I hear it all the time — "I want to be more mindful, but I'm too busy. How do I get started?" For most of us busy young professionals in Los Angeles, we already feel like we have so much on our plates. We have a full-time job or multiple side gigs to keep the lights on, we have our creative ventures we're working on, groceries to shop for and the list goes on. I don't need to tell you! We value our health and well-being and when we keep hearing how healthy something is we feel this pressure and obligation to be doing it on the regular. Enter meditation. I feel like for lots of those starting out on the spiritual path, it can seem intimidating. Let me give you some pointers for how to get mindful, even on a time crunch:
1 | Savor your Morning Ritual
If the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning is look at your phone, you’re starting the day with automaticity, which is the opposite of mindfulness. Automatic behaviors set the stage for more of the same, and next thing you know, you’re on autopilot for the rest of the morning, which can cascade into a day where you’re reacting to each obstacle that’s presented to you, rather than mindfully responding to the day’s challenges.
If you want to increase your level of mindfulness throughout the day, create a habit of spending the first hour of the day with as few distractions as possible. Keep your phone on airplane mode the night before and don’t take it off until you’ve completed your morning rituals mindfully (such as preparing and breakfast, getting groomed and packing lunch.) See the impact this simple habit has on your ability to maintain a mindful stance the rest of the day. Bonus points if you can wake up a bit earlier and sneak in a 10-15 minute meditation before work.
2 | Use your Breaks Wisely
It’s tough to be mindful while scarfing down your lunch in front of the computer screen. If your office has an outdoor area, bring your lunch outside and eat as slowly as you can, taking in the multi-sensory environment. Bring awareness to the taste, aroma and texture of your food...notice how the air feels on your skin...see if you can spot some greenery...try to find something new that’s never caught your eye before.
A simple daily mindfulness practice during your lunch break can bring a more aware mentality to the rest of your day. Bonus points if you can take a mindful walk for a few minutes after you eat and smell some flowers or feel some leaves brushing you on your skin.
3 | Download a Meditation App
Mindfulness doesn’t need to be a mysterious thing reserved for the uber-spiritual. There are lots of meditation apps for beginners that can guide you through mindfulness meditation step-by-step. Each time you sit for a mindfulness practice, you train your brain to become more mindful in your day-to-day life.
I personally love Insight Timer — which is free for iPhone and Android — but I do the $2.99/month subscription for offline guided meditation downloads access. The last thing I need when I'm meditating is a pesky ding of a text or phone call! (If it's a new client, I can call them right after my blissful meditation!) ;) Insight also has some awesome structured courses you can take (including a free "Learn to Meditate in 7 Days" course) to guide you on your journey. What I also love about Insight (among many things!) is that you can track your consistency over time. This has taken my practice to the next level.
4 | Exercise Mindfully
We all know the benefits of physical exercise. But how many of us actually use exercise time as an opportunity to be mindful? A workout can feel grueling and you may feel like you want to pop in some earbuds, throw on a video and "power through it." But I challenge you to bring more attention to your in-the-moment experience the next time you exercise. Feel the sweat on your skin, your heart racing, your body's movement and form. You may notice a full range of sensations and emotions that went under the radar before. Need some pointers for how to make exercise consistent? Check out my article on this topic here.
5 | Bring Mindfulness to your Driving
I don't know about you, but I spend a ridiculous amount of time in my car driving around L.A. area. If I am in resistance to driving and traffic, then life sucks. If I can be in the flow, stay present, and keep a positive mindset, then driving doesn't bring down my mood and can even be (dare I say!?) FUN.
I have a few tips. Try the "3 second idiot pause" that I made up. When I find myself getting frustrated with a driver, I internally count to three and tell myself "okay, I'm giving this person 3 full seconds to figure their sh*t out." If they can't get it together by then, I will honk. In those 3 seconds I stay as calm as humanly possible. You'd be surprised how zen your next driving experience is if you try this out. Most people can shape up within 3 seconds. :D
Another tip — when you're in gridlock, I mean the kind that will...not...move...look around you. Try to imagine that you're in this traffic for the express purpose of noticing something new. When I do this I'm always amazed to spot a new building, tree, flower bush or even an interesting mural or graffiti art that I've never seen before.
I know that developing a mindfulness practice can seem like a big challenge. Be easy on yourself and take it slowly. It's taken me 7 years to develop what I now finally consider to be a consistent seated meditation practice. But in that time period I gained so much from my informal practice of bringing mindful awareness to the present moment. It can literally change your life, work and relationships for the better. I have lots of articles about how to develop a meditation practice, so don't stop here! Check out the articles below.
Have an "aha" moment when reading this post? Or did you have a "duh" moment? :P Please share your reactions in the comments below. Thanks, as always, for reading and be well. xoxo Nat
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.