Lately I’ve become the walking cliche of someone who’s glued to their smartphone.
Ever since my active, catnapping daughter was born, I’ve hardly had more than a few minutes to myself most days. Not knowing when those rare moments of peace would occur and how long they would last, I’d often mindlessly grab my phone to recharge by scanning social media, catching up on the news or reading interesting blog posts. Sure, it makes a nice change from changing diapers and singing nursery rhymes when other forms of relaxation are not really an option. But is staring at a screen honestly the best way to decompress and boost my energy?
Online entertainment has become a welcome distraction from our hectic schedules. With an endless supply of cat GIFS, Buzzfeed lists or inspirational TED – talks at our fingertips, no matter where we are of what we’re doing, we’ve started to fill in every small gap of time in our day with some kind of (online) activity.
For example, how often do you find yourself scrolling through your Twitter feed when your dinner partner has gone to the bathroom? Do you always put on your headphones as you’re walking down the street? Or do you instantly pull out your phone if you have to wait anywhere, even if it’s just for a few minutes?
Don’t get me wrong, I love the freedom, inspiration and social connections that the Internet and mobile devices have brought us. But I do wonder: is using online entertainment to relax always the best choice? I mean, how much does checking Facebook really revitalize you?
What if you would spend those small pockets of spare time during your busy day doing something that truly recharges your body and mind? Ok, it won’t feel the same as lying on a tropical beach or having a luxurious spa day, but you can bring a little peace to your frantic day with mindful micro-breaks.
Have a look at these 7 effective ways to recharge yourself within minutes.
Mindful Micro-Breaks: How to Quickly Relax and Re-Energise
1. Walking Meditation
Instead of rushing to your next meeting and arriving frazzled, why don’t you try paying attention to what it actually feels like to walk?
A walking meditation is nothing more than focusing on the physical sensations of moving your body. As you’re strolling through the hallways or parking lot, notice how your soles touch the ground. Your weight and balance shift from one foot to the other each time you take a step. Zoom in on a single stride: how your heel first makes contact, before your foot rolls forward onto the ball and toes and then lifts off the ground.
Feel how your posture changes as you gently spread your toes and lift the arches of your foot to stand firmly in between steps. Shift your weight to the middle of your foot with each stride and stand up straight without overstretching yourself.
Squeezing walking meditations into your day, however short, can help get out of your head, which calms your mind and improves your concentration. It also makes you more aware of your body, allowing you to pick up signals of tension, relax your muscles and correct bad posture. Plus, ‘walking tall’ boosts your confidence, which is perfect before an important presentation at work!
Where and when? Once you get the hang of bringing your attention to your movements, you can easily combine mini walking meditations with your daily activities. Whether you’re going over to your colleague’s desk across the office or doing your grocery shopping, nobody will be able to tell you’re secretly also practicing mindfulness in motion.
2. Sing it baby!
Did you know that singing has a surprisingly positive impact on your wellbeing?
The deep belly breathing, the focus on the lyrics instead of your worries and the healing power of music – they all help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. And you probably know all too well how strongly music can influence your mood. Singing songs that have a special meaning to you can help you deal with sadness, give you strength or put a swing in your step.
Most pop hits are only 3,5 minutes long, so there’s no excuse to not break into song every chance you get!
Where and when? Rock to uplifting songs in the car, belt out power ballads in the shower or make folding laundry fun by carrying your favourite tunes. You could also use singing to soothe your baby or entertain your kids – until they get to that age when mum or dad singing is oh so embarrassing!
3. Visualisations & Mantra’s
It’s not always easy to stay positive and motivated through the ups and downs of everyday life. When your day isn’t going as planned, you can turn to Facebook to vent your frustrations or check Pinterest for inspiring quotes to brighten your mood.
But maybe all you need to deal with stress is the power of your imagination.
For a brief escape from your daily hassles, you could picture yourself on a quiet beach. Imagine the feeling of your feet in the sand, the breeze through your hair, the barely noticeable taste of salt on your lips. As you gaze across the open sea, envision how the wind clears your mind and the waves slowly wash away your sorrows.
Visualisation can be a powerful tool to unwind and recharge your body in a short amount of time. Whatever scene or image you find relaxing – a forest, starry sky, clouds drifting away – engage all of your senses in your visualisation. Create a vivid picture: which sounds do you hear? What do you smell? What kind of textures do you feel on your skin?
Another mind trick to help you handle everyday problems better is using mantras. A mantra is a meaningful phrase that you silently say to yourself, to focus your thoughts and energy on a positive intention. For example, you could empower yourself by repeating “I am strong” or “I can do this” in your mind for a few minutes when you have a challenging task ahead of you. Or lift your spirits by repeating “Today is a good day” or “You are loved” to yourself. Depending on the word or motto you choose to concentrate on, a mantra can help you feel peaceful, inspired or in control of your life.
Where and when? You can silently state your mantra in your mind while your coffee’s brewing, when you’re brushing your teeth or whenever you need a little motivation throughout the day. The bath tub or your bed are the perfect places to close your eyes and vividly visualise de-stressing sceneries.
Need a little energy boost after sitting behind your desk all morning? Slouching in your chair and hunching over your computer can take a toll on your health and mood. Whenever you need a quick pick-me-up, resist the temptation to check the latest news and celebrity gossip and try stretching instead.
Stretching loosens your muscles and gets your blood flowing again. When your blood circulates freely through your body, it becomes easier to supply your tissues and brain with oxygen and essential nutrients. This leads to more energy, less stress and improved concentration.
Where and when? Lazily stretch in bed after you’ve just woken up or do one series of sun salutations. Do these 6 stretches behind your desk (if you don’t mind the quizzed looks from your co-workers) or during (the commercial breaks of) your favourite TV series. Try yoga for beginners if you really want to enjoy the health benefits of stretching.
5. Practice Gratitude
On days when everything seems to be going wrong, glancing over the picture-perfect lives of your Instagram friends probably won’t help you feel less frustrated.
It’s perfectly ok to be cranky when your train is delayed again, you had an argument with your spouse or your job is giving you headaches. But when you can’t shake of those feelings of irritation, stress or disappointment, don’t engage in social-media envy but try practicing gratitude.
Being thankful for the little things that are going well in your life is actually one of the most powerful techniques to feel happier. Counting your blessings every day trains your mind to focus on the positive. And when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.
How, where and when? Saying grace before your meals is a happiness-boosting practice you can adopt even when you’re not religious. You could also list three things you’re thankful for in a gratitude journal before you go to bed each night. Bonus tip: check out the Humans of New York page on Facebook for a daily reminder that everyone is struggling with something. Some of the touching stories of ordinary people will make you grateful for all the things you probably take for granted.
6. Breathing Exercises
One of the easiest ways to recharge during a stressful day is to consciously regulate your breathing.
Your breath forms a connection between your body and your mind. Whenever you’re tense, anxious or rushed, your breathing becomes shallow and rapid, preparing for a possible fight-or-flight response. But good news: you can reverse this stress reaction in your body immediately – and change your emotional state – with deep belly breathing. It lowers your heart rate and calms your nervous system.
Start by taking a slow and deep breath. As you inhale through your nose, feel your belly expand, like a balloon filling with air. You can put your hand on your navel to better notice how your abdomen rises when you breathe in and then gently pulls back in as you breathe out. Pause until you naturally begin to inhale again.
To benefit even more from deep breathing exercises, try to let go of all the tension in your body when you exhale. Relax your jaw, lower your shoulders and ‘soften’ your face. Next, observe your breathing for a few minutes, paying no attention to the thoughts coming in to your mind, to feel relaxed and focused.
But you could also try an energising breathing exercise when you’re feeling sluggish to invigorate body and mind. There are many different breathing techniques available to help you deal better with many situations, emotions and health issues.
Where and when? You can train yourself to sneak in a short breathing exercise every time you wash your hands, when you’re doing the dishes or sitting behind your desk. Other suitable moments to focus on your breath are before an important presentation, when you’re in pain (to help you cope) or to unwind at bedtime.
7. Letting Your Mind Wander
When is the last time you just sat there, doing nothing but dreaming away?
Thanks to our electronic portable devices we always seem to be doing something. From productive activities like answering work mail when you’re waiting in the doctor’s office to checking in on our friends recent adventures or watching the zillionth viral video.
We’ve cured boredom and it’s not necessarily a good thing. Our minds need quiet time to digest all the information and sensation we’re bombarded with every day. It’s during those bored moments that our brain frees up the mental capacity to connect the dots between all the knowledge you’ve stored in your mind to find new solutions. Just think about it: did you come up with your best ideas sitting behind your desk or when you were relaxed, taking a leisurely stroll or quietly sipping a cup of coffee?
So resist the urge to always be productive. We’re not machines. We need to unplug and allow our minds to wander to be able to come up with new ideas and creative solutions. True productivity is not about getting as many items ticked off your to-do list, but comes from managing your energy wisely, recharging in time and fostering your creativity.
And don’t always give in to the temptation of entertaining yourself with your smartphone. It’s so easy to end up clicking on distraction after distraction. You start by glancing over your Facebook feed and before you know it, you end up getting sucked into an interesting blog or heated online discussions. Shockingly, research shows that we’d rather give ourselves an electronic jolt than spend a few minutes alone with our thoughts.
Let’s all be ok with being ‘bored’ every once and a while – or better yet, get inspired by what’s happening right behind our tiny screens. Cause if there’s one thing my baby girl reminds me of daily, it’s that the world is your playground.
Where and when? Stare out of the train window. Curl up on the couch with a cup of camomile tea and just sit there for a while alone with your thought. Daydream in the shower – that’s where the best ideas are born anyway!
How do you replenish during those micro-breaks in your busy schedule? Which of these mindful practices will you try to quickly de-stress and renew your energy?
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