We’re about halfway through the first month of the new year, and we’d be lying if we said the past two weeks have been a cakewalk. From already breaking our resolutions to dealing with post-vacation blues, the rigors of everyday life can often lead to stress and anxiety. But fear not. Mindfulness, a traditional Buddhist practice that advocates for living in the present moment, is proven to reduce negative emotions, boost your immune system and even improve relationships—whether it’s with your SO (just in time for V-Day!) or with your barista, the only person who really knows how nice you are before your first espresso. Here, a few techniques that are almost easier than spelling the word “meditation.”
The next time you tackle your to-do list, pay attention to the way you're doing each activity. During meal prep, feel the weight of the knife in your hand as it slices into an onion. Then feel the weight of your tears as they proceed to stream down your face—thank you, syn-propanethial-S-oxide molecules. But no, don't actually think about the molecules. Simply concentrate on your experience of the current task, and try not to let your mind wander to inconsequential things like which Netflix series to binge next.
It’s easy to get swept up in the Internet and habitual app-checking with all your virtual friends, but if you can manage to put your phone down for a few moments, you might find that (gasp) you’re a living, breathing human being—and you should take advantage of that while you can. Retreat to a quiet place, close your eyes and take a few inhales and exhales, focusing on each breath. You’ll be surprised when, thanks to your deep breaths, it's 4pm and you still haven't hit that midday slump.
Again, you were blessed with the ability to read this sentence, so use that gift of sight. On the way to work, during your afternoon coffee run or as you stretch at the gym, consider the environment you’re in as well as the physical properties and characteristics of objects and people who surround you (just be sure not to stare—humans tend to think this is creepy). After all, there are two kinds of folks: Those who are just looking to get to their destination, and those who want to truly experience the journey.
It turns out that reading between the lines also applies to the spoken word—it’s a practice called active listening, and it happens when you listen to what another person is saying with acute attention and interest (and without judgment). So instead of tuning out as your roommate drones on about her incompetent coworker for the hundredth time, put aside your opinions on the subject and take note of the way she delivers her words. You might find out she’s not actually complaining about her coworker’s desk habits after all (in fact, she’s subtly hinting at your poor housekeeping skills).
Perhaps the most important of the bunch, this entails some serious self-reflection in which you have the opportunity to learn things about yourself you’ve never previously known. (This can be either cathartic or genuinely terrifying, depending.) The idea is to find about 15 uninterrupted minutes each day to positively appreciate your body, your mind and your thoughts. Feel free to ask yourself questions that need answering (e.g., Why am I single? Will I ever be able to tell when an avocado is ripe?). Of course, when you’re done, you’ll feel like you’ve conquered something great—and in a way, you have: yourself.