One of the 10 key habits for leading a happy life is the practice of meditation or mindfulness. I would actually place it in the top 3 critical habits for sustaining a happy life. Research shows that even 2 minutes of meditation can make a huge positive impact on your overall stress, well-being and ultimately happiness. Wait, what just 2 minutes? You've got just 2 minutes, right?
A lot of people are intimidated by the idea of having a meditation or mindfulness practice, I know that I was. I thought it was something that required a large commitment of time, a lot of sitting still, an elimination of thoughts, and there seemed to be a vague and yet complex sequence of instruction. Blaahhh to be honest it kind of sounded awful and boring! I kept envisioning Elizabeth Gilbert in the book Eat, Pray, Love sitting for days forcing herself to meditate.
I want to demystify the concept of mindfulness by giving you an easy and simple way to incorporate this practice into your everyday life. A practice that is so easy you can even teach it to kids, or to other adults should you desire. A practice that will help you to easily know what to do, how to do it, and that will work into your already full life.
Sound good? It's called the S.T.O.P. technique. Using the acronym S.T.O.P. like this:
S: Stop whatever you are doing.
T: Take 3 deep, belly breaths in and fully exhale them out. The easiest way for me to know that I am getting in a deep belly breath (versus just inhaling into my chest cavity) is to place my hand on my belly, so I can feel it push out with the inhale and pull in with the exhale. When we are under stress it's common for us to shallow breathe or to hold our breath.
O: Observe your thoughts, your emotions, your surroundings, and any physical sensations. What do you hear, see, feel and taste? Label your emotions...just the act of labeling them helps with diffusing them if they are negative.
P: Practice gratitude. Identify at least one thing that you are grateful for at that moment and describe it in as much detail as you can.
It's as simple as that! Two quick minutes of mindfulness. Something you can do on your way to work, at your desk before starting the day, before each meal, before a big meeting or project, when the kids get home from school, while stopped at a stoplight, before getting out of bed or when you go to bed. Whenever you are feeling a bit overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated, tired, sad, happy or nervous just S.T.O.P. That sounds doable right? Before you know it you'll have it built into your routine and it'll be your "go to" practice.
Per brain scientist Kristen Race, "A formal mindfulness practice involves taking time, each day, to intentionally bring our awareness to the present moment in systematic ways." Through this process we increase our ability to:
- Think clearly
- Problem-solve effectively
- Manage difficult emotions
- Think optimistically
- Bring emotional intelligence into our interactions with others
In essence, to lead a life with less stress and more happiness. Mindfulness is happiness. When we aren't attentive to what we are currently doing, we are often times drudging up negative things from the past or worrying about the future. It's often said that a wandering mind is an unhappy mind.
I would love to hear your feedback on this post. Does it work for you to incorporate 2 minutes of mindfulness into your day? Do you have a mindfulness practice you would like to share with us? Drop me a comment or send me an email!