1. When you are feeling angry, the kid sticks something up her nose, or everyone is complaining about dinner. Yes! Enough already, right? These are the moments that can trigger us to anger or stress, which only makes a hard moment harder. Instead, take five (I often say I’m going to grab something in the garage and I don’t come back for a bit, or I’ll just tell the fam I’m taking a time out). Pause, then take some deep breaths, and you’ll feel the stress ease, the moment will become more manageable. You’ll be responsive – able to take deliberate, positive action — instead of being reactive – an emotional response that often involves flipping out – at least for me.
2. During the commute. Before you start the car, take a deep breath, root yourself in your senses and notice what you see and feel. Then, as you drive, continue to be mindful. Don’t turn on the music or make a call, just pay attention to the drive and what you notice along the way. You’ll feel more relaxed when you arrive and you’ll be safer on the trip.
3. When you are stressing to the point of obsession. You know that niggling thought that goes something like this: I can’t-believe-I-said-that-I-wonder-if-I-should-call-back-and-explain-but-then-maybe-everybody-would-hate-me-and-oh-what-should-i-do? Anytime we have an established thought pattern playing over and over in our head, no matter how serious or trivial, mindfulness can break the pattern. Get quiet, notice the thoughts, then put your attention on breathing. Begin to notice your environment and tune in to your senses and you’ll disrupt the obsessive thoughts.
4. While waiting. In the traffic jam, at the doctors’ office, in the grocery store, for the test results – anywhere, anytime. Take a breath. Put your attention to what is there in that moment. Mindfulness makes time fly and keeps you from getting caught up in the frantic busyness of it all.
5. While eating. This is such a cool way to really enjoy and appreciate the food you eat. It also slows down the process of mealtime which is better for digestion and weight loss. Notice how the aromas, and textures. Take a bite, feel the weight of the fork, then put it down and experience the chew. Be mindful of the flavor and feel. This makes mealtimes so much more enjoyable and studies show when we slow down to savor, our food actually tastes better.
6. When plans change. So often we get stressed out about things that might happen or bothered by what has already occurred. Don’t get caught up in that. Use mindfulness to help you become present to what is and you’ll find your anxiety dissipates.
7. Before a presentation. Mindfulness can boost performance by taking us out of the worry pattern and sharpening our focus to what we are doing right now. That helps us move toward that zone of peak pefromance.
8. In conversation. Mindfulness is so great for relationships because it helps us to really notice and connect with each other. Next time you are talking with your partner, do nothing else. Put the phone down. Turn off the television. Tune in fully to the experience of communicating with him or her. Pay attention to sounds and gestures and expressions. Instead of focusing on what you want to say next, or judging what he is sharing just give him your undivided attention, without interruption. We’ve all had the experience of talking with someone who made you feel like you were the most important person in the room because they focused on your every word. You can be that person with a practice of mindfulness.
9. When in pain. Pain can draw our energy and focus and make it hard to remain patient and accepting. It can be tough to even think about anything else. It intensifies our emotions and often leads to stress which only intensifies the pain. Mindfulness promotes compassion, peace, kindness, awareness; all qualities that can help us deal with our pain in more comfortable and effective way. It also helps broaden our perspective so that we can see that life isn’t all about our pain, it’s simply a sensory aspect. I’ve used this practice often to manage my rheumatoid arthritis. It’s always helped ease the difficult moments.
10. When in nature. Mindfulness — the act of deeply noticing — can enhance any experience. When you take time to pause and become fully aware while outside, you start to really see the marvels that are around you. That breeds appreciation and heightens the experience. It also leads to awe and wonder, and ultimately gratitude. These emotions not only feel good, but they are key to our well-being. Take time to notice the natural environment and you’ll feel better.
Like anything, the more often we practice mindfulness the better we get at it and the more benefits we’ll experience. But, even five minutes a day and using the practice during this highly-charged moments can change how we experience stress and enhance the joyful moments.
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