Meditation is the ultimate multitasker.
It clears your mind, may help lower blood pressure and relieve depression and anxiety, and could even reduce the severity of IBS symptoms.
And you don’t need to convert your guest room into a crystal-adorned Zen Den to get these benefits. You can focus your mind on the present anytime-during a workout, at happy hour with friends, or even while brushing your teeth.
Really, it’s this easy: Just home in on what you see, hear, smell, and feel. Take these 15 opportunities to sneak in a jolt of mindfulness, even during the craziest of days.
1. When your alarm goes off
Trade the obnoxious beeping of your current wake-up call for relaxing music or a gentler sound, like wind chimes.
When you wake up, stay in bed for at least two minutes and soak in the sounds around you (the birds chirping outside your window, the AC humming), the feel of the sheets on your body, and the smell of freshly brewed coffee.
2. While drinking your morning cup.
Feel the warmth of the mug in your hands, inhale the strong scent, and savor each comforting sip as it goes from lips to mouth to throat to belly. Another perk: Mindful coffee drinkers are more likely to stop adding sugar to their cup, according to one study
3. While getting dressed
As you open a drawer or pull a hanger off the rod, pay attention to your movements, the smell of freshly laundered (or, umm, not) clothes, and the sensation of the material against your skin. You gain a mindful moment, and diminish the stress that happens when you’re rushing around in the a.m.
4. While taking a shower
Sudsing up is a sensory experience, which makes it an ideal setting for practicing mindfulness. Focus on the water temperature, the scent of your new shampoo, and the sound of the water as it whooshes down and hits the tiles.
5. When you’re walking around
As you stroll the farmers market, take occasional peeks skyward. Looking up can put you in the moment and trigger new perspectives (like, trying a new kind of veggie).
6. While putting on your makeup
Think of each stroke of the brush, swipe of mascara, or pass lipstick as a single activity. Breaking down your beauty routine in this way can help focus your brain before it’s inundated with a day’s worth of work deadlines and funny cat videos.
7. While cooking a meal
As you stir or chop, notice the rhythm of the spoon or knife. Inhale the scents of the dish you’re whipping up. People who get into creative activities like cooking report feeling calmer and happier the next day.
8. Whenever you climb stairs
Count the steps as you ascend, feeling your foot land on each one. Note the coordinated effort of your muscles working together. You’re going up, but the cadence can be grounding.
9. When someone compliments you.
Instead of defaulting to self-deprecation, absorb the good vibes. Receiving praise positively may even help the brain remember and repeat new skills.
10. When you’re driving (yes, really)
You need to bein a heightened state of focus and awareness when you’re behind the wheel (distracted driving causes up to 8,000 crashes a day!), so why not tune in to the present moment even further?
Turn off the music and breathe deeply as you notice the often-rhythmic sounds your car makes as you motor down the road, and the vibration of the engine throughout the vehicle.
11. When you say “thank you”
Be aware that you are experiencing gratitude, which is a really lovely thing we often gloss over, even as we express it.
Let out a sigh (a trigger to help you slow down), make eye contact with the person you’re talking to, and explain exactly what you’re thankful for and why (e.g., “I really appreciate that you brought me dinner last night. It made me feel so loved after a crap week at work.”)
12. When you’re on hold.
If the prompt says you have a 10-minute wait for the next customer service rep, don’t spend the time plotting your I-want-my-money-back rant.
Practice four-square breathing: Breathe in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, breathe out for a count of four, hold that for a count of four, and then start again.
13. While running
Focus on your muscles and their movements. Mindful exercising can “put you in the zone,” the mental state that sparks peak performance.
14. When you have your first bites of a meal
Focus on the full experience of that initial nibble. Notice how your food smells, how it feels in your mouth, and, of course, the taste. Bonus: Mindful eating has been linked to weight loss.
15. When you’re going to sleep
Mentally scan your body from toes to scalp, noting every sensation; if distracting thoughts sneak in, refocus on the body. This clears the clutter in your mind and physically relaxes you, so it’s easier to fall asleep.