The Being & The Doing EPISODE 11:
21 Mindfulness Exercises to Help You Pause
The mindfulness exercise of pausing is a super effective way to use a minute or two of your time. There are many benefits to pausing including calming yourself or getting off autopilot for a moment and being present or shifting your mood or mindset. In this episode Laurel shares 21 ideas for taking a mindful pause in your day.
*A full transcript is posted at the bottom of this page.
Mindful Moment Journal [Free Download]
One Minute Mindfulness Exercises to De-stress
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THIS EPISODE’S HOMEWORK
Something to think about:
What is the biggest obstacle that stops me from taking a mindful pause?
Something to try:
Pick one of the ways to take a pause and give it a try.
Notice what happens when you pause.
Notice if you forget to do it.
Post a comment below and share with me what you tried and how it turned out.
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Intro: Welcome to The Being and The Doing, a podcast about well-being and the practices that help us have more calm, focus, purpose, and presence in our busy lives. Here’s your host author and life coach Laurel Vespi.
Laurel: Hey, lovely ones welcome to Episode 11 of The Being and The Doing. Before we dive into today’s show, I just wanted to express my thanks for all of your support for The Being and The Doing podcast, for listening, for commenting, for reviewing; it has been terrific. Over in my community, those people who get my weekly ‘Mindful Living’ Newsletter, people have been sharing suggestions for topics for future podcasts and it has been terrific.
Now, if you aren’t part of that community, I’d love for you to join us. I send out a weekly Newsletter with some inspirational ideas and tips for mindful living and how you can be happier, healthier as you go about your life. If you’re interested in that, I will leave a link in the show notes for how you can subscribe to that community and get my Newsletter.
Back in Episode 3, which was called the most important well-being habit, I made the case for why it’s important to take pauses in our day and why we don’t do it very often and the positive kinds of things that can happen when we actually do take a pause. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, episode number three, I really encourage you to take the time to do that.
Now based on the feedback that I got from that podcast, from my community, there seems to be a giant ‘yes, but’ happening and it sounds like this; yes, Laurel I get it. I get that we’re crazy busy and we no longer stop and pause. And I get that there are so many benefits when we do, from being able to calm ourselves or get off autopilot for a moment and be able to notice what’s happening or shifting our mood or mindset; yes, I get it Laurel, but how do you actually stop for a moment? How do you actually take a mindful pause?
So in today’s show, I’m going to give you a ton of ways to pause and when to pause. Because as mindfulness exercises go, pausing is a super effective way to use a minute or two of your time; far more effective than scrolling through Facebook or Instagram. Now, this is going to be a jam-packed idea session, heads up. So I want you to grab a pen and write down the ideas that make the most sense to you now, no worries.
If you are listening and driving or walking or sitting in the bathtub or anything else that you’re doing that isn’t really conducive to writing stuff down, the complete transcript of this show will be posted on the episode page so you can get all of the tips there. And I also have a blog that gives you some one-minute mindfulness exercises to try so I’ll leave a link in the show notes to that.
The key for today is for you to listen with curiosity and an open mind. Now, you aren’t going to try to do all of the things that I am going to share. Oh my goodness, that would just be crazy and counterproductive. So instead what I want you to do is to listen for the ones that you are interested in trying or the ones that kind of intrigued you or maybe seem like they might not be too big a stretch to actually work into your day. And
I also want you to listen for things that you might already be doing and kind of take that as validation that, hey, good, yea, I’m on the right track with that. And I’m going to weave the ‘what to do’ and ‘when to do it’ together and you’re going to see that there’s some overlap. And that’s because many of the ‘what to do’ things can be done in a lot of different situations so this is kind of a mix and match. Here are some things to do, here is when to do them just because I don’t say do this here, doesn’t mean that you can’t.
Now the number one most important way to pause is to stop and pay attention to your breathing. You don’t have to change the way that your breathing, you just breathe in a way, whatever is normal and natural for you. What’s different is that you’re paying attention to your breathing and noticing that you’re inhaling and exhaling and it really is a game changer to pause and simply pay attention to your breathing just for a minute or two. So even if I don’t mention it, breathing can always be a part of any pause that you’re doing.
Let’s get started. And what I want to do is walk through your day, and I’m going to show you lots of places to take a mindful pause. I want you to think about how you start your day because this is your first opportunity for a pause. What happens when you first wake up? Do you reach for your phone, first thing? Maybe you hit the snooze button? Maybe you hit the snooze button again, or maybe you just hit the ground running and jump out of bed and off you go or maybe you lay in bed for a while and think about everything that you need to get done because you have a crazy long to-do list.
Whatever way you start your day, you’ve probably been starting your day, the same way for a long, long time. So you’ve got a lot of habits around that. And what’s important to remember, is that how you start your day, sets the tone for the type of day that you are going to have. If you begin your day in a calm and focused and intentional way, chances are, you’re going to find that your day goes more smoothly.
Now, it isn’t a guarantee but even when it doesn’t, when it isn’t going smooth, you are going to be more likely able to handle the challenges that show up if your day has started with a positive tone.
So what does this ‘start your day pause’ look like? Well, it can be a simple as focusing on your breathing before anything else. So when you get up, instead of reaching for your phone, you’re just going to pause and focus on your breathing for a moment or two. Maybe you pause by kind of reconnecting your mind and your body. So as you’re laying there you do a few gentle stretches, I mean you can do them right in bed. You don’t have to get out or if you want to get out and get a do a few gentle stretches, great. I start my day with just a very short little yoga practice that I do; it only takes me a few minutes, but it’s just kind of a way to get my mind and my body all into the same place or you can set an intention for the day.
Now, setting an intention isn’t about prioritizing your to-do list, it’s really about identifying the most important quality that you want to embody for the day. So for example, my intention for today is to be patient. So I might think for a moment like, what is coming up for me in this day? What would be the most important quality for me to carry through the day? And the act of pausing and setting an intention is just a proactive practice that helps us focus our attention and choices as we go about our day.
So now you’re out of bed and you’re getting ready for the day and you’re showering or brushing your teeth, doing your hair, shaving, putting on your makeup getting dressed, all of those getting ready activities and each one of them is a perfect opportunity for a mindful pause. When where you stop thinking about everything that you have to do and pay attention to the activity instead. And so you begin to notice the sensory experience; the taste, the smell, the feeling, and you bring your mindful attention to what’s happening.
So a mindful pause isn’t just about breathing, it’s a way to bring you back to the present moment so it gives you this rest for a moment of not thinking about to do- to do -to do, and you actually just maybe stand in the shower for a moment and feel the water or smell the soap or listen to the sound of the water in the shower.
Lots of opportunities in your ‘getting ready’ activities, to take a pause and just pay attention differently. Now I bet you end up in the kitchen at some point. Maybe you’re making coffee or tea and that’s another opportunity to pause and pay attention again to the sensory experience of your morning beverage. Maybe the sound of the kettle or the steaming of the milk or taking a really deep inhale, the smell, what does that coffee or that tea smell like? Or savoring the first few sips and eventually, you’re going to be heading out the door and you’re going to cross the threshold of your house and you’re going to enter the world. And it’s another chance to pause.
You’re going to enter and exit all kinds of rooms and buildings today as you go about your day. And so each one becomes this opportunity to think about the energy that you’re carrying with you. Another way to be intentional about sort of how you show up in the world because you’re going to show up some way and this pause just lets you be intentional about how you’re going to be in the next space that you’re in; what energy you’re bringing with you as you enter the space or leave the space.
Trust me your mind will busy itself with all kinds of things that you have to do; the lists and the problem-solving and the organizing and all of that and each one of these pauses, is just an opportunity to step back, come back to the present moment and be more intentional about what it is that’s happening.
Okay, so you’re going to get in your car or on the bus or on your bike or however it is that you’re going to get to work and every time you stop at a red light, is a chance to pause. A chance to pause maybe and breathe or simply to look around you with mindful attention even if it’s you go the same way all the time, you can actually look out there and try to look with new eyes each time; what do I see today that’s different? You stop thinking about your to-do list and you come back to the present moment.
Now I recognize that maybe some of you are not going to work, maybe you’re retired or maybe you work from home, but these same opportunities for a pause actually present themselves in your day,no matter what it is that you’re doing. And the answer to ‘when can I pause’? Actually is anytime. Now, you might think that’s not a helpful answer so let me be specific, knowing that any time is actually the true answer. The practical answer, more specifically, is you can pause when you are feeling rushed.
So when you’re feeling rushed in your day, great time to pause; when you are feeling frustrated or irritated, pause; when you’re feeling bored; when you’re procrastinating, pause. Anytime you catch yourself saying, oh, I’m so busy, pause or you hear yourself going ‘errh’ because something isn’t going the way that you wanted it to or something is irritating or frustrating, anytime you hear yourself doing that, take that as a signal to pause and maybe just pause and breathe for a moment.
The truth is when it feels the hardest, it’s probably the time when you need to pause the most. And if that was the only mindfulness exercise you ever did that you paused and paid attention to your breathing for a couple of moments for one minute that would be wonderful. But there are other things that you can do in those moments. So the moments when you’re feeling rushed or frustrated or irritated or bored or procrastinating or whatever, you can also pause and repeat an affirmation or a mantra to help you shift your focus. This you know might sound like ‘this too shall pass’.
So you pause you catch yourself in the moment of frustration or irritation or feeling overwhelmed or rushed, breathe; this too shall pass or maybe you say something like I’ve got this’ or ‘I live in a friendly Universe’. Check out Episode 8 to find out why ‘I live in a friendly universe’ is a good Mantra to use. Now, sometimes when you’re feeling stressed a brain dump is a great pause.
So you take a couple of minutes to write down everything that is cluttering up your mind just to get it out of your head. You’re not solving any of it, you’re just dumping it out. Give it as you’re simply vacuuming up the dust bunnies of worry and irritation that are cluttering up your head. And this kind of pause helps you shift. You’re going to shift your energy and you’re going to shift your focus because it’s just sort of that, just let me get it out of my head.
Now just like you pause when you’re entering or leaving a room, you can take a mindful pause anytime you’re shifting between activities. Anytime you’re stopping this and starting that, is a great time for a pause.
Whether you’re just going to breathe for a moment or take notice of how you’re feeling, wow! I am feeling a little rushed or I’m feeling a little overwhelmed are oh, I’m feeling like good on me, I got that done. Maybe you’re noticing how your body’s feeling, oh, oh get up. You need to stretch, you’ve been sitting too long. That allows you to then move from one task to the next more mindfully.
So anytime you’re switching between this or that, just pause for a moment. Now, I’m guessing that you are going to eat during the day and mealtimes can be another great opportunity for a pause. So how can you pause at mealtimes? You can pause at the beginning of your meal and say grace; whether that’s something you say out loud or in your head and it may or may not have a religious context to you.
Grace is really just a way to express gratitude, gratitude for the food on your plate or the people around your table or the people who prepared the food, just an opportunity to pause for a moment and pay attention and express some gratitude.
You can pause at the beginning of your meal for a few moments to just pay attention to your food like actually taste it and smell it. You know, smell is such an important part of taste but we just jump right in and start eating and we’re not actually paying attention. And it doesn’t have to be the whole meal and I’m not talking about you have to sit in silence and pay attention to every mindful bite, great, we want to do that, but that’s not what we’re talking about.
We’re talking about just pausing for a moment and actually tasting it. Because it’s really those first few bites of anything that sort of taste the best when we pay attention to them. So just a few moments when you begin.
Now I also guess that you have a phone and that you use it for all kinds of things. So there’s a pause that you can take any time you’re going to use your phone. Now, think about it; I think we check our phone something like 150 times a day, wow, there are 150 opportunities for a pause. So what might that look like? Well, anytime I pick up my phone,
maybe I just pause for a moment and think purposefully about what am I doing with this? Is this because I’m bored or procrastinating or no, actually, there’s something I need to do with my phone. So it just brings me back with the intention to the present moment. I can pause before I press send or post something. When I pause like that, it creates a space for me to be intentional about what it is that I’m doing. The world would be a far better place if everyone just paused before they sent a text or made a comment on social media, wouldn’t it?
Now, somewhere in your day, something important is going to happen. Something that you are doing deserves your full attention. Maybe it’s watching your kids soccer game or maybe it’s a conversation that you’re having, chatting with your kids after school or catching up with your partner or having coffee with your friend; a mindful pause lets you set aside the distractions and Lord knows we know there are lots of them, we set them aside so that we can pay attention. And the important things in our lives are quite likely small events, they’re not necessarily giant monumental ones. Yes, those are important but the real juice of our lives is often in those small things day-to-day that is happening.
And so being able to take a few conscious breaths and say to yourself, let me just lock this moment in, let me bring my full attention to this. The whole idea of taking a pause is not just for the sake of taking a pause, it’s not so that I can check it off or press the little button on the app that says yeah, I did that, it’s because taking a pause lets you pay attention. It lets you be proactive; proactive about your attitude and your mindset. Because in a pause, you choose to shift how you’re thinking and what you’re focusing on and it gives you access to information. Because now I’m noticing or I’m paying attention to what is actually happening and it just happens in a moment. It doesn’t have to be this giant time commitment moments of pause.
Now, not everything you do in a day is meaningful, some of it is just downright mundane, routine, but that is also a great opportunity to pause. Instead of mentally checking out and getting lost in the bazillion thoughts in your head, all those regular life tasks actually give you an opportunity to bring your attention into the present moment. So whether you’re doing the dishes or making the bed or feeding the cat or folding laundry or taking the garbage out, each one is an opportunity to pause for a moment and just pay attention. And again, you’re kind of leaning into that sensory experience of it.
Now, likely in your day, somewhere probably in the middle of your day, you might need an energy shift; either to kind of calm yourself down because it’s been a stressful day, or maybe you need to energize yourself because you’re hitting that slump. So taking a little pause and listening to some music can actually help you do that.
Coming up in Episode 13, we’re going to take a deeper dive into music and how it helps with stress, but for now, just think about creating two playlists. And they don’t have to be long, just a couple of songs. One that has music that calms you and one that has music that energizes you. And whenever you feel like your energy needs to shift, you can pause and listen to the playlist, the calming one or the energizing one, for a couple of minutes and you don’t have to even listen to the whole song. We know the songs that we pick and so they’re like those little ear-worms, right? Even just listening to the beginning of it, it starts to play then it get in our head.
Now the end of your day is another beautiful opportunity to pause because just like your morning routine, you probably have had the same habits at the end of your day for a long, long time.
So I want you to think about how your day usually ends. Maybe you have fallen to bed exhausted but you still can’t fall asleep. Maybe you get into bed and you watch TV or you look at some digital screen and you’re forgetting that the light actually interferes with your ability to wind down. Maybe you’re someone who lays in bed thinking about everything you need to get done tomorrow or things that you’re worried about.
Sometimes, at the end of the day when you get into the into bed, it’s actually the first time all day that you’ve really taken a long pause. And because of that, you might begin to experience kind of conversation in your head more loudly because there are no other distractions. So it’s like, la la la, going on in your head. And so when we take this pause at the end of the day, it actually can help our brain power down.
That brain dump activity that I mentioned before is one thing that you can do at the end of the day. Have a notebook beside your bed and just dump everything out onto the paper or maybe even a quick journaling activity, I know lots of people like the idea of journaling. The practice of journaling is challenging but you can get a lot of benefit out of really quick journaling activities.
I’m putting a link in the show notes for a ‘mindful moment Journal’ download that is a really quick and easy, simple and actually kind of uplifting inspiring activity that you can do and it’s great to use at the end of the day or actually any time that you might want to pause and shift your mind a little bit.
The end of the day you can also take a gratitude pause; something as simple as naming three things that you appreciated in your day. And, of course, you could always write them down if you wanted to.
How you end your day actually has an impact on how you’re going to start the next one; partly because you need to get good sleep. So if you’re not getting good sleep that is going to have an impact on the next day. And by not taking your busy or worrisome thoughts into your sleep with you, you begin to set yourself up for a different experience in the morning.
Now there’s one other pause that I want to mention. I know there’s been a lot here, but there’s one more and it actually might be the hardest one to do and that is the do-nothing pause. Yep, that’s right; pause and do nothing. You don’t have to bring your attention to your breath or notice your senses or try to shift your mindset or your energy like just do nothing for a few minutes.
Because your brain actually needs time to power down every once in a while, it has a lot of energy requirements and so it actually needs to power down and so you just do nothing. You’ve got nothing to plan, solve, fix, forget thinking about your breath; nothing. Just literally sit there and do nothing.
Here’s the thing, about mindful pauses; they are really simple mindfulness exercises. Doing them actually isn’t really the problem, it’s remembering to do them and remembering to incorporate them into your day, to actually build the habit of having these pauses into your day.
For now, let me leave you with a little ‘being and doing’ homework. As always, something to think about and something to try.
In the show notes, you’ll find the action awareness guide that has the note-taking sheet for the homework and you can either use that or use any kind of Journal that you want to do in order to do your homework.
Here goes, something to think about; what is the biggest obstacle that stops me from taking a mindful pause? And the answer can’t be me. You have to be specific so often that question is, well, I’m the biggest obstacle. I want you to really think about it; what is the actual obstacle? What is it about you that is causing you to not be able to stop and take a mindful pause?
And something to try; pick one of these pauses and give it a try. I think I shared at least 21 different ways to pause and times that you can do these pauses. And try it and notice what happens when you do. What happened when you took that pause? And also notice if you forget to take the pause.
It would be really great if you would post some comments on the episode page and let me know what you tried and how it turned out. Great information for me, but it’s also great for everyone else to be able to see what are people trying and what worked and what didn’t work for them. Now, I know that some of you are going to give this pause thing a whirl and I’m also betting that some of you won’t remember to do it even if you really want.
So next time I’m going to do a follow-up podcast where I’m going to give you some tips about how to actually make it happen how to actually incorporate these pauses into your day so you’re going to want to be sure to tune in to get the follow-up tips and strategies for that. Until then lovely ones, I invite you to pause, yes, actually pause and breathe and enjoy your day.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing with your host Laurel Vespi. If you liked this episode and think other people would, please subscribe, rate and give a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to tune in next week for another conversation about The Being and The Doing. Thanks for listening.