All of us act out habits on a daily basis, whether we are aware of them or not. Some habits are healthy and useful (such as brushing our teeth or eating a nutritious breakfast), while others have developed over time without our conscious consent (think scrolling through your phone during moments of downtime or mindlessly scarfing down lunch in front of the computer at work).
If we are not intentional in creating healthy habits that support our mental and physical health in the long run, we default to unhealthy habits that serve our desire for instant gratification in the short term.
When life feels particularly overwhelming, such as in our current international health climate, it is vital that we create simple, quick habits—what I call mindful breaks—to bolster our mental health and overall wellbeing.
Mindful breaks are hacks to help us more consciously establish habits, setting us up for healthier, value-driven choices. They are opportunities and reminders in the midst of busy days to bring our awareness back to the moment and choose where we place our attention and in which direction we head. The good news about mindful breaks is that though they demand a bit of discipline initially, once they become part of your daily routine, they require little thought or effort to maintain. Just like teeth brushing, they flow seamlessly into each day, infusing your life with healthy behaviors and habits.
Here are six simple 5-minute mindful breaks to get you started:
Wake with gratitude.
Before you step foot out of bed in the morning reflect on what is good in your life. Though your thoughts may veer toward the negative, kindly, but firmly shift them back to gratitude. Start the day on a positive note. Be intentional about what it is you focus on and how you frame it.
Meditate for 5-minutes each morning.
Before any action is taken, it is first crucial to pause and get quiet for a bit. Use a guided meditation or app to get started. Without this vital first step we engage in unhealthy familiar patterns, barrel through our days on autopilot without much insight into what we would like to change in our lives, and react impulsively. Awareness is incredibly empowering.
Move your body.
Stretch, run, dance, play ball, garden. Do what feels good. Get your heart pumping. Get a partner, friend, or child in on the action. Notice how you feel both before and after. Research shows that just a few minutes of movement is mood-enhancing and calming.
Disengage from media.
Be purposeful about spending time away from screens and the news. Some information is vital and necessary; too much is anxiety-producing and counter-productive.
Step out of autopilot and steady yourself.
Take a few deep breaths and look around at your current surroundings. Name five things you can see, four things you can hear, three things you can feel, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
Don’t forget to play.
What did you love to do as a child? What have you always wanted to try? What brings you joy or sets you on a path of flow? Pull out crayons and draw. Play a game of catch. Put on some music and dance. Let go of self-judgment. Get lost in the process for the sake of pure enjoyment.
Hang in there, my friends!!