The alarm goes off, and you immediately press the off button. As you do so, your mind goes from zero to 60, you immediately fill your head with all the items on your to-do list and any unfinished thoughts from the night before.
As you brush your teeth with one hand and check your email with the other, your mind has already transported you to another time and place, ahead of your still awakening body. As you gulp down your coffee and eat your breakfast without actually tasting it, your mind is finalizing lunch plans, going over the presentation you have to give, or planning for children’s transportation problems.
Does it sound familiar to you? We spend most of our time lost in thought, from the moment we wake up in the morning to the minute we finally fall asleep. We do not realize how this incessant mental activity leads to stress and anxiety, which in turn causes much of our illnesses.
Mindfulness, or awareness of the moment, is the antidote to this. We can easily learn to move from our multitasking and frenetic pace to the tranquility of the present moment, simply by finding a few minutes each day to practice a little mindfulness. However, even with the best of intentions, we just forgot. Or, for many of us, we remember for a day or two, then fall back into our old patterns.
What can we do to help stay the course? Using triggers is one of the easiest and most effective ways to remember to do the things that we find it hard to remember to do. Charles Duhigg, author of the book The power of the habits, talks about creating hooked habits by using existing habits or routines to create new habits. As a certified meditation coach and founder of my own app for meditation, I have come across several activators that you can use to bring a little more peace and calm to your day.
1. Your alarm clock
The way you choose to start your day is up to you, why not use the first sound of the day as a reminder to get off on the right foot? Let your morning alarm remind you to take a couple of deep breaths before jumping out of bed. Wake up time is also a great trigger to set your intention for the day or a practice of appreciation.
2. Tooth brushing
Even something as simple as brushing your teeth can be a wonderful trigger for you to practice some mindfulness. How you brush your teeth. Open all your senses. Taste the taste of the toothpaste. Notice the sensation of the bristles on the teeth and gums. Smell the aroma of toothpaste. Listen to the sound of the brush on the teeth.
If you are like most of us, you will know that this is something that is done quite often during the day, and probably quite without thinking. See if you can use the habit of checking your email to check yourself. It takes only a few seconds to feel your body from the inside. Note the sensation of your body in the chair, the rate of your breathing or the movement of your body if you are moving.
4. Incoming calls or texts
Our phones are buzzing and ringing all day long. But they can be a wonderful reminder to get back to our breath. Every time the phone rings (or buzzes or vibrates), use it as a cue to take a fully conscious breath before answering. Focus all your attention on the inhale as well as the exhale. Really feel it from the moment the breath enters your nose until it leaves your body.
5. Stop signs or crosswalks
Stop signs and crosswalks can be used as opportunities to pause and return to the present moment through testing your senses. Take a few seconds to notice the sounds around you, the smells in the air, and the feel of the air on your skin.
Hopefully these triggers can help you bring a little more attention to your daily life.
for Lynne goldberg