How to be more mindful when you're too busy to sit still

Image courtesy of Kaboom Pics

Mindfulness is apparently a buzzword of 2018. And it's not surprising. Everywhere you look, it seems we're all craving a slower pace and gentler lifestyle. But if you're a freelancer or work in a buzzing creative agency, how do you find the time to be mindful when you feel so busy?

Mindfulness isn't about meditating in an idyllic space with trickling water features and sounds of nature for hours every day (although that does sound nice); it's the simple act of appreciating what's happening right now. Not worrying about the past or future. Quietening the busy, over-active mind to focus on the present.

“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom,” observed Victor Frankl. We can all inject a little mindfulness into our every day. Here, we share some tips to help you enjoy life as it happens and reduce stress and anxiety, no matter how busy you might be.

1. Take deep breaths

The simple act of reminding ourselves to breathe deeply will make us stop, take a look around and observe how we're feeling and thinking, and what exists around us. The sky, the birds, the weather, the people – you can feel instantly better by taking a deep breath.

2. Reserve just five minutes daily to meditate

Focusing on your breath is how you meditate. Try this five-minute exercise to practice a little meditation every day and it's likely you'll notice a big difference. Do it first thing, while you're lying in bed. Or perhaps during a routine task like taking a shower or walking to work.

3. Focus on the present

Are you constantly fretting over mistakes you've made in the past? Or worried about things that haven't yet happened? Whenever you feel anxiety taking over, focus on the present. You know... just observe what's going on around you. Nothing more, nothing less – understand the power of now. For further reading on this, check out Eckhart Tolle's book, The Power of Now.

4. Enjoy a brain dump

If your head is still whirring, take out a notepad and write down everything that's currently bothering you. Literally, dump existing thoughts and worries from your brain onto paper. This simple act will free your mind. You'll feel like a weight has come off and you'll find space to be mindful.

5. Tidy up your space

Ever heard the classic line, "tidy home, tidy mind"? It exists because it's true. If your home, and/or workspace is cluttered, your brain will feel the same. Purchase a copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying and be prepared to embrace the magic of decluttering. It really does give your brain the space it needs.

6. Empty your mind through menial tasks

While we're on the subject of tidying, cleaning your home can be very meditative. So can ironing your clothes. By concentrating on rather boring jobs, you can quieten your mind and find peace. I love nothing more than a spring clean (the very mention of which might frighten some of you). I completely switch off and feel refreshed after a good hoover and polish. I even whack on some great music to be mindful.

7. Concentrate on one thing at a time

It's so easy to fall into the trap of multitasking. Our advice? Don't. Just focus on one job at a time and your mind will love you forever. Be further inspired by this old Zen proverb: "When walking, walk. When eating, eat." Be mindful of doing one thing at a time.

8. Have little bursts of meditation throughout the day

If you're sat at your desk, observe how your feet feel in your shoes. See if you can make them relax. On a tea break, get up and walk to your office window. What's the weather like outside? Can you see any birds in the sky?

9. Slow right down

It's amazing how mindful you can become by just slowing down. When you eat your lunch, for example, do so slowly and mindfully. How does your food smell and taste? Chew slowly and enjoy every moment of eating. Don't sit at your desk and scoff your sandwich down. Cherish the moment.

As Thich Nhat Hanh says: "Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves – slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future; live the actual moment. Only this moment is life."

10. Do less

Don't fall into the trap of doing too much. Dedicate time and space to yourself daily. Reduce social events, space out business meetings and prioritise crucial "me time". Don't feel guilty for putting yourself first; recognise that doing less will make you more mindful and happy. And if you're happier, you'll be the best version of you – helping you to live the best possible life.