The Five-Minute Experiment
by Kari Pederson
This time of year makes me feel tired. Perhaps my circadian rhythms are adjusting to less daylight or my body is preparing for cold weather hibernation. Or maybe I feel weary because of a seemingly endless to-do list. For many of us, late autumn can be a hectic season. Nonetheless, my tempo has shifted, and my body and spirit definitely want to move more slowly.
As I was attempting another internal pep talk to feel energized, two intriguing questions popped out of my subconscious. Why not embrace this new rhythm and allow myself to slow down? And, how could I use this slower pace to my advantage?
The practice of mindfulness has been around for eons and is often considered a type of meditation. Instead of traditional meditation where you try to quiet your mind, the goal of mindfulness is to put your complete focus on whatever is happening in the present moment. Think of it as immersing yourself in a situation and getting everything you can out of the experience. Pay close attention to anything you see, hear, smell, taste, touch, feel – experience. If your focus wanders, gently bring your awareness back to the present moment.
Mindfulness has been linked to improvements in health, working memory, creativity, cognitive flexibility, insight and productivity. My inner writer and artist could sure use more of those enhancements! However, my biggest perk from experimenting with mindfulness has been how much more I enjoy previously mundane activities. My daily walk to the streetcar stop has transformed from a chore into a satisfying journey.
I ignored the potential benefits of mindfulness for a long time because I feared the process might be complicated or time-consuming. In reality, I have discovered endless opportunities to practice mindfulness and just five minutes is enough to reap positive benefits. Every moment in your day is right for mindfulness, including ordinary experiences or special events.
For those of you who already have a full schedule, I am not suggesting you quit your job, stop parenting, or throw your responsibilities out the window. Although right now, three weeks in the French Riviera sounds pretty good to me. I am suggesting you take five minutes every day to practice mindfulness, whenever or wherever it feels good to you.
Let your creativity go wild and design your own mindfulness moments, or try some of the options listed below. Remember you cannot do this practice incorrectly, and your goal is simply to focus on the present moment as much as you can.
Need help getting started? Practice mindfulness by doing any of these activities:
- Color a page of an adult coloring book with colored pencils.
- Ask a friend to share a favorite story and listen more than you talk.
- Nibble on your favorite mini-candy bar for at least five minutes.
- Play music that makes you tap your toes or sway with the beat.
- Make the perfect cup of coffee or tea and pay attention to every sip.
- Cuddle with a loved one or a furry friend. Repeat often.
- Browse at Powell’s Books, Blick Art Materials, or another favorite store.
- Watch the last few minutes of a sunset or sunrise.
- Use sidewalk chalk to create a masterpiece in an unexpected place.
- Pick your clothing or accessories with care.
- Explore new products at the grocery store. Bring one home.
- Build a creation out of Legos, paper clips or coins.
- Smile at the next ten people who make eye contact.
- Walk a labyrinth or a favorite trail. Walk slowly.
- Take a little extra time with a hot bath or shower.
- Count the raindrops you can hear or feel.
- Repeat a tongue twister to yourself or practice an impression.
- Stand up and stretch. Feel each muscle expand or contract.
- Chop veggies or mix up a cake by hand.
- Thank someone for his or her help or inspiration.
In addition to all the benefits already touched on, mindfulness is effective and efficient self-care. Artists give a lot of themselves by creating their art and sharing it with others. Sometimes we need to recharge our physical and emotional batteries. Mindfulness gives us a great excuse to focus on ourselves for a few minutes and enjoy whatever task is at hand.
** If anyone is willing to post a reply to this article, we would love to hear about the results of your mindfulness experiment.
Kari Pederson, MSW, LCSW, is a writer, clinical social worker and wellness coach who has worked with children and adults for over 25 years. An avid student of positive psychology, she loves helping people live their best lives. Kari is a new writer to VoiceCatcher’s community website and thrilled to be part of its mission. This is the ninth installment in her series, Healthy Spirit – Limitless Possibilities.