This Is a Pretty Simple Way to Control Your Inner Thoughts (and Stop Stressing) was originally published on The Muse, a great place to research companies and careers. Click here to search for great jobs and companies near you.
I like yoga. That being said, yoga comes in two parts: the physical stuff and the mental stuff. The physical stuff, sign me up—I could sit in down dog all day. But the mindfulness part? That’s what I struggle with. Instructor after instructor would tell me to picture myself on a beach or pretend my breath is a song and I couldn’t help but laugh.
But I wanted to be able to do it. People are always talking about the benefits of mindfulness—how, according to science, it makes you less stressed, happier, and healthier on a daily basis. And realistically, if I wanted to get good at yoga, I had to embrace it.
But how can I be mindful when I don’t have the time, the patience, or honestly the head to really do it? Well, I discovered one great answer at a recent panel of entrepreneurs. When asked how they practice mindfulness regularly, one speaker said—get this—that she switched hands when she brushed her teeth.
It was such a simple fix, even I could do that! No breathing techniques, no images of beaches, no apps or music or coaching. While it initially seems like a cop out, she pointed out that our everyday habits become so tired, broken, and monotonous that we usually complete them without any thought. Switching them up, she says, brings our awareness back to where we are in the moment. I mean, who isn’t going to notice the awkward and quite uncomfortable feeling of brushing your teeth with the wrong hand?
That got me thinking—how else could I switch up my routine in even the smallest ways? What habits have gotten so easy, so thoughtless, that I’m losing precious time to be mindful?
One Harvard Business Review article suggests it’s as easy as rethinking your commute. Don’t just get into your car and turn the key like normal—take in how the car feels, smells, looks, and take note how your body feels in it. It may sound silly, but taking the time to really notice things has a calming—and meditative—effect. As HBR author Maria Gonzalez says, “When your mind controls you, it is very stressful; but when you are able to control your mind, it can be very relaxing.”
And that’s such a powerful phrase—controlling your mind. Isn’t that exactly what we want to do all the time? And yet we don’t. In order to take back control of your mind, you have to get it off the cyclical routine.
So let’s start mixing things up a bit—and not just for today, but every day. Maybe that means moving to the other side of your office for a week. Or, choosing to walk a different route from your desk to your parked car. Or, eating in the kitchen instead of at your desk.
Or, it could just mean bringing awareness back to the things we do constantly—paying close attention to the buildings we always pass on our way home, the people who sit next to us every day, or even the way our generic snacks taste.
Overall, the more we challenge ourselves, even if it’s in little ways, the more we’ll unintentionally bring mindfulness into our daily lives, rather than struggle to summon it at random.