You don’t need an hour of meditation to enjoy the benefits of a mindful practice (although wouldn’t it be nice if we had a free hour every day?) Here are some ideas on how to calm your mind when you only have five minutes to spare.
Close your eyes. Inhale for a count of five, pause at the top; exhale for a count of five and pause at the bottom. Take the entire five counts to arrive at the top of your inhale, and the entire five counts to arrive at the bottom of your exhale. Think of air slowly filling up and releasing from a balloon.
Take 10 more of those. For a little extra challenge, increase your counts…go for eight, nine or 10 counts.
If your to-do list is overwhelmed, chances are you are, too. Take five to write down all that’s swimming in your head, and prioritize. It would even help to remove items off your to-do list that aren’t important so you can focus on what is.
Write down the names of three people in your life that you are grateful for. Then write down three things that happened in your week that you are grateful for. Focus on just being grateful for a few minutes. Nothing more, nothing less.
Take a Stretch
Sometimes just getting up and moving your body helps to ease stress and find focus. Try a few simple yoga poses that combat the mid-day slump, like a Standing Forward Fold (Utanasana), Extended Triangle (Utthita Trikonasana) or Bridge Pose (Setu Bandha Sarvangasana.) Check out this article that highlights a handful of other yoga poses that fight stress and release tension.
Eat a Snack
Healthy fuel can be the best reset button you can hit. Try stress-relieving snacks like avocados, bananas, yogurt, carrots, almonds, walnuts or dark chocolate. And make sure to munch mindfully, really taking your time to taste and savor the texture and flavor of your treat.
Sometimes we have to learn to say no to things we might want to participate in, help with, or attend. If we have a lot going on, focusing on our priorities tops the list of priorities. If what you’re being asked to do or invited to doesn’t map to one of those top priorities, practice saying that important two-letter word so you can focus on what is.
Make a Cup of Tea
There is something about the whole process of making tea—boiling your hot water, choosing a tea, preparing your tea, and taking that first sip. This could be a mid-day reset button all by itself if you follow the steps mindfully. Try stress-reducing teas like chamomile or lavender, and add honey for a light and sweet energy boost.
Take a Nap
I’m actually not a napper, so I’m not sure if this one is valid, but I’ve heard that shutting your eyes for just five minutes works for some folks, and it sounds good to me. Does a five-minute shut-eye do the trick for you? Comment on your experience below.
Just Sit Still
That’s it. Nothing fancy. Sit tall and close your eyes or unfocus your gaze. Choose a word or phrase, also known as a mantra, you’d like to align yourself with for the remainder of your day and focus all of your attention on just that word. Silently repeat it in your mind. Observe if your mind wanders (oh, and it will…) and just call it back to your mantra when it does. Repeat, rinse, repeat…
Scan Your Body
Start at your toes and bring all of your attention to one part of your body at a time. In the MBSR class I’m taking, they recommend doing this practice for 20-45 minutes at a time. It’s challenging, but incredibly beneficial. If you only have five minutes, try spending just a few deep breaths with each body part, working your way up and down the body, starting with your toes, then moving to the feet, ankles, legs and so on…
Go for a Quick Walk
Stuck in an office building all day long? Go for a spin around the building. In a residential neighborhood? Try a once-around-the-block. Work at the beach? Well, you probably don’t need my advice if you work at the beach. You clearly know what you’re doing, and I probably don’t have to tell you to go for a walk on the beach.
When you walk, leave your phone behind and invite 100% of your attention to join you for the short adventure. Take in everything around you as you walk—the people, the temperature, the birds, the goings-on—and enjoy those five minutes of freedom.
Create Your Own Ritual
Think about what makes you feel good, and build a ritual with that answer in mind. You can use it as your personalized reset button and put it to work when you feel stressed out or overwhelmed.
Choose one of the above practices and devote 100% of your attention to the practice for the short time you have. It doesn’t really matter how much time you have to dedicate to the practice…
- You can do a quick body scan to see how your body is feeling right now in 10 seconds.
- You can pay attention to your breath for 30 seconds.
- You can watch your thoughts, fears and ideals for a minute.
- You can walk mindfully, paying attention to your body, your feet, your breath and your surroundings as you walk.
Try any of these mindful practices in little bits throughout your day and let me know how it goes.