When is the last time you didn’t feel like you were on autopilot? Overloaded calendars and seemingly endless obligations can make it difficult to truly live in the present moment. How often do we forget where we put things, and how we got from A to B, and if we completed the such and such chore or task?
It’s become a bit of an epidemic, living life in DRIVE mode and never stopping to just BE. Along with our journey to mindfulness we’ve stumbled, and we’ll never be perfect (perfect feels a little boring, anyway!) but we know one thing for sure: living in the present moment is the antidote to the harried schedules and demands of today. The convenience of technology has increased the amount of output so that instead of reveling in our newfound time we find other things to fill it.
One way to keep afloat with this reality, and to feel like you are truly living versus just “getting by”, is to consciously practice mindfulness. Read on for some of our favorite tips we’ve discovered along the way. These have helped us tremendously to shift away from that low-level anxiety and depression that starts sneaking in when we aren’t in alignment with ourselves and when we are overworked.
Begin each day with a 3-minute miracle. Every single person reading this post has 3 minutes to spare. We promise, even you! This simple practice has helped shift our morning from go-go-go to self-care first; taking care of others and the day second. What is the 3-minute miracle? It’s the simple practice of engaging in self-care for a minimum of 3 minutes the second you wake up. Not checking your phone or starting up your anxiety scanner (more on that later). You get to choose what you do in those 3 minutes. Ideas include:
- Meditate (binaural beats are great to get you centered quickly)
- Yoga flow
- Read a passage from a book
Recognize the “anxiety scanner” for what it is. Allow us to enlighten you on this subconscious happiness saboteur. It’s called the ANXIETY SCANNER and it’s very real. It’s that low-level antsy feeling you get in the morning when you wake up – thinking of all the things you have yet to accomplish for the day and the random thoughts that push themselves to the far corners of your mind, only to pop up at the most inconvenient times. It is literally like your mind is “scanning” for what to worry about, and once it lands on something – ding ding ding! It can be satisfied in its quest. This is no way to start your day folks. And the first step is to realize that the anxiety scanner exists. Once you’ve mastered that step, try the 3 Minute Miracle we talked about above to thwart the scanner’s efforts!
Meditate! We know, we know … meditation feels like that trendy new thing everyone can’t stop talking about. And in a lot of ways, it is. But unlike a lot of trendy things, it’s got major long-term benefits. Studies are now emerging about the power of meditation to start rewiring an anxious brain. Meditating daily helps you see life through a different lens and learn to stop trying to control your thoughts, instead allowing them to simply exist as though you are window shopping and notice them from afar. Whether or not you struggle with chronic anxiety, meditation can help you achieve the balance of mind, body, and spirit that you’ve likely been seeking. And don’t feel like you need to be an Olympic level meditator; start small! Even 2-5 minutes per day has immense benefits. And don’t worry about being “mindful enough” and beat yourself up over the process; embrace the journey and celebrate all of the positive changes along the way.
Be intentional with your time: time block every activity on your calendar. Picture this: your day starts, and from the get go you feel as though you’re running around with your head cut off. Be it an endless to-do list, those groceries you still need to pick up, the dry cleaning that’s been sitting there for weeks; your mind churns over and over and over, trying not to forget these things that feel so urgent. This way of managing your tasks is akin to racing around on a hamster wheel; you don’t get much done, you feel dizzy and in the end, it just feels like one massive waste of time (because it is). Being busy is not the same as being productive. We can all push paper around and line our to-do list with a million different activities. How important those activities are for our life and our goals, that’s what matters most. One strategy we teach clients is to time block. Get intentional about every minute of your day. Now, procrastinators and Type B folks bear with us – we know, it feels a little scary to go against your rebel tendencies. But we promise being prepared for the day ahead before it even begins will create massive shifts in your productivity and your happiness. An example of things to time block (make them recurring so you don’t have to manually complete your calendar every day):
- Self-care activities such as meditation, reading, and hobbies. We usually just put “Self Care” and then decide what it will entail that day.
- Exercise – considered self-care, but also important for other areas of life.
- Appointments – personal and business
- Specific time to put out fires and worry – yup, we schedule time for dealing with the unexpected AND worrying, so when worrisome thoughts strike throughout the day we can move on rest assured we’ve created time on the calendar to tend to it later.
- Social media consumption – ah, this one gets people. We try not to log on more than 3-4 times per day, 10-15 minutes at a time. This just helps us stay grounded in life and not get sucked in by everyone’s life events. As human beings, we crave and need meaningful in-person bonding and communication. Social media is a wonderful technological advancement, but it doesn’t replace in-person time.
In addition to the activities we time block above, we also use our self-care checklist (found later in this post) to make sure we aren’t neglecting time to take care of ourselves. Time blocking has been tremendously effective. Every night, we take a look at the calendar for the next day and feel a sense of peace knowing that everything is mapped out and that frenzied feeling subsides so we can truly live in the moment.
Go digital – create a system. Want to know why that low-level stress lingers in the background? It’s your brain, worrying that it’s going to forget something important. Most people have their to-do lists in several different places, sticky notes all over the place and no real system for keeping all the day-to-day reminders that pop in their head organized. This can really take a toll on your mental capacity. Think of your brain as having RAM. There’s only so much you can use up on any given day before things start to feel extremely difficult, like wading through thick mud with no end in sight. If you have a habit of writing notes and ideas on paper, set a reminder in your calendar, an app; wherever is most convenient and you are most likely to do it – to always transfer those to a centralized system by the end of the day or week. For us, that’s a mix of Evernote (where we put our free flow random thoughts and ideas that pop in our head) and Asana (where we create a system for making sure those ideas become a reality).
Use a self-care checklist. Now that we’ve given you these ideas, how will you implement them each day? Without a tool to keep you accountable, it will be hard to stay focused. Then, sooner or later you’ll start retreating into your old patterns until you lose perspective over what it felt like to have a clutter free mind. Using a checklist is a reminder to take care of you first so you can take care of others. It is impossible to excel in life if you are burnt out, stressed out and maxed out. So do yourself a favor and keep tabs on your habits! And, lucky you, we developed a self-care checklist for our Season 10 Cleanse30 (link here) participants that you can use every day! Go here to snag your free copy.
Stop engaging with every single thought. One of the core principles of meditation is to peacefully co-exist with your thoughts rather than obsess about them and their hidden meanings. Often our subconscious and various learned behaviors drive our day-to-day “background” thoughts. One of our favorite methods for living in the present moment is to use affirmations. Among the ones used most often:
I choose to live in the present moment.
So simple, right!? But this sentence alone has the power to completely transform what would be a potential meltdown; that is, ruminating and worrying incessantly (which renders you much less capable of handling life’s daily issues). When you bring yourself back to the present moment and get out of autopilot, you’ll start to notice patterns of thought that eventually manifest physically (the mind-body connection is very real). So instead of being a passenger in your head, take the wheel and start driving with this simple sentence. Make the CHOICE to engage or not engage with your various thoughts instead of feeling like a victim to them.
Now don’t get us wrong. We are not perfect. In fact, Mastering is intentionally crossed out in the title. Why? Because we don’t believe that mindfulness is ever something you are an expert at. You must keep working at it. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Like meditation, it is a daily practice. The more you do it, the more automatic it becomes. Now, we’d love to hear from you in the comments: what have you tried on your journey toward mindfulness? How did it help?
Sham & Christina
About Inspired Wellness
We are a wellness movement aimed at cultivating greatness in all areas of life. We believe that everything is connected and that having the body of your dreams shouldn’t come at the price of your mental and emotional health. You CAN have it all; you just need some determination, grit and the desire to truly change your life!
Catch us locally in sunny Sacramento CA inspiring lives at our wellness center with fitness, nutrition and lifestyle programs, or online doing the same thing with our new online training site + community coming soon!
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