I was at dinner with a good friend who was observing that he feels that he needs mindfulness meditation but just cannot seem to commit the time to it, choosing instead to work or do something productive. This is a common experience and one that I continue to struggle with from time to time. It seems that there are just so many things on our to-do list that simply sitting for a period of time amounts to a monumental task. We could spend a great deal of time interpreting our collective resistance to putting our own self-care first, but this post is really about finding time throughout the day to find our center.
Mindfulness meditation means paying attention to the present moment without judgement. To break this down a bit further, it means paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations and our environment in a curious and non-evaluative way. The benefits of mindfulness meditation are well-documented. These include reduced stress, greater self-control, improved focus, improved health and more robust relationships. Below are some suggestions for beginning a simple meditation practice.
Formal Meditation – involves designating a particular time and place to meditate each day. Here are some tips to begin to build your formal practice.
- Commit to two minutes
- Plan your meditation time to follow an activity you do daily such as drinking a cup of coffee or just after you have lunch.
- Designate a quiet location where you won’t be bothered for a few minutes.
- Start with just two minutes of meditation and gradually increase the time as your new habit gets established.
- Bring your attention to your breath and observe when your mind begins to wander, gently bringing your attention back to the breath again and again.
Three minute breathing space – this is designed to be a mini-meditation that you can do multiple times per day or during periods of stress. It includes three key elements, each of which are to be practiced for about one minute. Click here for a link to an audio recording http://cdn.franticworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Three-Minute-Breathing-Space-meditation-from-book-Mindfulness-Finding-Peace-in-a-Frantic-World-128k.mp3.
- Becoming aware of thoughts, feelings and physical sensations without trying to change them in any way.
- Gathering and focusing attention on the physical sensations of breathing.
- Expanding attention to include your sense of your body, your facial expression and your posture. In this step, you may breath into any areas of remaining discomfort or tension.
Daily Mindfulness practices are designed to bring present moment focus to activities of daily living. By paying attention to the thoughts, feelings and physical sensations that are present during these activities, we begin to cultivate the ability to live in each moment more fully. Try to complete one of the following activities mindfully. Use all of your senses to really observe your experience with curiosity.
- Doing dishes
- Preparing Dinner
Short Practices are designed to be implemented throughout your day. I find that they are particularly effective to incorporate during transitions, as you are moving from one activity to another. Some people find it helpful to set an alarm on their phone or watch to prompt them to conduct one of these short practices. Here are some other times and methods for incorporating brief moments of mindfulness throughout the day.
- Three breaths – simply breath in and out completely for three breaths.
- Prior to getting out of the car – Practice three breaths or the three minute breathing space prior to exiting your vehicle.
- While waiting – Use waiting time at stop lights or in line to practice present moment awareness. It does not take much time or effort to note your current thoughts, feelings and physical sensations.
- Just after hanging up the phone – Another wise time to practice brief mindfulness is immediately following a phone call. This can serve to increase our contact with ourselves and our connections to others.
Try implementing one or more of these practices into your daily routines. The UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center has a number of free guided meditations available. Click here to explore further.
Dr. Angela Williams is a licensed clinical psychologist and co-founder of the Rowan Center for Behavioral Medicine. She specializes in cognitive-behavioral and humanistic/existential approaches to therapy. She has extensive training in Brief Crisis Intervention as well as mindfulness based therapeutic approaches. Her therapeutic style blends strength-based acceptance with practical skill development. Incorporating she helps her clients move through difficult experiences and be more present in their lives.