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How to bring mindfulness to even your busiest days

I am a writer, blogger, cancer survivor who created HerAfter, a blog for women that uses consciousness to discuss beauty, well-being, style and life's big questions.

Whatever stage of life you're in, mindfulness matters. But whether it's running from the office to happy hour, or manning the minivan helm from soccer to piano practice, it's not always easy to pencil in moments of calm that can help you be more mindful and conscious. What's the secret to making it all fit into your hectic 24 hours? Mini-meditations.

Meditation has been proven to reduce stress, improve feelings of contentment and happiness and boost creativity and productivity. While you may not have 30 minutes every day to sit in a quiet, dark space with your eyes closed (though if you can find a way, I guarantee life-changing results!), even the busiest of ladies has the chance to practice "awake awareness." Think of these little mini-meditations as easy access to that post-yoga glow, or meditating with eyes open while you're living your day-to-day life. With a little practice and diligence, these easy tactics of "checking in" will be the highlight of your day, and effortlessly help you control your emotions and thoughts in a positive, transformative way.

In the morning

If your novel-length to-do list for the day has you running all around town, build in mini-meditations to activities you'd already be doing.

Implement thoughtful insights and questions into your morning routine. Standing in front of the mirror while doing your makeup is a golden opportunity. After all, here you are face-to-face with yourself! For every stage of makeup, give yourself one compliment. For example, while you're applying the day's lipstick hue, mentally or out loud compliment what you love about your lips. It can be "I love the shape" or "I love how plump and kissable they are," or it can be something deeper; "I love my ability to say insightful compliments to others." If complimenting yourself is too hard (which it can be when confidence is low) then offer an intention. Things like "I will only speak positive thoughts today" or "I will not offer negative gossip today" are fantastic. Soon these compliments will be habit and will reprogram your mind to see the true beauty in you!

Take a moment with your morning coffee for a bit of quiet. If your routine is to grab a mug on the go, add an extra five minutes to your morning alarm to give yourself time to savor the flavor. Sipping something hot can be very relaxing and restorative. This quietness before the storm of your hectic day is the perfect chance for a "check-in;" see how your mind and body are feeling and bring to the forefront of your mind something that you're excited about for the day.

In the afternoon

Halfway to happy hour! How's it going so far? Time for another check-in.

Do you eat lunch at the desk? If so, break that habit stat! The act of eating is one that should be taken with compassion and care. Plus, eating mindlessly while you work is one of the quickest ways to add extra pounds to your waistline and establish unhealthy snacking habits. Instead, make it a ritual of celebration. Notice the colors and smells of the food. Before the first bite, ask yourself, "Why have I chosen this lunch? What will this food bring to my body and life?" Questions like this will help you identify whether your eating is for comfort or health. It will also start the conversation within yourself about eating to give yourself the energy and vibrancy for a happy healthy life.

All too often, we cure mid-afternoon slump with yet more coffee. But natural sources of energy might be more fulfilling and influential on your workday. Step outside, take a walk around the block. Just a 10-minute walk basking in the sunlight can yield benefits. The nature walk is widely advocated by thinkers including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Eckhart Tolle. The key is to clear your mind of thought and worry, be present in the moment that you're in and let the heart and mind take a rest. Even if your nature walk is around the block of your bustling office building, you can still cultivate* a sense of peace by quieting your thoughts, giving your attention to your breath and manifesting* a sense of stillness in yourself. How does the air feel coming into your lungs? Thank the sun for coming up today. What looks like it's in bloom around you? What colors do you see? A clear, calm, collected mind will come back to the office ready to tackle assignments with a freshness and the ability to formulate new perspectives on problems.

*Notice the words "cultivate" and "manifest;" that's because the calm isn't always going to be there waiting for you. Sometimes you have to create it yourself!

In the evening

It feels like everyone wants to tout the meditation-on-the-commute as the key to contentment. But realistically, jammed between strangers on the subway or squeezing the life out of your steering wheel in traffic is hardly the place to feel happy and calm. Instead, wait till you get home. Here are some check-in meditations that will offer a restorative energy to your evening plans.

Make the moment before you start cooking dinner a place to decompress. Pour a glass of wine, keep the music off, and offer gratitude for the day. Take a moment to feel pride for something you got done today; it can be little, like an errand run, or big, like a project at work you feel proud of.

A journal is a great outlet for stress, and a fantastic way to bring about more positive feelings. For many women, a gratitude journal offers the chance to visually account for all the blessings of your life. For others, the "Bridget Jones Diary" is more helpful. Let the pages be your safe place to let out your emotions in a constructive way. But beware: Get them out, and let them stay in the book. After you've written out your negative feelings, let the book hold them for you while you take a clear head away with you into the world.

In the cool quiet of the night, in the moments before you fall asleep, take the Benjamin Franklin approach to planning your life. Every morning, he asked himself "what good will I do this day?" and finished out the evening with the reverse "what good have I done this day?" Before you fall asleep, reflect on the events of the day. What good did you create in the world? Did you compliment a friend, help a stranger or offer your seat on the bus? What good do you want to create tomorrow? Do you want to be more positive, more fun tomorrow? Is there an event you're looking forward to, like lunch with someone you love? Just the act of consciously thinking about, planning and anticipating how you use your energy and time is essential to living fully. A well-lived life takes consciousness, and these minutes when the house is still and solitude is all around is a great place to offer your intentions for the life you want.

At the end of every check-in, take a deep breath! Bring new air in, let old, stale air out. The feeling of rounding out your check-ins with a big sigh is very relaxing. And remember, each day is a new day to be conscious, to be present and to offer your best self to the world. Your friends and family will thank you for the rejuvenated you when you bring mindfulness into your actions!

Image: Tom Carmony/Flickr
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