Seriously, give yourself a break.
‘Just live in the moment!’ is something way easier said than done when you’ve got a million thoughts buzzing around your head, from whether you’re being catfished on Tinder to what your boss meant by using ‘…’ three times in their last email to you, to what-the-heck-is-up by your skin breaking out like you’re 15 again.
Like most things worth doing, mindfulness (being in a state focused on awareness of the present moment) takes some practice, and for something that looks an awful lot like meditation, it will take a bit of work – especially if you’re used to splitting your attention across multiple things at once.
Here are 3 exercises perfect for getting started, and they only take a few minutes!
Have you ever stopped and thought about how you’re breathing? As something that comes naturally, it can really trip us up when we stop to think about it, but that kind of disruption in routine is perfect for a mindfulness exercise.
Controlled breathing doesn’t necessarily require crossed legs and wrists balanced on your knees, but keeping your spine straight is important.
If you’re completely new to controlled breathing, you can start with making in your in- and exhalations follow the animation here:
Make sure to completely empty your lungs without ‘pushing;’ it should be relaxed.
Next, try working your way through this pattern – 1 second inhale followed by 1 second exhale, then 2 second inhale and 2 second exhale, etc, until you reach 10 and then work backwards.
As you breathe, picture the air entering your body and exiting, appreciating the sensation of your chest moving and even the sensation of your fabric against your skin as your shirt shifts.
This is a perfect exercise for decompressing after a stressful day, and you can do it right before you go to sleep.
Lying in your bed, again with your spine straight, steady your breath using the techniques from above. Then, spend a few breaths focusing on the toes on your left side. Then your foot, your ankle, etc etc, working your way around your entire body. If you notice any ache or tension, spend a few extra breaths on it, imagining the stress slowly leaving the area with every exhale.
If you’re having trouble making yourself sit down and stick to completing an exercise by yourself, you can always try it with your partner – which also makes it a great intimacy exercise.
Get comfortable with your partner, sitting across from each other or lying on your sides with your eyes closed and synchronize your breathing. You can use your hands on each other’s chest to help!
Next, open your eyes and focus on their face. Don’t let your mind go to thoughts like ‘Oh, they need to get a haircut’ or ‘I wonder what they’re thinking about,’ rather just focus on the features of their face for what they are. Trace the shape of their eyebrows and imagine that it feels like, or the angle of their cheekbones. It might feel a bit silly, but if you start giggling, just focus on what it physically feels like to have laughs come out of your body, and what the muscles of your face feel like when you smile!
Don’t worry! Mindfulness, for involving such simple exercises, really does take a lot of work because it’s undoing the habits of how you spend literally every other moment of your day. Once you get it down though, you can use the principles to create your own ‘mini-exercises’ to re-center yourself whenever you’re stressed, feeling anxious, or even need help falling asleep!
Originally from Vancouver, Canada, Lane Baumeister is a staunch proponent of the m-dash and made-for-TV movies.