One wonderful benefit of cultivating mindfulness is you start to recognize times that are perfect for taking a moment to check in and relax. After you begin to notice these moments, you can take the next step of making it a habit to center yourself whenever you are in those same situations. Habits are very powerful for shaping how we interact with the world. New York Times bestselling author and happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin, has written extensively about this and has some great resources on her website exploring how to improve your habits. As a start, here are my favorite times to stop, roll back my shoulders, take a deep breath, and drop into the present moment:
I fill up the coffee carafe using the purified water from my refrigerator tap. It comes out very slowly. I used to spend this time being irritated that it came out so slowly. What’s the point of this anyway? When was this filter even changed? Do these low-grade filters even work? No more. Now, I square off my shoulders, put my feet hip distance apart and take a few deep breaths. Soon enough, the carafe is filled and I feel better.
Blow Drying My Hair
There I am, staring myself in the mirror, with a noisy blow dryer in my ear. But you know what’s great about the blow dryer? Nobody can talk to me. Great time to stretch my neck from side to side a few times. And, since I’m staring at the mirror, I try to give myself some positive self-talk. Whenever I see my daughter staring at herself in the mirror, I tell her how beautiful she is. Don’t worry, I’m a good feminist and she gets lots of affirmation about how intelligent and brave and strong she is. But, I want her to look at herself in the mirror and see her the way that I see her, not through the ridiculous filter for female beauty that is so pervasive in our media. I suspect my mom would like the same of me, so I try to be kind to myself as I stare at the mirror each morning. And stretch my neck.
Waiting in Line
Lines are fascinating. I have personally embodied all the different line characters at one point or another. Crazy toe tapper. Check. Quietly muttering threats to her children. Check. Daydreamer. Check. MIT Professor Richard Larson is the world’s foremost expert in line management and he has estimated that Americans spend 37 billion hours in line each year. How will you spend that time? How about a little loving kindness meditation? You don’t have to close your eyes and nobody has to know you are doing it. It will probably make you start smiling, which will encourage others around you to be positive and kind.
In the Elevator
Perfect for taking a few deep breaths. And the great thing about the elevator is that nobody will think it’s strange for you to close your eyes. They will just assume you are claustrophobic. Elevators are super awkward. There have been entire academic studies devoted to exploring awkward elevator interaction. I say lean into it. Close your eyes, breath deeply, and smile. It will definitely not be the weirdest thing someone has seen on an elevator.
At a Stoplight
I’m mostly a pedestrian. An impatient pedestrian. But the great thing about stoplights is that I am for sure going to encounter them every day and I am definitely going to stop and wait, because I’d rather not be hit by a car. So, it’s a perfect time to roll my shoulders back, look around, smile, and think about something for which I’m grateful.
During a Tantrum
I have learned two things about my children’s temper tantrums. First, I cannot reason with them when they are in that state of mind. Second, getting angry with them only escalates the problem. So, I try (I try, I try) to stop, breath deeply, and keep calm. I do not always succeed, but when I do, they calm down more quickly. In addition to keeping myself centered, I am modeling a positive way to maintain composure in adversity, which is a skill I want them to learn.
Before I Eat
I blame the New Mexico public schools for my tendency to rush through every meal as though I’m working against a clock. We are teaching our kids today this bad habit, I’m afraid. Many kids have lunch periods that are less than 20 minutes, with adverse effects on their health and well-being. I still have a bad habit of rushing through my meals, which is terrible for digestion, weight gain, etc. Mostly, though, it means that I miss out on the pleasure of eating. I really enjoy food. Food, for me, is not a utilitarian exercise, but rather a robust sensory experience that brings me a lot of pleasure and happiness. Why rush through that? So I’m trying a new trick of taking a couple of deep breaths and slowing down before I dive in. I still finish my dinner before the rest of my family. What can I say…I’m a work in progress.
What unexpected moments do you find to stay mindful?