One comment I often get from other busy mums when talking about mindfulness meditation is that they like the idea of it, but they can’t really find dedicated time in the day to practise it. I get that. We’re all busy. But mindfulness meditation doesn’t have to be hard. It’s not meant to be taxing on you. In fact, it can really help you! So the real question is: how can you fit mindfulness meditation into your day as a busy mum?
Do 10 deep breaths when you wake up or before you go to sleep
When we hear or read about the benefits of mindfulness meditation, we always seem to come across this magic number. 20 minutes. Meditate at least 20 minutes a day, and you’ll be a new person. (Or something along those lines).While I’m sure that actually IS true, like you, I also live in the real world. Truth is, you don’t have to start with 20 minutes a day. If you manage to start small and gradually increase to 20 minutes or more a day, good for you. But the key is to start small. Really small.
So pick one of these things and try them out.
- When you wake up in the morning (unless you’ve been woken by a screaming child), lie in your bed for a few minutes, with your eyes closed, put your hand on your stomach and take some deep breaths. Just breath in. And breath out. Do that for 10 breaths (10 in and 10 out). That’s it. That’s you done.
- If the mornings don’t work, because of the hustle and bustle of your children waking up and having to get to school, try the evenings. You may even find it a great unwinding exercise that will help you sleep better too. Ans if you enjoy it, don’t stop at one set. Keep going.
But wait, I haven’t sat on a pillow with my legs crossed saying ‘Om’ for 20 minutes. How is this even mindfulness meditation? Well, this is you having just taken a small step to intentionally focus on the present moment. To ground yourself to a very basic and fundamental physical process: breathing. That’s all you need to do for now.
Find mindful pockets in your day
I know that your day is maxed out as it is. So is mine. Which is exactly why if I don’t take a minute here and there, I know I’ll use my rag at some point. All you have to do is to find a quick minute a few times in your day to close your eyes and take some deep breaths. How?
- Inhale to the count of 3, hold for 2 seconds, and exhale to the count of 3. Repeat a few times if you have a couple of minutes. This is great for immediate stress reduction, so you can even do it in between two rounds of “Put. Your. Shoes. On” in the morning before the school run. And maybe the positive outcome is that you won’t have to shout the dreaded sentence once again. Maybe you’ll think of something else to do. It’ll help you deal with and respond to the situation in a better way. For everyone involved.
- Or if you need to relax for a quick minute before you head out to collect the children at the end of the day, knowing the rest of the afternoon will be full-on, try a quick relaxation technique. Breathe in to the count of 4, hold a little longer to the count of 7, and breathe out to the count of 8. When you do breathe out, do it with your lips slightly open, so you can hear your exhale.
Does this sound achievable? You’re probably still thinking this isn’t meditation because you’re not in yoga pants, sitting on a pillow, with candles burning and looking and feeling all zen. But you’re incorporating mindful moments in your day. And this is meditation because it’s the intentional practice of mindfulness.
Use an app
When I first decided to find out more about mindfulness meditation I stocked up on a whole lot of books. And although everyone knows I love a book, I couldn’t follow the instructions while reading. So I started to try apps. There are plenty of mindfulness meditation apps out there. Most of them offer a free 7-day trial and give you a basic day-by-day introduction of what you can expect. The guided meditations start off with 5 minutes a day, and some are even shorter. As you get used to the practice, you can increase the time, should you wish you.
An excellent app to start with is Aware. Calm and Welzen and Headspace are also excellent options I’ve tried and used. All of the apps are free to download and use for the first 7 sessions. You’ll get prompts to upgrade, but don’t get too hung up on that. If you find that the guided meditations really worked for you, that you enjoyed them and wouldn’t mind increasing the time and deepening your understanding, then, by all means, go ahead and upgrade to the full version. You’ll get access to a lot more content, including programmes designed specifically for stress or anxiety, for example. But don’t feel pressured into buying something you know you won’t use! If you want to know more about what the premium version of the Aware app looks like, head over to this post (you’ll also find a 50% off discount code you can use if you do decide to subscribe to the full version of the app).
Do a quick body scan
If this sounds scary to you, don’t worry. It’s a lot simpler than it sounds! What you’re doing with this is to simply place your awareness on the various areas of your body. You start with your toes, the sole of your feet, the top of your feet etc. until you get to your forehead and the top of your head. This will only take a few minutes to do, and I’d advise you try it when you’re on your own (if ever!) Just before you go to bed might be a good time, and if you don’t want to sit on a chair with your feet firmly on the ground, you can always do it lying down. There’s a risk you may fall asleep, but hey, I’d take that if I were you!
The idea of a body scan is simply to become aware of any sensations in your body. When you do it for the first times, you may not feel a thing. And then you start thinking you’re doing it all wrong and judging yourself for it. Well, stop there, please! You’re not doing it all wrong. It’s just that you’re probably not used to this exercise. These days we can be so ‘out-of-sync’ with our bodies that we can’t even pick up on the signals they send us.
But over time, when you ‘scan’ a body part, you’ll start to notice how it feels. You may also start noticing specific sensation, like tension in your shoulders or tightness in your leg muscles, for example. This is mindfulness meditation! You’re paying intentional attention to the present moment and to the sensations in your body – it doesn’t really get any better than that. This is it. You’re doing it!
Just go for a walk or bake a cake
What? I thought we were talking about meditation here! Well, mindfulness meditation can take many many forms. For some people, and especially when you’re starting out, sitting on a chair with your feet firmly on the ground as recommended can feel a little (very!) odd. Alien. We have this perception that meditating means you’re not thinking. That your mind isn’t racing anywhere. So when we sit down and observe our thoughts going crazy, we start to wonder whether we’re doing this right at all. So if you don’t feel ready or feel you don’t have the time to sit on a chair and meditate that way, don’t!
Do something else entirely! Some people find that cooking, baking, drawing and generally doing something creative puts them in a meditative state. All you’re trying to do here is to pay attention to the present moment and observing your thoughts come and go without engaging with them and with no judgement. You’re anchoring yourself to the physical sensations, the smells and the sounds of the here and now. You’re ‘grounding yourself’. It really is as simple as that.
A great book that shows you how you can combine mindfulness meditation with walking (and running, even!) is Run for Your Life – Mindful Running For A Happy Life. I’ve reviewed it here – you should check it out.
How do you fit mindfulness into your busy day, then, Mum?
Well, I’ve given you a few options here. But more than anything, I hope I’ve helped you see that mindfulness meditation doesn’t have to be complicated. You don’t necessarily have to allocate dedicated slots in your day to it. Although if you do, you’ll probably reap the benefits much faster, and you’ll find massive improvement in your mental and physical wellbeing.
I’ll be honest – I’m not at that stage yet with my ‘formal’ meditation practice. But I am making mindfulness meditation a part of my daily life, and it helps. I’ve become much more aware and in tune with the signs and signals my body sends me, and I feel SO MUCH better for it! After all, I’m the one who ignored the signs of stress for years and ended up getting injured as a result!
So, let me know. Will you be trying any of these quick tips to include more mindfulness in your day? Do you have any more to add?