How to Maximize Your Meditation Minutes

Our days are full of so much to do. With all of the multi-tasking and moving from one thing to the next, it can feel overwhelming to add another thing like mindfulness or meditation to the lineup… even if you know it’s good for you. But with a little intention, you can actually integrate mindfulness into moments of transition between things you’re already doing — transforming your entire day in the process.

Here is a list of natural openings in the day to seed a little mindfulness into, strengthening your presence, awareness, and calm.

IN THE MORNING —

Use this time of transition out of sleep to intentionally set the tone for your day. Before jumping out of bed, pause for a few moments to notice and feel a sense of warmth and peace in your body. Set the intention to carry that feeling with you throughout the day.

WHILE COMMUTING — 

Whether you’re driving or taking public transportation, commuting is a great time to practice mindfulness. Rather than letting the commute itself compound your stress, use it as an opportunity to reset. When you get to your destination, you will arrive in a more relaxed frame of mind. Additionally, breathing exercises like “2:4 Breathing” calm your nervous system. Try letting your breath flow naturally, counting the length of your inhale. As you continue to breathe, make your exhale twice as long as your inhale. For example, if you breath in for a count of four, then breathe out for a count of eight. Follow a relaxed and slow pace that is natural to you. If you are driving and find that counting your inhale and exhale is too distracting, take long, slow breaths deep into your belly, and exhale all the way out.

WHILE WALKING — 

Whenever you’re walking, whether it’s from room to room, around a store, or at the office, intentionally slow down and take yourself out of your head. As you walk, focus your attention on each foot as it rises up and steps onto the ground, noticing the weight of each step. If you find yourself becoming distracted or lost in thought, pause and acknowledge what is distracting you. Slowly bring your awareness back to the rise and fall of your feet, always remembering to breathe with intention.

AFTER WORK —

When you return home after a long day, it’s easy to carry the day’s worries and stresses right through the door with you. Instead, try pausing before you walk into your home, placing your hand on your heart. Notice the sensations — a heartbeat, a comforting sense of warmth. Whatever you feel, regard it with a sense of kindness and understanding. Next, check in with how you are feeling. It can help to name your feelings as it can create a sense of distance and perspective, which can alleviate stress. You can also reset your perspective with gratitude. No matter what type of day you’re having, look for something you can appreciate. Think of three things you appreciate about the people or situation you are about to face and really let your appreciation sink in. As soon as you walk through the door, express what you’re grateful for.

BEDTIME —

Bedtime is a great opportunity to integrate a mindfulness practice into your routine. It can help with a better night’s rest, as well as set the stage for waking up in a more positive frame of mind. Instead of stressing out about what happened during the day and worrying about what’s on your plate for tomorrow, reflect on the day’s events with a positive perspective. If something happened during the day that didn’t go well, take a moment to offer yourself a little understanding and compassion. If something went well, take a few deep breaths and really appreciate those moments, letting them fully soak in. You can also practice a controlled breathing technique like “4:7:8 Breathing” which will soothe the nervous system and relax both your body and mind. Simply breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, and breathe out for a count of 8. Breathing this way will help you let go of the day’s energy and momentum and drift into a deep and therapeutic sleep.

Jamie Price is a wellness expert and co-founder of Stop, Breathe & Think, a personalized emotional wellness app that helps people navigate life’s ups and downs. She was one of the founders of Tools for Peace™ and has spent the last 17 years developing curriculum and teaching mindfulness and meditation to at-risk youth. She has studied and practiced meditation since 2000.

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