There’s a reason everyone from Goldie Hawn to David Lynch to the Google bigwigs are over the moon about mindfulness. A growing number of studies have shown that mindfulness practices, especially meditation, help reduce stress, promote better decision-making, encourage creativity, and lower the risk of heart attack, among other benefits.
At meQuilibrium, I teach people the tools and techniques for confronting life’s challenges in a responsive, not reactive way—by identifying the thoughts and emotions that derail your attention and energy. Mindfulness practices are useful because they help you become aware of, and then rewire, how you interpret and react to what happens. In this way, the practice allows you to survive the breakneck pace of your life and be present to the people in it. (Read more on managing stressful thoughts and beliefs.)
Mindfulness Isn’t Exclusive
It’s worth noting that mindfulness isn’t just for the rich and famous. If you have a mind, you can practice the art of paying attention, the must-have mental habit for staying above the fray during hyperconnected and economically uncertain times.
Best of all, mindfulness practices can be simple and quick. No imported Bhutanese incense or , tastefully appointed mediation rooms needed! Here are 3 low-tech, low-time ways to incorporate mindfulness into your life.
1. Wish someone well.
I said it was easy! This exercise comes from Chade-Meng Tan, Google engineer, mindfulness expert, and author of Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace).
What to do: Think of two people, and do nothing but wish them happiness. The next day, take 10 seconds each hour to wish two different people well.
Why it works: It’s a very simple act, seconds of an attention shift, that can make all the difference in the world. That’s because, as we teach at meQ, your attention, and thus your thoughts, determine your peace of mind. (Read more on how your thoughts affect your stress level.) Changing your mental channel creates a burst of warmth, energy, and peace—which happens when we turn our attention toward a) someone besides ourselves, and b) a positive thought.
2. Practice conscious awareness
You can do this one anytime, everywhere, even in the midst of a chaotic environment.
What to do: Pick up an object that you have lying around. Any mundane everyday object will do...a coffee cup or a pen for example. Hold it in your hands and allow your attention to be fully absorbed by the object. Observe it. Don’t assess it, or think about it, or study it intellectually. Just observe it for what it is.
Why it works: You’ll feel a sense of heightened "nowness" during this exercise. Notice how your mind quickly releases thoughts of past or future, and how different it feels to be in the moment. Source: The Guided Meditation Site
3. Engage your relaxation response
The following is the generic technique taught at the Benson-Henry Institute.
What to do:
- Pick a focus word, short phrase, or prayer that is firmly rooted in your belief system, such as "one," "peace," "The Lord is my shepherd," "Hail Mary full of grace," or "shalom."
- Sit quietly in a comfortable position. Close your eyes.
- Relax your muscles, progressing from your feet to your calves, thighs, abdomen, shoulders, head, and neck.
- Breathe slowly and naturally, and as you do, say your focus word, sound, phrase, or prayer silently to yourself as you exhale.
- Assume a passive attitude. Don't worry about how well you're doing. When other thoughts come to mind, simply say to yourself, "Oh well," and gently return to your repetition.
- Continue for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Do not stand immediately. Continue sitting quietly for a minute or so, allowing other thoughts to return. Then open your eyes and sit for another minute before rising.
- Practice the technique once or twice daily. Good times to do so are before breakfast and before dinner.
Why it works: In regularly becoming mindful of your body and its relaxation response, you jumpstart an effective and scientifically proven treatment for a wide range of stress-related disorders. (Source: Benson Henry Institute)