When your day seems super busy or you are feeling a little stressed out, it probably seems unrealistic to find time to add something else in. Even if that something else is some kind of mindfulness exercise that might help you feel less overwhelmed.
Studies show that mindfulness practices do help reduce stress. I believe that taking a mindful pause is the most important well-being habit you can build.
Even if you agree, there’s still that “I don’t have any spare time” thing.
What if that mindfulness exercise only had to take one minute?
Only one minute?
You might be thinking how much of a difference can a one minute exercise actually make. That’s because we have been conditioned to believe that something that is so simple it only takes a minute can’t possibly have that big an effect.
It’s the little things done consistently that create change.
Mindful moments to manage stress
Stress happens in our head. It comes from how we are thinking about things. When we are stressed we tend to think about something over and over again. We worry about what might happen in the future.
When we are super busy we become slaves to our to-do lists and we stop paying attention to what is happening in the moment and focus on the next thing we need to get done.
So yes, stress happens in our heads.
When we take a mindful pause we can get out of our heads for a moment. It’s not that we stop thinking. We can’t turn off our thoughts even if we would like to. But we can change our focus for a moment to give us a little relief.
These little mindful pauses provide an opportunity to be present, to become more grounded in our bodies and to consciously shift our mindset and attention.Mindful pauses help you be present, more grounded in your body and consciously shift your mindset and attention. Click To Tweet
7 simple mindfulness exercises
Here are 7 simple things that you can do in one minute or less that will help you pause and return to the present moment.
Pause for one minute and pay attention to your breathing. Just breathe the way you normally do and notice your breath as you inhale and exhale. A couple of things will happen. First you will return to the present moment by simply focusing on your breath. Your body will also begin to relax. Conscious breathing helps to elicit the relaxation response in your body which lets you calm yourself.
Do a quick sensory check-in by naming one thing you are experiencing with each of your senses. Look around and name one thing you see. Take a deep breath and name one thing you smell. Close your eyes and name one thing you hear. Run your tongue around your teeth and swallow and name the taste in your mouth. Reach your hand out and touch something and name the texture that you feel.
Stop and name 3 things that you are grateful for or appreciate in this moment. Studies show that regular gratitude practice contributes to a sense of happiness and satisfaction. By naming what you are thankful for in the moment, you shift away from thinking about whatever is not working.
Take a Stretch
Take a minute to gently stretch a body part. If you are at the computer, your neck or shoulders will thank you. If you have been sitting for a while, stand up and stretch your hips, hamstrings or calves. When your head is running the show, it is easy to ignore what is happening in your body. Your muscles hold onto tension so give them a quick release.
Grab a pen and piece of paper and doodle for a minute. Doodling is a whole brain activity that focuses your attention in the present moment. There are no rules – let yourself be spontaneous.
Look Out the Window
Get up and look out the window. Pay attention to what is happening out there. If this is a familiar setting, see if you can notice something new or different.
Take a Sip
Your brain is mostly made of water. It takes only 2% dehydration to begin to affect your attention, memory and other cognitive skills. Keep a water bottle handy and pause to rehydrate your brain and body. Take sip and pay attention to the experience of drinking your water. Hold the water in your mouth for a moment before you swallow. How does it taste? Visualize the water moving down your throat and into your stomach as you swallow.
5 minute mindfulness exercises
Maybe you have more than a minute available. You can always extend the exercises above for a little longer. Or give these suggestions a try. They all can be done in five minutes or less.
Step outside and reconnect with the world. Breathe in the fresh air. Go for a walk around the block. It will physically separate you from a stress inducing environment, help you shift your energy and let you focus on something other than your thoughts.
A five minute journaling activity is a great way to either collect your thoughts, shift your focus onto something positive or inspiring or do a brain dump to clear your mind. Quick journaling methods include a bullet journal, mind mapping or using an inspiring question or quote as a prompt.
Take a Mini Vacation
Take a mini vacation at your desk. Keep a picture of your favourite vacation spot handy and imagine yourself in the photo. What appeals to you about this place? What sounds do you hear? What sights do you see or smells do you notice?
Listen to Your Playlist
You need to do a little setup before you can use this exercise. Create two playlists – one that has music that calms you and one that has music that energizes you. Don’t overthink it. Simply choose 3-5 songs for each playlist. Whenever you need to calm yourself or have a boost, you can pause for a few minutes to listen to one of your songs .
Mindfulness is for busy people too
Mindfulness doesn’t have to be complicated – especially if you are a busy person. Simple mindfulness exercises can help you feel less stressed and overwhelmed. When we keep things simple, we are more likely to invest the time and energy to do them, especially when life seems so busy.