Quite a quick post today dear reader, but mainly because this is so simple it takes very few words!
I have practiced mindfulness and meditation for years on and off to deal with stress reduction, anxiety and just general improved wellbeing. However, I have always found it difficult to build meditation (or mindfulness) into my every day routine.
Until I stumbled upon the most wonderful and simple piece of advice that I have ever had, by the lovely Buddhist Monk, Thich Naht Hanh. I have included a link at the bottom to some of his books, which are lovely and very accessible. They also give incredibly wonderful tips about incorporating mindfulness into your everyday routine to improve wellbeing.
So what are these 3 steps to make life changing mindfulness available every day?
Step 1: Choose a trigger
This needs to be something that occurs in your life or routine everyday that will trigger this new habit. For me it worked really well choosing a trigger that:
a) usually occurred when I was alone (so I look slightly less peculiar to friends, colleagues and the man on the street);
b) created ‘dead time’, for me this is time when I have to wait for something to happen, e.g. the kettle to boil, traffic lights etc.; and
c) was attached to a time or activity that meant I needed re-centring the most. This could again be traffic lights (your possibly starting to sense that impatience is a feature of my personality), or during the workday for example.
My trigger is microwaving my soup at work, the couple of minutes while I wait for the ‘ding’ and I’m done. (Yes it is a work kitchen, and yes people come and go, but actually as I’m standing facing the wall no-one tends to notice what I’m doing and if they say hi I just respond and continue when they’ve gone.)
Step 2: Pick a mantra
That sounds a bit deep and ‘involved’ I appreciate, but don’t panic! I’m not talking about chanting the ‘om’ or anything like that. Just a few words to guide you through a couple of deep breathes that will instantly bring you to the present moment and instantly make you feel awesome!
My mantra is a slight variation of one of the ones Hanh describes in his book, the reasons it has varied is because the way I have remembered it, but the key here is it doesn’t really matter what you say, you’re just creating a trigger to tap back into your centre. My mantra:
As I breath in I’m calm, as I breath out I smile. Present moment, wonderful moment.
Each half of each centre is said on the in breath and then the out breath whilst focusing on that breath nice and deep into the lungs! As I am in a public place I tend to say it in my head (tbh I’m not sure I am co-ordinated enough to handle the breathing and talking at the same time anyway). Oh yes, and on the first out breath, you smile! 🙂
Remember: If you are not used to the concept of mindfulness this is not about trying to float up in the air to achieve a zen like state, or transcendental trance. Mindfulness works by reminding your brain and body that right now, in this moment, you are alive! Regardless of issues in the past or worries of the future the only time that exists is NOW. And if those breathes are passing in and out of your lungs, it’s all good!
P.S. the smile really works, it’s been proved in science that smiling regardless of how happy we feel makes us feel good, and for me that really plays into the effectiveness of this routine.
Step 3: Start Doing It
If you are a much better person than me you will start doing this tomorrow and do it every day for the rest of your life. However, if not you will probably forget quite a lot in the beginning. But the more you do remember the more you will start to create a habit, also the more you will start to associate positive feelings with your trigger, which will in turn remind you to do it again next time.
And that’s it! It’s that simple. If you’re sceptical give it a try. You won’t be disappointed and the more you do it, the better it becomes. My association is so strong I now only need to look at the microwave at work and I feel instantly calmer (yes I am odd).
Once you have the ability to tap into this little trick you can use it more regularly as well. This is particularly useful for any ill health conditions that can be impacted by the bodies stress response such as fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression and diabetes. (Find out more about how fibromyalgia is caused by the stress response in my article here.)
Tip for the Mamas
A great trigger to attach this to is those moments when the little darling(s) have you at the point of just about losing your shit and it isn’t going to be good for anyone:
Step 1: Step into the bathroom
Step 2: Try not to catch yourself in the mirror as the distress in your own eyes may push you over the edge.
Step 3: Invoke the mantra, take the breaths and don’t forget to smile!
You’ll have that eye twitch and clenched fists under control in no time 😉
Let me know if you have tried anything like this before with success, or if you try it I would love to hear what you think!
Here is a link to a few of my favourite Thich Naht Hanh books: