We already know I think mini-meditations throughout the day are helpful for creating and sticking to a regular mindfulness practice. Remember, the act of meditation - the practice of sitting and connecting with your breath - is a way for us to train ourselves to be more present at any moment, any day, in any situation.
But we can “practice” mindfulness through bringing ourselves back to the present anytime. Here are 5 scenarios you might encounter most workdays -- great opportunities to reconnect with yourself, instead of getting lost in your mind.
1. Walking into the office
What's on your mind as you're walking from your car to the office every morning? Everything on your to-do list? How much you wish you were still sleeping?
The start of the day is a perfect time to stop and check in with your body. I love to practice mindful walking as I climb stairs -- paying attention to my posture and gait. To do it, simply rest your attention on your feet hitting the ground. Notice which parts hit first, how you apply pressure when you push off, how your body reacts as you lift one foot. Remember that once you didn't even know how to walk and now you can do it without thinking.
Once you get to your office, stop to take a couple deep breaths before sitting down. You'll be checked in and ready to win the day.
2. When you're running late (for a meeting or anything)
This has been me on many occasions. Late for something, feeling like I'm going to be scolded or that I'm letting someone down, heart pounding and flush.
First, take a deep breath. Start with one, then a couple more. Notice that you can change your internal responses simply by breathing. No one is making your stomach tie into knots or your chest tight except you. Check in and ask your mind and body what’s going on. Maybe you’ll see some thoughts you hadn’t noticed before — "I’m always late, how do I do this?" or, "My client is going to think I'm a jerk." Whatever it is, just recognize and let it go as you’re able. And maybe if your heart is beating like crazy in your chest, you can just make note of that, too. You might find there is some space there to act like a normal person despite the fact that you’re late. After all, the situation already is as it is, right? Now you get to figure out how you’re going to respond in the moment. Mindfully or mindlessly.
3. Before a presentation or speaking in front of a group
This is something that’s difficult for many people. And it has been for me at times. I remember in elementary school having the closest thing I’ve ever had to a panic attack, bursting into tears before I had to give a 3- or 5-minute speech in front of the class. My teacher made me do it anyways and somehow I survived.
Since then I’ve had the opportunity to speak in front of a lot of crowds, in a lot of settings, and it’s become easier. But I still get nervous. And thanks to my mindfulness practice, I can recognize some of the physical manifestations of my nerves as they pop up. Example: My heart starts to beat out of my chest when I really nervous, and my hands get clammy (awkward to handshakes at that moment). I used to try to stop that from happening - as if telling my heart to slow down would actually work. But I’ve learned that simply by recognizing and gently just sitting with it, my body calms down. And by taking slow, deep breaths I’m able to bring things back to a more normal state.
That’s my story. Yours could be entirely different. See what you can learn: Take a moment to check in with your body and to see how it’s feeling before you go on stage or introduce yourself to someone new.
4. When you meet someone new and they ask what you do
Yes, the old elevator speech. As a marketer, I understand the importance of having a quick story to introduce myself and the mechanics of making it stick. As a business owner, I know the struggle of putting it into practice. (Try telling someone you just met that you coach businesses on mindfulness.)
There is a reason our mindfulness work is called practice. It is something that requires effort, something that we engage in with an intent to grow and something we must try over and over again. Making a successful introduction is the very same and the same lessons apply.
Before going to an event where you might meet someone, spend 5 minutes visualizing yourself speaking with confidence as you tell your story. Pay close attention to how your body feels, how it reacts. Realize you can always feel that. If you often stumble over your introduction, set an intention to say things more slowly the next time you shake hands. Create space between any nervous feelings and your speech. You'll look and feel like a natural in no time.
5. During the drive home
Does just thinking about your evening commute make your stomach tight? That was the case for me for years and my car has been perhaps the most beneficial place for me to strengthen my mindfulness practice. I'm still counting down the days until autonomous cars hit the mainstream and I don't have to deal with other drivers again.
And yet, I find it nearly impossible to be stressed or upset if I focus on long, deep breaths when I'm behind the wheel. Or if I remember that everyone around me wants the same thing I do -- to get home to their loved ones as quickly as they can. We can't fix the traffic but we can change our reaction to it.
Try taking 5-10 deep breaths when you're feeling most stressed during your drive. See the changes it makes in your body. Even better, carry that with you as you walk into your house. Your family will thank you.