despite our busy schedules. Here are a few tips how you can become more mindful about life without dropping the ball in terms of our daily responsibilities:
1. Establish a daily routine
The first step to having a more mindful life is to know exactly how much time you have in a day. Without a daily routine to at least guide your activities, it’s easy to get lost in the conduct of ticking off tasks from your to-do list, which is the exact opposite of being mindful.
After listing down what you have to accomplish in a day, you can plan ahead and give enough time not just for work, but also for rest and relaxing activities, which are key to practicing mindfulness.
Being mindful also entails deep focus on whatever it is you’re doing. So while you set down your to-dos, make sure to jot down a maximum time limit you will allot to accomplishing each task. By sticking to your timetable, you can avoid overworking and will have more than enough time to set aside for meditation and to just learn to be mindful in your daily life.
2. Set aside at least 10 minutes everyday for meditation
As mentioned earlier, meditation is a key aspect in mindfulness. When you meditate, you focus on breathing, on your body, and on the space around you. Doing this can help you achieve a state of mental clarity, even if you only do it for a couple of minutes everyday.
On hectic days, you can simply start your day with a five-minute meditation, and do the same before you sleep. It’s also good practice to stop for a few minutes to meditate whenever you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed at any time in the day.
By keeping yourself attuned to your own breathing and the reality of nature around you, you can keep yourself grounded and focused on the present while letting go of any unwanted emotions like stress, anxiety, and frustration.
If you have a smartwatch like the Apple Watch, you can enable the breathing exercises which come on automatically. You can then either follow the breathing exercises on screen on via haptic feedback. The latter allows you to close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing while following the rhythm of the vibration from the watch. Or, you can dismiss this if you have something going on. Other fitness band and smartwatches offer stress level monitor and notification to help you calm down and relax on a busy day.
3. Respect your weekends and holidays
A huge aspect of mindfulness is not letting yourself drown in work or chores until you no longer have time to sleep in or enjoy a slow Sunday afternoon. It’s understandable if you’re busy all the time on weekdays, but you have to make it a rule not to work or even think about work when you have weekends and holidays off.
Instead, allot more time to meditation and mindful practices on days when you don’t absolutely have to work. Learning to do nothing is important to your well-being, as it allows you to enjoy the way life happens around you when you’re present enough to witness it.
Grab every chance to be quiet and just let the sights, sounds, and smells of nature wash over you. Be aware of your own existence and let thoughts and emotions come naturally to you during this state.
4. Decide in advance what to do with your free time
It’s an unfortunate reality that many of us don’t know how to approach free time during the rare times when we get to have it. In effect, some of us feel guilty about not doing anything productive.
In order to be more mindful about how you spend your free time, plan it ahead of time. Even if you’re planning to do nothing, note that in your to-do list or set a reminder on your phone when it’s ‘time to do nothing.’ This way, you won’t feel guilty about chilling since it’s what you planned to do anyway.
5. Avoid eating at your desk
Eating is one of the most enjoyable activities in life, and one that demands utmost mindfulness. Unfortunately, some of us have gotten so accustomed to rushing our breakfasts or catching a quick bite at lunch while still hunkered in front of our screens, working. In effect, we rarely get to enjoy the sight of our food on the plate, or even savor each bite, because it’s hard to do so when you’re just gobbling up the food for sustenance.
Instead of simply squeezing in meal times in between your hectic schedule, set hour-long meal breaks and at least two 20-minute recesses for snacks. Once you have set a schedule for your meals, respect them and do nothing besides eating during those times. Do not bring screens with you to the dining table. Pay good attention to the food before you and be mindful of each color, smell, texture, and taste that it presents you. Only then can you truly enjoy your meals the way they are meant to be enjoyed.
6. Never rush your showers
Just like eating, showering is another sensory experience that can stimulate all the senses, if only we were more present for it. Avoid rushing your showers and baths, and allow yourself the full experience of washing away yesterday’s dirt off your skin, the feel of water against your skin, and even just the calming sounds of water dripping and flowing.
Taking mindful showers is a relaxing experience that can clear the mind as well as it cleans the body, while a rushed shower feels more like a chore that just needs to be taken out of the way.
7. Find alternatives to retail therapy
Another aspect of mindfulness is being mindful about the material things that you bring into your home and your life. When we’re so busy and stressed that we can’t spare the time for rest and recreation, we sometimes overcompensate with splurging on online shops.
More often than not, we are left to deal with a bunch of stuff that brings us happiness for a very short span of time, before we realize that we have no real use for it anyway. The result is a cluttered space that you barely have time to fix and organize.
It’s doubly hard to meditate and practice mindfulness with so much clutter around you, so it’s infinitely better to just find alternatives to retail therapy as a form of coping with stress. As mentioned earlier, great meals and long, relaxing showers are great ways to relieve stress without spending money and precious space on retail.
8. Recognize your emotions without rationalizing them
Being mindful of your emotions means recognizing them without judgment or any explanation. For instance, if you’re having a mild panic attack, the best way is to recognize specifically what you’re feeling. Think to yourself, “Oh, it hurts right here in my chest and my heart is pounding,” or “The room is hot but my hands are cold and I’m shaking.”
By giving a name to whatever it is that you’re feeling at a given moment, you allow yourself to feel deeply, with full knowledge of what is happening to you. Never judge emotions or label them as ‘positive’ or ‘negative,’ because they are just emotions. All you have to do is mindfully acknowledge them when they come and feel them until they go.
Then maybe, the next time you feel your chest hurting and your hands shaking in a hot room, you’ll know exactly what’s happening and you won’t feel so scared.
9. Acknowledge cravings without giving in
Just like emotions, food cravings are neither inherently good or inherently bad. Without giving in to them, be mindful of when they come and why you might feel that way. Have you been depriving yourself of good food, or have you not been eating on time? Are you coming down with something which is why you feel compelled to eat something that might be good in preventing that? These are questions you might want to ask yourself to understand your cravings without shutting them down or otherwise giving in to them every time.
Listening to what your body is telling you is a huge aspect of practicing mindfulness.
10. Always keep your goals up to date
Another thing to always be mindful of are your personal and professional goals. Keeping yourself on track and your goals updated ensures that the things you’re doing are actually putting you on the right path to achieving your goals. If you are mindful of only doing things that are helping you achieve goals, or helping you feel better and be a better person, then you’d never waste time doing things that are not helpful to your own well-being.
Practicing mindfulness is one thing that can help you pull through anything bothersome or troubling in the outside world. At its core, mindfulness is all about finding your personal definition of peace and trying to experience it everyday.
Hopefully, you will be able to practice the tips mentioned in this article despite your busy schedule. After all, being busy should not be synonymous with being rattled or overwhelmed. Instead, inner peace should be a daily choice no matter how swamped we are with responsibilities.
Article by Bella Toledo, Edited by Li-ling Ooi