Mindfulness Activities for the Busy Woman
I used to think mindfulness was a destination that one would arrive at after putting in hours of meditation and yoga, a daily ritual that (pre-children) was a regular part of my life. Today as a busy woman and mother of three young boys, my yoga mat is now being used as a fort and finding a quiet space around here is… well, non-existent. But it seems as the hustle and bustle of fleeting moments pass me by, I find myself navigating on auto-pilot. I pull into my driveway not remembering the drive. I mindlessly put the milk in the pantry and the cereal in the fridge. And too often I set my keys down and can’t remember where I put them. I spend so much time multi-tasking and crossing off my to-do list as I plan the next moment, that I forget to notice the moment I am actually in.
In fact, as I am typing this, I am in the process of making pancakes for the kids, feeding the baby, and writing a grocery list that the baby is now eating for breakfast. Oh no! And now I’m burning these pancakes!
But I am slowly learning that mindfulness is not just a thought or philosophy or something you do or not do; it is a way of BEING. It is remembering to press pause long enough to actually let the moment sink in without rushing to the next moment and without placing any judgement on these moments —or ourselves— in the process. It’s about being AWAKE and SEEING things more vividly, HEARING things more clearly, and EXPERIENCING things more fully— even if these moments consist of piles of laundry, grocery lists, carpooling, and burnt pancakes… they are our moments. And isn’t that what our life is…a series of moments?
Studies have shown that practicing mindfulness can increase attention span, creativity, intimacy, improved moods, less stress and pain, better sleep, and decreased loneliness. And I am here to tell you that when I intentionally strive for mindfulness in my life, I experience more joy, feel more creative, and actually am more productive.
But the only catch is…eh hem…that it sorta takes a little practice. Say what!? Did I scare you away?
I know you’re busy.
And adding one more thing to our plates may seem daunting. But practicing mindfulness really doesn’t have to be hours of meditation or yoga class! You can work mindfulness into your life with simple activities you are already doing… and it only takes 2-minutes or less! I promise. And I am here to do it with you! I’ve mapped out 12 weeks worth (an entire summer break) of daily activities that we can do together to build our mindfulness muscles!
Remember as you do these your mind naturally will want to wander and worry about the past, the future, and the never ending list of to-dos; but gently bring it back to the present just for two minutes. And remember— be kind to yourself, without judgement. There is no right or wrong. Just observe.
Do each activity every day for an entire week and see what happens. Here they are:
Week 1: Drink your favorite beverage mindfully: Take an entire minute and study your beverage. Listen to the sound it makes as you pour it into the glass. Observe the sound change as it fills up. Is there fizz, bubbles, steam? What does it smell like? What does the container feel like on your finger tips? Then take an entire minute and sip slowly your drink. Swish it around your mouth and really taste what it tastes like before swallowing. Just notice and observe.
Week 2: Get the mail mindfully: Take an entire minute to walk out the front door and look around. See if you notice anything new. What does it sound, smell, feel like outside? As you approach your mailbox, study it. Open it and listen to the sound it makes as you reach and grab your mail. Feel the envelopes against your fingertips. Now take an entire minute and walk back observing your surroundings.
Week 3: Drive mindfully: At every stop light take time and focus on your breath. Observe your breath without placing judgement. Is your breathing shallow or deep? Pay attention to your surroundings and the way your seat feels against your body. P.S.-Don’t fall asleep— you’re driving!!
Week 4: Wash your hands mindfully: Turn on the water slowly and begin to feel the water cover your fingers. What does it feel like? Listen to the sound it makes. Then as you put the soap on your hands rub them together and watch and observe carefully what happens. Smell the soap and notice the sensation on your fingertips when you rinse and dry.
Week 5: Eat your favorite snack mindfully: Take one full minute and look closely and really study your snack. Feel it in your fingers. What do you notice about it? What does it smell like? Put it up to your lips and feel what it feels like. Take a small bite and hold it in your mouth for a bit as you observe the texture and the taste. Then slowly bite down and observe. Take the entire two minutes to be present with your food.
Week 6: Notice something new in a loved one: Take a moment to really observe a loved one. See if you can discover something new like a freckle or a mannerism that you haven’t noticed before. Take two minutes and be completely present with them.
Week 7: Color- I know adult coloring books seem to be the thang right now, but coloring mandalas have been used as a stress reducer for years. Pick up a coloring book or paper and spend time just coloring without any distractions. Stay present and observe the colors, sounds, and feelings you get when you color. My kids love to join in and although you may say two minutes…it’s a bit addicting and might find yourself wanting to do more.
Week 8: Walk barefoot in natural elements: For two minutes put your bare feet in sand, soil, grass, or water. Focus on the feeling beneath your toes. Is it cold or warm, sticky or wet? Observe how you feel before, during, and after this activity.
Week 9: Stretch- For at least two minutes listen to your body and stretch out those places that feel like they could use a good stretch. Even if you just extend your arms in the air or reach down and touch your toes, be in the present moment and feel the sensation of the stretch. Listen to your breath and move slowly or sit in a position for at least 30 seconds each.
Week 10: Avoid the mindless scrolling of a screen-fight the urge to check your phone first thing in the morning or the last thing at night. Whenever you mindlessly reach for your phone and have the urge to start scrolling or swiping, put your phone out of reach and engage in something in the present moment. Just observe.
Week 11: Write a stream of thoughts– For two minutes write down a stream of thoughts that pop into your head. It can be sloppy and misspelled! Jot down what you see, feel, hear, and are experiencing at that present moment. You can choose to read or not read it afterwards. It’s up to you.
Week 12: Set an alarm for a daily 2-minute a check in: This may be the 2-minute activity that impacted my life the most. Set your alarm for a time that you know you would most likely be available to be alone for two minutes. Then, when the timer goes off, find a quiet place alone where you can close your eyes and focus on your breath. Tune in to yourself by asking, “How am I feeling right now? Am I grounded? Am I in the present moment?” Just observe without any placing any judgement on your thoughts. I once was at a restaurant at a lunch appointment when the alarm went off and I excused myself and went into the bathroom for a few minutes of focusing on my breath and checking in and it impacted the rest of my day for the better.
So there you go. Doable right?
If you are interested in reading more- check out: Mindfulness for Beginners by Jon Kabat-Zinn- He includes some mindfulness practices, and I personally love the audio version to hear his voice as you do the practice.
Hope this helps put pause on moments of your life this summer. I would love to hear how it is going- so leave a comment and let us know!