Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Do you ever feel like you rush through your day, with not enough time to get everything done, then by the end of the day you’re exhausted and feel like you accomplished nothing? Then you wake up again the next day and repeat it all over again. At the end of the week, you can’t even remember what you did as it was all a blur, and your anxiety has skyrocketed through the roof.
Maybe you want to make some changes in your life at this time. You want to be able to focus on the important things, such as a compliment by a coworker, connecting with your partner, or spending time with your children. Practicing mindfulness daily is a quick, easy, and effective solution that will help you get a sense of accomplishment with your everyday tasks, decrease feelings of exhaustion, and let you remember what you did that day. You want life to stop rushing by; practicing mindfulness will help.
But I have no extra time...
The main issue is that you have no extra time or energy to insert one more thing into your day. And besides, isn’t mindfulness for people who are already calm? In reality, practicing mindfulness on a daily basis can help you become calmer. Mindfulness is simply attending to what is going on in the present moment. The Oxford Dictionary defines mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing on one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations”. Sounds easy, right? It can be if you put 100% of your focus into it, but we are so used to dividing our attention and multi-tasking, that attending to just one thing at a time has become more difficult for us.
How multitasking hurts us
When we attend to more than one thing at a time, we are never fully focused on either thing so therefore we are more physiologically aroused than when attending to just one thing. If our goal is to create calm, then we need both our minds and our bodies to work together to create this. Mindfulness can help retrain our brains to stop dividing our attention and thus to feel more at peace.
Mindfulness Exercise #1: Focus on Walking
Throughout the day, you walk places. You may walk from your car to your work building, from your office on one end of the floor to the break room on the other end, or perhaps you even walk for exercise. This first mindfulness exercise makes use of your already-built-in walking time. When you are walking, try to divert all of your focus on what you are doing in the moment. Here are some suggestions of things to focus on:
How it feels to move your feet, legs and hips as you walk
How it feels to swing your arms and rotate your shoulders
Try turning your head gently from side to side
Notice visually details of things that you often miss without keeping your focus on any one thing
Track your breathing – are you breathing faster with the exertion? Taking deeper breaths?
Notice how you feel afterwards
Even if your walk is only 1 minute long, that is 1 minute that you are attending to only what you are doing at that exact moment and not dividing your attention. The more you practice this, the longer you should be able to hold your attention on the present and not get distracted. You may want to work up to a 20-minute walk daily, practicing mindfulness the entire time.
Mindfulness Exercise #2: Engage Your Senses
This is an exercise that you can do anytime throughout the day, whether you are at home, out and about, or at work. The goal is to engage all five of your senses to keep you attending to the present moment. Set aside 1-2 minutes daily and practice this:
Touch: What are you touching with your feet? Your hands? Your legs? Your back? Is it soft, hard, bumpy, slimy, cool, or hot?
Sight: What are you looking at right at this moment? What is around you? What colors are they? How big, or small are they?
Smell: What are you smelling right now? What types of foods? What types of chemicals?
Hear: What are you hearing going on around you? Talking? Machines working? Traffic in the city? The breeze in the cool air?
Taste: What do you taste right now? Can you identify the last thing you ate by taste? Or are you currently drinking or eating anything?
Engaging the 5 senses and what they are all experiencing in the present moment is a form of mindfulness. Again, even if you only practice this for 1-2 minutes per day, you are teaching yourself to become fully focused on what is going on right now, not attending to every other thing that is going on around you. Ideally you would work up to doing this mindfulness exercise several times a day for up to 5 minutes at a time.
Mindfulness Exercise #3: Purposeful Breathing
We often take breathing for granted. While we need it to stay alive, we rarely ever pay much attention to it. This mindfulness exercise can be done anytime during the day, although you might want to choose a time when you can sit down for a few minutes to fully obtain the benefits. We’re going to focus on your breathing. First, sit comfortably and close your eyes. Then follow these steps:
Start to pay attention to your breathing. Is it fast? Slow? Deep? Shallow? Focus on this for several breaths without changing how you are breathing.
Try to deepen and elongate each breath. Breathe in for 5 seconds, then breathe out for 5 seconds. Do this for 5-10 breaths.
While you are breathing, attend to how your lungs, chest, and stomach are moving in and out, pushing the air through your body.
Now, slowly open your eyes while still taking long breaths. Try the long breaths while your eyes are open, for another 5-10 breaths, before returning to your normal tasks.
How are you feeling after doing this exercise? Is there any change in your mind or body from the before to the after? This mindfulness exercise will give you the benefits of refocusing your attention on your body and taking it away from your mind and thoughts. If you practice this mindfulness exercise daily, even several times a day, you will start to train your mind to turn off and refocus on your body.
Practicing takes only minutes a day
Each of these mindfulness exercises can be done in a few minutes, anywhere you are at, during your typical day. It might be a good idea to choose one of these exercises at a time to focus on, and make it a goal to practice that exercise daily. Notice if you feel any different each day, and then again after a week. If it works for you and you are feeling more connected to what you are doing daily, or it helps you feel calmer, then continue doing it! If not, try another of the exercises to focus on for a week or two. Even if you can just get in 2 minutes a day of mindfulness, it will have a positive impact on your mood and stress levels.
Your Mindfulness goal
The goal and practice of mindfulness is to pay more attention to what you are doing in the moment rather than dividing your focus or multitasking. Practicing mindfulness regularly will help you connect more with not only yourself but also others. People, and children especially, can tell when you are focused on them or thinking about a million other things while talking with them. If you want to feel more connected with your family, your friends, and even your coworkers, using the skills you learned from these mindfulness exercises will assist you in doing so.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce your stress, increase your feelings of calmness, and help you live a more fulfilled in-the-moment life. If you would like to learn more about how Catalyss Counseling incorporates mindfulness into our therapy practice, contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation or scheduled directly online with one of our caring, experienced counselors to regain balance in your life.
Shannon Heers is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Shannon helps adults manage anxiety, depression, work-life balance, grief and loss, and addictions, to live a more balanced life. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn or Facebook.