Four Daily Mindfulness Habits for Busy People
A common objection to starting a daily meditation practice is not having enough time. Sometimes, this just means that people are not willing to give up any leisure time in order to meditate. But for very busy people it is sometimes true. In these cases, it is still possible to meditate. You either have to do shorter sessions – just five minutes if you can manage it – or integrate mindfulness into activities you already do.
Lucid dreaming is something you can experience just as you go to sleep. You can go to bed at your normal time, and with a little training you can experience wakeful dreams. These experiences are stress relieving, and many of its active practitioners love doing it.
How often have you eaten a meal without paying an attention to it? Maybe you’re on your phone, watching TV, or just daydreaming at the time, but the whole meal passes by with you being only minimally aware of it. Next time you eat, place your whole attention on the taste of the food. Don’t do anything else but eat. Not only is this a chance to develop your ability to control your attention, but it will also help you to savor the meal and get more enjoyment out of it.
Walking is an excellent time to practice mindfulness. When you walk, bring your attention to the soles of your feet. What sensations do you experience there? How do the sensations differ when your foot is on the ground compared to when it is not? As you develop this awareness, it’s important not to react to the sensations. You simply observe the sensations for what they are, objectively and dispassionately. If they are unpleasant, don’t wish the pain to go away — your job is just to observe. As you get used to this exercise, you can try focusing on other parts of the body. Of course, when you do this, some of your attention will be away from your surroundings so only use this practice where it is safe to do so.
At the end of each day, think about one person who annoyed you slightly, who brought out a small negative emotion of some kind. Perhaps a friend didn’t respond to a text quickly enough for you, a guy at work was chewing too loud or a cashier gave you a bit of attitude. If you can’t think of someone today, think up one from the past few days. If you still really can’t think of anyone, pick any person you interact with regularly.
Close your eyes picture them in your mind. In your head, say “May you be happy. May you feel at peace. May you have a good life. May you be free from suffering.” Try to actually elicit a feeling of goodwill towards that person, so that you really, truly do wish them well. Just five minutes will be enough. Research has shown that generating compassion in this way can improve your own emotional state. Do this for a few weeks and note how your interactions with people change.
How much time do you spend waiting, such as at the post office, in traffic jams, in the coffee shop? While no one jumps for joy when they see a queue, you can turn this from wasted time into an opportunity to practice. With your eyes open, bring your attention to your breathing. Don’t control the breath, just observe whatever natural pattern of breathing is happening at that moment. Try to observe a whole breath from start to finish. When your mind wanders away, just bring it back to your breath and start again. Continue until you’ve reached the front of the queue.
A stepping stone to further practice
You can switch these techniques around if you like. For example, you could do the mindfulness of breath exercise for five minutes at home, and do the compassion exercise while waiting in the queue. These techniques have been shown in research to have positive effects on mental health and cognitive function, particularly straight after you do them.
However, most of the research on mindfulness has focused on daily practices of between 20 and 45 minutes, so this is what you should be aiming towards to get the greatest benefit. Try these four daily habits for a month and note the impact they have had on your life. If you like the results, consider making time for a 20-minute mindfulness session every day.