In a world of multitasking and time crunches to which we’ve grown so accustomed, we equally seek a quick fix. A recipe, from fridge to table in 15 minutes. No waiting on isle seven. Thirty minutes or less or your money back. Overnight delivery. We will sacrifice quality for extra time in most areas of our life. What if the world shifted to a state of calm and ease taking the place of deadlines and fast paced living? It isn’t likely to happen. Are we powerless to change our personal version of the pace of life? A resounding, “No.” While that seems obvious, the next time you are chatting with a friend, asking how life has been, count the number of times words like, “busy,” “no time,” “so much to do,” come up. Too many of us meekly succumb to demands over which we have more control than we exercise. As a result, once we’ve met the requirements of the day, the job, the people, pets and tasks around us, little time is left for YOU. I love learning about rituals that enhance the quality of my life, especially when they easily fit into the busiest of days. I have a number of practices and routines that serve me best, depending on where I am on my path. What I do when I’m angry is different than what I do when I have a day filled with appointments all over town. But, the end result is, I am more in control of ME, hence, more equipped to deal with life, come what may. If you have tips and favorite rituals, feel free to share them in the comments to benefit other readers and myself. It takes a village.
1.) The first five minutes of the day is yours.
I was forever getting up to an alarm that would allow me to sleep as late as possible. Then, hitting snooze at least once, probably twice, putting me in a race against the clock from the minute my feet hit the floor. I was already operating in urgency or panic, depending on the importance of the engagement. I began with five minutes. I set my alarm for five minutes before I had to be up. Some mornings, I sat on my patio and listened to the quiet of the morning. I’d read a page from my favorite day book. I researched breathing techniques and began practicing those. I highly encourage you to take advantage of breath. When we breath only from the top portion of our lungs, or “shallow breathing,” we hold our bodies more tensely. We aren’t supplying oxygen rich blood to our organs as they are working even harder for us when we are pressed for time. My favorite is called the 4-7-8 breathing technique. After completely exhaling through your mouth making a “whooshing sound,” begin to inhale through your nose for a count of four. Hold it for a count of seven. Exhale, again, through your mouth for a count of eight. Repeat this several times. The results are instant and significant. Once you have mastered the “Five minutes for me” start to your day, work on increasing that time. A half hour. An hour. You will find you are no longer wanting sleep more than that first, delicious hour that is yours and yours alone to spend however you choose.
As simple as this sounds, we don’t eat often enough and most of us don’t eat food that nourishes our brains, nervous systems and cell rejuvenation. When you see that one girl in the office who never gets sick when everyone else gets the flu, she’s likely taken out an insurance policy of sorts by boosting her immunity beforehand. We all have to eat. We might as well make it something that satisfies more than hunger. Who doesn’t like the old, “Two birds, one stone” idea… Easy, go to foods to have on hand: Almonds, citrus fruits, spinach salads, yogurt (coconut based is my favorite), sunflower seeds, blueberries, boiled eggs, celery sticks with peanut butter, cucumbers, and if you’re super motivated, use your “you” time in the morning to set yourself up for the day by having these items on the ready when you’re tempted to hit the vending machine. You will not eat what is not readily available. Have it on hand and watch your taste buds change for the better, your energy levels go up and your mood, elevated.
3.) Limit your time online.
Instead of freely engaging in social media, the news, mindless games on your phone, ease into limited exposure. There are apps that track how long you spend on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc, but chances are you know if you’re spending too much time on these time (and energy) zappers. If you are pacified like most of us by having your phone in your hand more often than not, start by Googling higher vibing sites such as “Best Photographs of the Month”, or “Feel Good Stories.” When you feel you can, titrate yourself down by a few minutes a day until you have an acceptable limit of time that works for you in how much time you spend on your phone. Can you get it down to an hour? And, if so, what would you do with the extra time. Although these scroll-a-thons take place in 5-10-20 minute increments, over the period of a 15 hour day, it adds up. Hours have been given with nothing to show for it. My lofty goal in letting go of my phone, little by little, is to learn Spanish when I’d normally be online. I’ll update you on that as time goes by.
4.) Set an intention.
This one is easily the most lifechanging hack, period. What traits do you want to exhibit? Where is your weak spot? What do you neglect (or deny) as a part of your persona? An intention can be one word. Some days, my intention is “Patience.” I come back to that word throughout the day and, the brain, being what it is, robotically picks up on what you are imprinting. Patience becomes more achievable when we’ve deliberately set out to work on this one thing as we go through our day. Your intention can be a phrase. a mantra, or simply to be more mindful. Tune into your senses throughout the day, in the moment, what do you see, hear, smell? Is the fabric your wearing comfortable? How do those blueberries taste? These seemingly miniscule details interrupt our ceaseless thoughts and allow us to experience the present. Not something we do nearly often enough, as we are prone to dwelling on past regrets, past loves, past circumstances and we fantasize that things THEN were better than they are now. And, the future? Well, that’s bleak. With a great past and a scary, unknown future, we hardly leave time to be in the moment. Your intention can be “kindness,” “composure,” “be a better listener,” whatever needs your focus will surface, if you tune in and give yourself time to respond to the inner question.
5.) Create a personal mission statement
This one may not be that hack that makes your life better instantly, at least not by way of results. But, the act of creating one and putting it on paper is another gamechanger. We talk, both internally and externally, about what we want to do. Do you have a list as to how to achieve it? Do you do one thing everyday that gets you closer to your dream? My mission includes becoming a published author. In speaking with other writers, each has advised I start a blog. So, here I am. Think of your mission statement as something you deserve and the world deserves from you. It is daunting to put into a sentence, your aim in life. More daunting is having an aimless life. You may want to seek the counsel of experts if your mission includes more tangible goals. Even when we seek the intangible, such as living a life of gratitude, empathy and kindness, our process is exponentially boosted by spending time with others whom have dedicated their lives to these practices and teaching others how to achieve the unseen through hands-on steps. Don’t get too hung up on your mission statement. I did and it caused a lot of bottlenecking in my life- of emotions and processing the influx of daily information we all face. You’re not marrying it. You can throw it away and begin a fresh one tomorrow. Nobody told me that. After I tossed my first one, I felt a bit ridiculous that I didn’t just do that from the beginning, instead of laboring over a living document that was designed to HELP me live a more satisfying life. Be creative and only share it if you want. It’s yours and yours alone. And, if you read it everyday, practice it everyday, I guarantee you will experience a new you. Life improves drastically when we know and live our mission.
Lastly, (and this is another article entirely) cut yourself some slack. You’re not going to do things perfectly and that you try to, only fosters a sense of failure and MORE dissatisfaction. You didn’t set an intention today? Ok. Do it when you wake up tomorrow. You haven’t been to the store to buy your brain food and you ate last weeks leftovers? Make yourself buy food before going to bed that night. On the way home from work is the last time of day anyone wants to run errands. I get it. But, once you’re home and in comfy clothes, does your desire to go BACK out into the world increase? If not, stop on the way home. After trying (hundreds?) of practices, rituals and routines to enhance my personal inner peace and contentment, it was challenging to condense these down to the five I have found to be most helpful. So, expect more tips I’ve discovered along my journey. I earnestly encourage you to give these a try. As you incorporate them, they will likely branch and morph into your own version of self-care. At the end of the day, we are worth the time. But, it all starts with the beginning of the day. Peace, Warriors.