The year is 2019. The busy world we live in can pose a challenge for us to create and keep a healthy lifestyle, to be fully present in every moment of our life and to experience every single day in the best way possible.
After years of practicing mindfulness and coaching clients on stress management and dealing with anxiety, I have compiled a list of the 10 most impactful Mindfulness Rituals that have the potential to make your life better.
Since you are the one knowing yourself the best, you can feel free to try all of them, or pick and choose the rituals you believe you need the most at this stage of your life.
1.Start Your Mindful Day At the Moment You Wake Up
As you open your eyes, acknowledge waking up to a new day. Take a few slow deep breaths. Stretch your body. Unless you are running late, please don’t rush getting out of bed straight away. You might still be between dreams and reality. Slow down and savor that moment. Enjoy it for a few minutes. Allow yourself to transition gently from sleeping state to awake state. If you have a partner and he/she is next to you, take a few mindful moments to give time and affection to him/her. Enjoying these precious minutes of your morning will set your mood and attitude for the rest of the day.
The very famous Philosopher and Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius said: “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” Practicing gratitude and mindfulness from the moment you open your eyes will allow you to start your day in a mindful, grounded and centered way. It is another day full of opportunities to be and to do your best.
2. Do Not Check Your Phone Just Yet
The first thing many people do immediately when they wake up is checking their phone. They start reading and replying to messages, emails, scrolling through social media to see the newest updates. You might not realize it because it is very subtle, but guess what – by doing this first thing in the morning, you are allowing other people to steal your time and attention from you, from the very moment you open your eyes.
Checking your phone immediately after waking up puts you in reactive mode – you start reacting to the people who want to reach you. Checking social media at that moment opens the gate to your brain and a huge amount of information (often completely unnecessary) starts flooding in, and you aren’t even fully awake yet! All this might make you anxious without you realizing it. Instead of reaching out to your phone immediately, give this precious time and attention to yourself, so you can start your day in a proactive mode – the one that allows you to be the master of your actions.
Unless you need to check on something urgently, I suggest that you check your phone after you have started your day in a mindful and self-caring way. I would even suggest that you put your phone at least a few feet away from your bed so you can protect yourself from the radio frequency energy emitted by the device.
3. Enjoy Some Time Journaling
Invest 10 minutes of your day to be with yourself, your thoughts and emotions. Have a notebook which you designate to be your journal. Every day, be it in the morning or in the evening, sit down and write as much or as little as you want. You can write about how you feel at that very moment, you can describe any emotions that are being present inside you, any self-talk you might be having, etc. By doing so you acknowledge whatever might be happening inside you and you give it an outlet of expression.
Many people don’t allow time for self-reflection and self-expression in such or a similar way. Not expressing what might be bubbling inside us will eventually lead to a subtle or a major explosion of emotions. Releasing these emotions during journaling on another hand allows for self-reflection, self-understanding and self-compassion. Sometimes it might feel as if you are having a conversation with yourself and that’s great! This is a practice of acknowledging yourself and honoring your inner world and your inner growth. Sometimes you might have a lot to express and write. Sometimes it might be very little. Knowing that you carve mindful time and space to be with yourself brings contentment and peace.
4. Replenish Your Body
It might be a cup of tea, coffee, water, hot water with lemon and honey, or something else. I love matcha and I make it every morning. It’s a ritual on its own. You have slept for 7-8 hours and it’s very likely that your body is de-hydrated, so it needs liquids. Prepare your drink of choice and after you do that, allow yourself to enjoy every sip, as slowly and mindfully as you can.
You can start with enjoying the smell of a cup of coffee for example. You can then take a sip allowing the taste to wash over your taste buds as you are also sensing how it’s starting to invigorate your body. If you like having breakfast, prepare it with love. Allow all your senses to participate – enjoy the colors of your food, the delicious smell, and of course the taste of it.
Mediation has become a buzz word these days. Do you know why? Because it’s working.
There are many different types of meditation you can choose from. There is no right or wrong way of meditation. There is also no bad meditation because every meditation you do takes you a step closer to yourself.
When I was getting trained to become Mindfulness and Meditation Teacher, I realized the importance of being able to switch from one type of meditation to another depending on your state of mind and your needs at that moment.
For example, if I need stillness in the morning or during the day, I would do Zazen (Zen sitting meditation) or Breath Awareness meditation. Both of them increase concentration and reduce stress and anxiety. If I need compassion for myself and others, I would do Loving Kindness meditation. It promotes self-love and love for others and it’s great to practice when we feel anger, frustration or are in a conflict, both intrapersonal and interpersonal. If I wanted to visualize myself or a certain situation for example, I would do Visualization meditation. Or if I feel that my body needs some love and attention, I would do a Body Scan meditation. Body scan meditation promotes calmness and relaxation, so it’s great to do before going to sleep as well.
In general, all types of meditation start with taking your meditation posture. You can invest in a meditation cushion if you plan to make meditation part of your daily routine. I like teaching my students that the way they sit on their meditation cushion is the way they’d like to show up in the world, and so we take a posture of dignity, self-respect, alert relaxation and relaxed alertness at the same time.
As you start meditating, at some point your mind will most likely start wandering. If and when that happens, just bring it back gently and compassionately. The goal of meditation is not to reject your thoughts but to create a new relationship to them. There is nothing wrong about your mind wandering. Please don’t judge yourself. That’s what the mind is for – it thinks, analyzes and it sorts through an immense amount of information. All it takes is becoming aware that your mind is somewhere else and then bringing it back gently while also coming back to your breath. As you keep practicing, you will find yourself less easily distracted by passing thoughts, your mind will become more clearer, more stable and less reactive to volatile emotions.
6. Allow for AHA Moments to Be Present throughout Your Day
There was a moment in my life about four years ago when I was going through some challenging emotions. It was a glorious Sunday morning and I was on my way to my Zen temple. I was totally absorbed in my thoughts, asking myself why I felt certain way and judging myself on how I shouldn’t be feeling that way.
I went to the temple and we had our Sunday liturgy and Zazen (Zen sitting meditation). My mind was wandering a lot that morning. From time to time I would feel my emotions bubbling inside me, distracting me and taking away the focus I was trying to place on my breath. I was trying to control my emotions so hard and not being able to do so was letting me feel as if I failed in something that I should be able to do.
Part of a Sunday Zen temple ceremony is something called Dharma talk. It is a talk given by a Zen Master and interestingly, as it happens in life, the talk that morning was on emotions.
The Zen Master started by asking: “Do you believe you can control your emotions?” And then he paused and let people contemplate the answer. And then he asked another question, which was: “Have you ever been to a celebration not feeling happy? Have you had moments in your life when you were supposed to feel sad and you didn’t?”
I asked myself these questions and the answers to both was a sound Yes. It was at that moment when I realized that we don’t control our emotions. And the moment I realized that it was as if weight was lifted off my shoulders and my heart opened more. I felt an incredible feeling of self-acceptance, self-compassion and self-understanding. Emotions come and go like a wave and the only thing we are in control of is our response to these emotions and the action we take as a result of them.
We are human beings and as such, we are full of emotions. AHA stands for Aware, Honor and Action and it is a technique I developed for increasing our awareness around the emotions we are experiencing. The moment we become Aware of a certain emotion, we Honor it without trying to reject, suppress or change it, and we then create a mindful Action as a result of that awareness.
7. Stop Wishing for Things to Be Different
The main reason for the suffering we experience in our life is that we want things to be different. Life is a sequence of moments. As we are experiencing these moments, we are consciously and subconsciously trying to avoid discomfort and get closer to comfort. Discomfort and comfort have a different meaning for each of us and yet, the direction we move is either going away from something or going towards something else.
We are almost never in the present. The past is already gone, and the future is not here yet. All we have is the present moment and being fully in the present is what allows us to create the future we want.
Whenever we feel ourselves experiencing or going through a challenging moment, instead of trying to go away and escape from it, we can pause and gently ask ourselves: “How can this situation be my teacher? What is it showing to me? How can I fully experience what I am experiencing right now without wishing it to be different? How can I allow what I’m going through right now to be a portal to a deeper self-discovery and connection with myself?”.
And once we ask all these questions, we can become quiet, and listen, and listen, and love ourselves. The answers will come. The quieter we become, the more we’ll be able to hear.
8. Stop Clinging to Positive Memories
Whenever we experience a situation that makes us happy in one way or another, we have a tendency to replay that situation in our mind again and again, and we tend to want to recreate it. There is nothing wrong about remembering pleasant memories and wanting to be happy. At the same time, if we grasp onto these past memories too tightly, we are again living in the past. If we are trying too hard to recreate these happy moments again in the way they happened in our past, we might be losing the opportunity to experience an even happier situation.
The secret to making the most of such experiences is to acknowledge that we are enjoying a pleasurable and happy situation as it is happening, to be grateful for it, to be aware that it will not last forever and to give yourself permission to bask in the glory of that happiness for as long as it lasts, knowing and trusting that there will be even more, and even happier moments in your future.
9. When wrapping up your workday write down any outstanding actions you weren’t able to complete today, as well as your goals for tomorrow.
As busy as we all are, we have only 24 hours per day. Sometimes we are unable to complete our daily goals. In cases like that we beat ourselves up and our subconscious mind keeps a score of all incomplete actions. When you write down your outstanding actions, you are telling your mind: “Ok, I know we still have things to do. I did my best today. Tomorrow is a new day and we can complete all of these then”.
You can also write down your goals for tomorrow, so your mind can rest assured that nothing has been forgotten. Having a ritual of writing both, your remaining actions and tomorrow’s goals, also allow for a peaceful sleep during the night.
10. Play “Three Things I Am Grateful for Today”
“Three things I am grateful for today” is a fun and easy game/practice of gratitude.
Step One – find a gratitude buddy. Your gratitude buddy could be your best friend, your partner, a relative, a close friend – anyone who is willing to play and practice with you.
Step Two – every night before going to bed, send each other a text that consists of the three things you are grateful for on that day. It could be as simple as the delicious breakfast you had in the morning, or a tough project you completed on time – it could be anything that you feel grateful for.
This practice is an incredible way to make time and space for gratitude in your life, and I promise you – you will be surprised by how much is there which we could be grateful for!