With the new year upon us, January is the perfect time to start building mindfulness into your daily routine. Mindfulness, which is essentially the practice of being present, brings with it an array of benefits – research shows that practicing mindfulness regularly improves our attention and ability to regulate emotions, reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, and increases our capacity for compassion. Sounds pretty good, right? Here are three ways you can start incorporating mindfulness into your life:
Figure out what works best for you
There are tons of mindfulness resources on the market today. You can download a mindfulness app (my favorites are Calm and Stop, Think and Listen); listen to a mindfulness podcast (such as 10% Happier or The Mindful Kid); or check out a mindfulness book/audiobook (I’m currently reading “The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day” by Andy Puddicomb). Figure out what works for your schedule/lifestyle, so it’s easier to make mindfulness a part of your routine.
Add “mindful minutes” into your day
A client of mine, who attends a local elementary school, recently told me that her school observes a daily “mindful minute.” That means that for one minute, every student, teacher and staff member in the school take a minute to slow down, clear their minds and take deep breaths. I loved the simplicity of this idea. Try setting your iPhone alarm to 90 minutes and observe a mindful minute every time the alarm goes off. Here’s a super easy exercise (we call it the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise) you can start with during your mindful minute: take slow deep breaths to center yourself. Look around your surroundings and notice the following: five things you can see, four things you feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Make it a family or workplace goal
Encourage your family or colleagues to join in on the mindfulness challenge with you. With your family, have a joint mindful minute with everyone in the family right before bed or just before dinner begins. Track total mindful minutes for each family member. Consider adding an incentive where kids get a dollar for every day they practice mindfulness; at the end of the week, they can reward themselves with a treat. At work, encourage supervisors to start each staff meeting with a mindful minute. Introduce a mindfulness book into your workplace book club. Or simply share your mindfulness journey with colleagues and encourage them to try it themselves.
Lauren Abdill is a therapist at Relate Counseling Center in Minnetonka.