Do you often feel pressured for time, find yourself rushing from one obligation to the next, and never quite seem to find time to decompress?
Firstly, you are not alone. We are all looking for ways to access calm amidst demanding lives.
Secondly, you came to right place! In this week’s blog post, I will share five free techniques for creating breathing space in your life.
I will also explore some of the underlying principles common to each of these techniques – so that you can custom-create practices to help you achieve inner-peace wherever you may find yourself during a busy day.
Here are the five techniques:
ONE: Guided meditation
There are many forms of meditation available to us.
One set of guided meditations, based in mindfulness work, is Oprah and Deepak’s 21-day meditation experiences.
These meditation programs are available for download and all new 21-day experiences are offered free-of-charge when released.
The latest free experience is Become What You Believe; launching on 02 November 2015.
The first part of each day’s meditation features thoughts from Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra on the theme-related topic for the day.
The second part of each meditation provides time for you to focus on the day’s mantra; accompanied by soothing music.
The advantages of these guided meditations, include the fact that:
- there is a theme for each structured 21-day meditation experience,
- each meditation is approximately 20-minutes in length,
- each day’s meditation builds on the next (but can also be listened to individually),
- there are reflective questions linked to each meditation should you wish to be more active in your participation, and
- you have the choice to participate in online forums with others who are following the same program.
TWO: Breathing meditations
There may be days when you have no time to follow a guided meditation, or you might not have access to the technology required for this (including an internet connection, good cell phone reception, or headphones), as well as a quiet physical space from which to meditate.
Focusing on your breathing and stilling your mind is the ultimate portable meditation.
This requires you to stop what you are doing, to disengage from the mental ‘thought knots’ that you may find yourself tangled in and to “centre” yourself with the simple activity of observing your breath and thoughts without interacting with them.
For instance, the thought “I have to cook dinner” may pop into your mind during your meditation. Instead of thinking about this and worrying about the when, where and how, you would ideally observe that you had this thought and allow it to drift away like a leaf blowing in the wind.
Mindful breathing encourages one to be present in your body and to disengage from thoughts about the past and future.
You may find that 2 to 5 minutes is the longest you can initially manage. This amount of time is sufficient for you to feel the benefits of this practice. In time, you may be able to do it for longer.
(Tip: One variation or addition to mindful breathing is letting one’s eyes rest gently on an object.)
THREE: Digital time-out or batching
Social media, emails, text messages, calls and instant messages can keep you glued to your mobile phone and separated from your immediate surroundings.
Switching your cell phone off and never looking at it again is neither a practical nor sustainable solution.
But have you considered batching the checking of your various inboxes so that you can make quality time for yourself and loved ones?
Your messages will still be there in an hour or two, over lunch time, or the next morning.
Batching reading and replying to messages may help you tune into your life in the present – rather than being plugged into the digital extension of your life all the time.
FOUR: Morning pages – writing down your stream of consciousness
When Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) originally came up with the concept of “morning pages”, she intended them to assist artists and writers to de-clutter their minds by writing whatever came to mind. However, you need not be a creative to benefit from this practice.
Cameron suggests that one complete your morning pages first thing in the morning, by hand-writing whatever comes to mind on three A4 pages or in 750 words. No judgments, no re-reading, or editing.
You may find morning pages most helpful when feeling overwhelmed by emotions and or tasks that you have not physically written down on a list but may have been swirling around in your head.
The act of writing and list-making helps puts things into perspective and may allow you to see what is a real and immediate priority rather than those to-dos which you can legitimately postpone.
You may also find yourself arriving at new insights about you have been struggling with while writing and spontaneously give yourself advice (in writing).
Completing morning pages may also bring to consciousness unmet needs at the time. Armed with these insights you will be better able to meet these needs.
FIVE: Grooming and playing with animals
Numerous studies suggest the multiple benefits that having pets has on individual mental health.
There is also a growing sub-disciple in psychology of animal-assisted therapies.
Here animals such as horses and dogs are an integral part of the client’s therapeutic process.
We tend to interact with pets in a tactile way.
This is important as touching and being touched has benefits for mental health and well-being. This includes experiencing a sense of feeling loved and connected, rather than isolated.
Touch helps one stay grounded in the present.
Grooming, talking to, and taking care of your pets is one way that you may exercise being present amidst the threat of mental clutter.
What is common to all these techniques?
There are a number of themes common to each of these five techniques. They are, namely:
- keeping in mind that certain activities or habits take us further away from being present
- the importance of identifying ways to find yourself in the present – rather than caught up in past or future-focussed thinking
- one’s body is an important symbol of groundedness and being present – you can use your senses to help you become more present
- relationships with and relating to important people and animals in your life is another way of grounding yourself, and
- finding reminders that distressed states of mind (with characteristic thoughts and feelings) are only states of mind – which we can and do shift in and out of, and these states of mind do not define us!
How do these techniques apply to you?
Everyone is different, and like creating an effective therapeutic treatment plan, there is never a one-size-fits-all solution.
It is important to keep in mind that many helpful techniques all share certain underlying principles that make each of these techniques beneficial.
Other helpful techniques and practices may include:
- playing a musical instrument,
- exercising or playing a group sport, or
- painting and other creative pursuits.
As with any activity, variety and moderation are important principles to keep in mind.
Rather employ a variety of techniques than over-utilizing a single technique. This will help to prevent you from feeling bored, frustrated, and resentful towards an overused technique.
Finally, like feeling satisfied after a good meal, calming the mind is also a feeling that does not endure indefinitely. Regular practice and awareness of your state of mind is key in striving towards a good-enough and longer-term sense of inner calm.
I would love to hear from you. What techniques or habits help you achieve a sense of inner-peace? Share these in the comments section below.