If you live in a civilization of any kind, you probably find yourself with space between moments and events in your day. And chances are, you’re not always happy when you have to wait in line at the grocery store, stop at a red light, wait for a friend “running just 5 minutes late,” or stare at a blank screen when your computer freezes. Chances are, these are the times when your mind runs wild with incessant chatter.
Instead of letting your mind take over, try using those in-between moments for a mini meditation. Take advantage of those moments that would otherwise be categorized as wasted time—where you would normally check your phone or follow your thoughts into the depths—and practice mindfulness, instead.
Janice Mauritano, Founder and Executive Director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership and Former Vice President at General Mills Inc., calls these “purposeful pauses.” These are short (like one- to three-minute) pauses throughout your day to remind yourself to be mindful. And they’re incredibly effective.
Mauritano wrote in a Huffington Post article, “you can bring your (mindfulness) training into everyday moments without adding any more demands on your already too-packed schedule.” She continued, “These purposeful pauses allow you to step off the daily treadmill and perhaps find some spaciousness in the day to make more conscious choices.”
And the best news? You can practice them anytime, anywhere. Try incorporating these 10 short bursts of meditation into your day. Next time you find yourself …
…Waiting in line, scan your body and notice anywhere you may be holding tension or experiencing sensations. Make no judgments; just become aware of your body. Even if the woman ahead of you is arguing with the cashier over a 25-cent coupon, use that extra moment to practice mindfulness instead of impatience.
…Walking to your car or from meeting to meeting, stay present. Resist grabbing your phone or planning your next conversation and focus on the movements as you walk, how your feet feel as you move, and make eye contact and smile at everyone you pass.
…Waiting for a friend who’s running late, close your eyes and notice any feelings or thoughts of impatience. Then take 5 slow, deep breaths, focusing on the expansive nature of your inhales, and the release that comes with each exhale.
…Driving in traffic, turn off the radio and experience the stillness fully. Tune into all of the details around you from behind the wheel. Follow the steps in this mindful driving exercise for more instructions on how to incorporate mindfulness into your commute.
…Waiting for a computer that’s frozen or rebooting, close your eyes and do a body scan to discover where you might be holding tension. Bring your attention to one body part at a time and observe any sensations; send breath into any areas of tension and tightness.
…Waiting for an elevator, bring your attention to your posture and see if you can find more length in your spine and more openness in your heart and chest. Inhale the crown of your head to the sky and lift your shoulders up to your ears—and then as you exhale, relax your shoulders back and down, creating a taller, more confident stance. Do this 3 times.
…Having trouble waking up, set a conscious intention for the day. Before you get out of bed, take a few slow, deep breaths and choose a few words you’d like to embody for the day ahead.
…At the gas pump or waiting for the bus, close your eyes and bring your attention to your breath as it moves in and out through the nose—notice the cool air move through your nasal passageways and the warm air leave your nostrils. Take in any observations about your surroundings through your sense of smell.
…Between tasks, meetings, calls or classes, close your eyes and take 10 slow, deep breaths through your nose, taking a brief pause at the top of every inhale and at the bottom of every exhale.
…Feeling stressed, as soon as you feel stress begin to rise inside of you, take 5 deep cleansing breaths—inhaling deeply through the nose, pausing for a count of 5 at the top, and audibly exhaling through the mouth.
Try these tricks to calm any restless, frazzled feelings from those moments that might otherwise be unwelcome or wasted space in your day. When you practice creating focus throughout your day, it takes the edge off of everyday stress and that sense of focus persists much longer than the mini meditation.