Hi, I’m Paul Krismer your happiness expert and the last two weeks that I produced videos I did one on the benefits of mindfulness and this long list of amazing physical, emotional and spiritual benefits that are just grounded in science and friggin amazing. Then I did a video about cognitive diffusion— how we actually can get a little bit of healthy distance from our thoughts and emotions and how that can be brought on by having a regular mindfulness practice. Well today I’m gonna talk more about easy mindfulness practices. If formal meditation: “ohm ohm ohm” for 20 minutes every day is not your cup of tea, that’s okay with me. (Even though I really strongly recommend it but not everybody’s gonna do it) So there’s experiential ways of getting mindfulness that are not just meditation, and that’s all we’re going to talk about today.
We’re talking about today is creating touchstones throughout your day. They give you some relief from your mind they give you grounding that give you a sense of peace. Some of these techniques are unbelievably easy and well proven to make a difference. One of the ones I’m going to teach first is this idea that if you simply take one long breath in and an even longer breath out, your physiology can’t help but to feel more peaceful. It’s a mind trick. It really is- it’s a frigging mind trick. You can’t help but feel more peaceful because the body’s knowledge of itself is working around towards peaceful, less stressful feelings without going through your cognitive centers and evaluating why you should feel peaceful. It’s just happening automatically. It’s the same as if you smile. If you do it a little bit quickly and just stick with it for a moment you’ll actually feel happier without your cognitive self evaluating why that might be true. So there’s ways we can trick our body. The reason why this works is pretty straightforward. There is no time in nature that we’re gonna breathe in and breathe out even slower. When we’re going into an increasingly stressful environment, right, we would never go: “Tiger! Aah”. Never. We would breathe fast, blood and energy rushing to our external muscles. That’s what stress is like! So when you take a long breath in and an even longer breath out you fool your brain and you make yourself feel more calm.
This is one of the most basic mindful techniques you can use anywhere, anytime. If you’re stressed out, go to the washroom sit down at your desk find the what- ten seconds to yourself where you take say a four second breath in. Then a little pause before you breathe out and then an even longer breath out. I often recommend this to office workers when I’m giving presentations. I say start your day where the first thing you do when you put your butt in your chair at the office is take one mindful breath. So first thing in the morning or first thing after lunch before you turn on your computer, before you send an email before you pick up the phone before you check your voicemail, take one mindful breath and if you find you’re doing this: Take two mindful breaths. And if you’re still breathing like that, take three mindful breaths. But it doesn’t take long to find yourself grounding back down until the reality is this moment. The rumination about the past… Don’t worry about the future. No no. Put it away. Just this moment, this breath. That’s one example.
Another really easy, powerful mindfulness practice is a great Thai Chi or yoga class… or martial arts. Something like this. It has to have the right kind of instruction so that it has a bit of a zen-like feel to it. That it’s not push harder or stretch further and all that kind of stuff because that won’t be very mindful. But a good teacher and some of these crafts will be very effective. And for some of your brains out there, other types of physical exercise can be really effective. For example, anything with lots of repetitive bilateral body movements; cycling, running, swimming. Those can be for some minds- not all of us- a really effective way of getting mindful.
It doesn’t work for me. If I’m running, which I don’t mind doing sometimes or cycling I do quite a bit of, but it’s a time for me to think. I’m processing what am I gonna do for the day and “”Oh I’ve got a good idea for a new video or a bad one” or I’m… criticizing my myself for the last bad video. That stuff is happening in my brain as I’m doing those exercises. But for some people they shut it all off and they actually can be paying close attention: left foot, right foot or just blank. They’re just running and if that’s their case or your case, those are good exercises – so another great another mindful technique is the right kind of exercise for you.
A ton of us are commuting and so a third easy suggestion if you’re a driver, is that every time you come up to a red light, see the red light as a signal to pause whatever’s going on in your head and just have a little reflection on what’s happening, right here at this moment. Try to let your mind go blank a little bit and say: “Oh, red light. Red light. Oh green light!” Then away you go, let your mind race again.
One of the techniques I used in the office for years when I before I worked from home, (I was in an office for 20-some 25 years of my life and I was always going from meeting to meeting to meeting to meeting) and when I learned some of these techniques I found one that I really liked which was touching the doorway as I went through a door. What it said to me was not only I’m arriving with new people, I’m leaving behind the stuff that I just came from. It was just a tiny little mindful thing. I think some people thought I was weird, because I touch doors and I never told them why, but who cares. People think I’m weird all the time. That’s fine. But touching doorways is a way to just say I’m in a new environment, and that’s a little reset for the brain to say, okay be responsive to what is in this moment – not what you just came from.
Here I’m finally gonna give my favorite little mindfulness technique which is one of the most powerful ones I know of and I use it personally all the time. As I wash my hands, I make it become a mindful moment. Now I’m very talented washing my hands. I’ve got expertise in washing my hands. I can wash my hands with such great expertise that I barely need to think about it, so usually when I’m washing my hands if I’m not being mindful I can just do the whole thing and talk and talk a talk or talk in my head. Talk about my emotions and all that. Just wash my hands. So the secret is to turn all that chatter off and use the washing of your hands is a moment to become mindful. One of the reasons why I like this is that if you’ve got any good personal hygiene habits, yeah I’m hoping you’re washing your hands every time you come out of a bathroom or working in the kitchen. As a result of that frequency of washing your hands and you’re doing it anyway. Tou can make that many mindful moments in your day, every time you wash your hands you turn off the thinking, that could be happening as you automatically wash your hands and instead say: “Ah this is one of my mindfulness habits”. Turning on the water, hot and cold. Hands are in the water. It takes me a moment longer to do mindful hand washing- I probably do a better job. My hands are in the water, I can feel the temperature. I get the soap on my hand. It’s a bit embarrassing when I’m doing this in public washrooms because I typically lift my hands up to my nose and smell the soap. Then I rinse my hands feeling the bubbles and the suds and the ‘slipperiness’ all come off. Then sometimes I find myself going OH I’m done, I can now think, but no I try to finish the process. Grab the towel, dry my hands. Mindfulness moment over.
I stayed with that for the 60 seconds or so that it takes me to wash my hands. I do a good job but I don’t busily think about the future or the past when I’m washing my hands. These are really really easy to use, mindfulness habits. I hope you find one of these works for you and then use it regularly all the time because it’s a little mental reset that you can have throughout your day, where you get grounded. Feel in your own space again and live the life, the day, the moment that you want to have.
I’m your happiness expert,