For The Young and The Busy: 5 Ways To Practice Mindfulness On The Go

by Lily Leiber, MPS, LCAT, ATR-BC

“Half an hour’s meditation is essential except when you are very busy. Then a full hour is needed.” –Francis de Sales

When I first read this quote, I chuckled. This was the antithesis of what I did. When waking up in the morning with a to-do list on an ever-expanding loop, I would jolt out of bed and hit the ground running. No time for sitting around wasting precious minutes….and in New York, the city that never sleeps, bombarded by text messages, emails, news alerts, ads, honking horns, and so much more…who has time to sit still??!

Well, we know now that mindfulness (a practice of remembering to come back to the present moment) appears to actually have great benefits that range from improving our immune system, increasing satisfaction in relationships, decreasing depression and anxiety, greater focus, and increased self-compassion…just to name a few.

A lot of young people who are high achievers come to my office, and despite their school or work success; they frequently struggle with confidence, anxiety, and/or depression. They’ve mastered the to-do list. They haven’t mastered the practice of using mindfulness to enjoy the ride. Below are five ways you can ease mindfulness into your hectic life.

5 On The Go Activities To Ease Mindfulness Into Your Hectic Life:

  1. Spontaneous sensation awareness. Say whaa? It’s easier than it sounds. In sessions with clients, I frequently encourage them to check in with their feelings and physical sensations; those aspects of ourselves that can take a back seat to thoughts. These are the sensations that seem to whirl along sometimes as slowly as a turtle walking beside a pond, or more frequently traveling at greater velocities like a car on a four lane highway, or a Ferrari on a race track. By using mindfulness, we can become aware of these sensations and feelings and put them in their right size, rather than be dominated by them.
  2. Create a mandala. A mandala is a circular shape with repetitive patterns inside that can represent the universe or self. Studies show that coloring a mandala can decrease anxiety and stress and can be a great means of centering yourself. Don’t over think it. Do grab a paper, markers, colored pencils, or even a pen, and create a large circle. Inside draw repetitive patterns (lines, squiggles, squares…whatever you like) and focus on the feel of drawing, seeing the image come to life…and just be present to this very moment in your life. 10 minutes. Ready, set, go. I dare you to try it today.
  3. Eat or drink mindfully. Instead of slurping down your coffee on your ride to work while scrolling on Facebook, notice the taste of the coffee, the warm liquid going down your throat, the smell of fresh ground coffee beans…and be fully present with your coffee in this moment in time.
  4. Pause. Before you do a task that might be difficult: going on a job interview, car pooling with your aunt and her four very loud, hyperactive childrentake a moment to pause and notice the noises around you without judgment — this means that the bird tweeting is just as acceptable as the pedestrian complaining loudly on his phone. After, if you’re anything like me, you’ll feel more grounded and better adept at responding gracefully to the upcoming situation. What’s nice is that you can always check in with your breathing and physical sensations too, so if your cousin happens to kick you in the shin while throwing a temper tantrum in the car…you’ve got this.
  5. Give a hug to someone you trust like a friend, romantic partner, relative, or fur baby. Allow yourself to experience the physical warmth, emotions, and thoughts as they arise without judgment. Hugging has been shown to have many benefits including lowering stress, boosting immunity, and mood. Caveat: don’t give a quick hug. Twenty second hugs are what’s needed to produce oxytocin, a chemical linked to many of these benefits.

In this day and age, it’s so easy to get caught up in doing. But what is doing without being? I don’t want to be thinking “I can’t-find-my-keys” while engaged in an awkward conversation to be the majority of how I live my life. I want to be present in the here and now, as much as possible. As Abraham Lincoln said, “ In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”

Mindfulness is about being present for the journey of our lives one day, one minute, one second at a time, no matter how busy we get. Here’s to the journey!