With so much uncertainty in the world, there has never been a better time to give mindfulness exercises a try. In about 5 minutes a day, you can ease your anxiety, soothe stress, and be a calmer, more centered version of yourself.
I’ve maintained a daily mindfulness practice for almost three years now, and while I certainly haven’t attained nirvana, I find it easier to let go of intrusive thoughts and breathe through stress and negativity. I don’t spend hours sitting cross-legged on a pillow every day, either. My favorite mindfulness exercises take 5 minutes and can be done anywhere: while you’re in the car waiting for your kids to come out of school, on a walk with your dog, or lying in bed before you fall asleep.
So if you’re ready to give mindfulness a try, I’m sharing my top three hacks for starting a mindfulness practice in just 5 minutes a day.
5-Minute Mindfulness Hack #1: An Easy Loving Kindness Meditation
I’d be lying if I said I did this simple meditation every morning, but I notice a huge difference in stress level when I do it. Here’s exactly what I do:
- I find a comfortable seat. I like the L in my sectional couch, but if I wake up before my alarm goes off, the bed works just fine.
- I focus on breath, breathing in and out for three counts each. As I do this, I feel the weight of my body and the connection it has with whatever is beneath me, starting with my toes and working my way upwards.
- As I get to my head, I focus on feeling the “third eye” in the center of my forehead. The more I concentrate, the warmer it feels. I begin to envision it radiating a bright light that spreads outwards.
- As that light shines out farther into the world around me, I see it touch my loved ones. Each person I envision is also radiating light, and when mine touches theirs, we both begin to glow brighter.
- After I imagine extending my light to friends and family, I imagine that I’m “zooming out” and can see millions of points of light all over the world, each representing a person. I do my best to share my light with each and every one.
5-Minute Mindfulness Hack #2: Try Mindful Breathing
This is a great mindfulness exercise for beginners, as it couldn’t be easier. According to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good In Action, you need to practice for 15 minutes daily for a week before you see a benefit. I however recommend starting with just 5 minutes. In my experience, that small amount of time is enough to keep yourself from losing it when your child resists getting dressed, then strips buck naked when you’re finally ready to head out the door after 30 minutes of arguing.
Here’s how to get started:
- Find a comfortable, relaxed position.
- Bring your awareness to your body. Start to notice its weight against your seat. Allow yourself to become curious about any sensations you may notice. Relax.
- Begin to notice your breath. Don’t do anything special just yet! Just notice when one breath ends and another begins. Feel how your chest or belly rises and falls, and the way your rib cage expands and contracts.
- As you continue with this, it will start to get tricky. Your mind may begin to tick off your to-do list, or think about that thing your partner said last night. That’s okay! You’re not “bad” at meditation! Simply notice these thoughts, and on an exhale, let them pass. Bring your attention back to your breath on the next inhale.
- Stick with this for the full 5 minutes. Once you’re comfortable doing this for 5 minutes at a time, you can work your way up to longer periods of time in 2-minute increments.
5-Minute Mindfulness Hack #3: Start A Mini Gratitude Journal
Do you journal? Or have you been meaning to start? Either way, here’s a writing prompt worth trying: list 10 new things you’re thankful for every day. While this might not seem like it has anything to do with mindfulness, getting granular with your gratitude practice can not only help keep you centered, it’s also a proven antidote to anxiety.
Here’s how it works: anxiety can make it hard to feel joy. But when you feel gratitude, you become distracted from anxious thoughts and connect to the present moment. And when you’re in the present, it’s more difficult to feel anxious.
So when you make a point of listing the things you’re grateful for, you’re revisiting life’s small joys instead of concentrating on what might happen. With practice, you’ll stop focusing on anxiety-provoking what-if scenarios, and have an easier time staying present.
When you write your list, be specific. Simply saying you’re grateful for your family won’t evoke much of an emotional response. Instead, write about the random hug your partner gave you while you were doing the dishes, the kind email you received from a friend, or the smile your child gave you when he asked if he could sneak a lollipop.
Those are the moments to be more mindful of.