The Art Of Mi­cro Mind­ful­ness

10 mi­cro­hab­its to get you liv­ing in the mo­ment

Women's Health (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - By Jamie Her­gen­rader

We’ve all heard that mind­ful­ness is a men­tal-health holy grail: the an­swer to lack of fo­cus, a blah mood and even stress (which leads to phys­i­cal ben­e­fits such as bet­ter sleep and a boosted im­mune sys­tem). But who has all that ex­tra time to sit around be­ing mind­ful with a sched­ule full of ap­point­ments and obli­ga­tions? Here’s the thing: we’re get­ting the con­cept all wrong, says Pe­dram Sho­jai, a for­mer Taoist monk, doc­tor of ori­en­tal medicine, and au­thor of The Art of Stop­ping Time: Prac­ti­cal Mind­ful­ness for Busy Peo­ple. The idea that you must med­i­tate to be mind­ful is a mis­trans­la­tion of East­ern philoso­phies, he says. In his book, Sho­jai sug­gests 100 “mi­cro­hab­its”, small ac­tions that can Zen you out and save you time by help­ing you use it with in­ten­tion in­stead of wast­ing it. And you don’t have to be solo, ei­ther – some are meant to be done while in­ter­act­ing with oth­ers. “Time is the cur­rency of life, so any way that you can hack your day to be­come more aware of how you spend time can im­prove your re­la­tion­ship with it,” says Sho­jai. We had a (scep­ti­cal) health jour­nal­ist, Tracy Mid­dle­ton, try 10 mi­cro­hab­its dur­ing the course of a day. See how she fared, then de­cide which could work for your life.

Morn­ing rit­ual

While your cof­fee brews or your shower warms, fill the wait with a stretch to wake up your mind and body. TRACY TRIED IT: “While the milk for my latte was froth­ing, I stretched out my shoul­ders, neck and arms. My mus­cles ap­pre­ci­ated the love af­ter the pre­vi­ous day’s head­stands at yoga and I started to feel more alert, a rar­ity pre-latte. I’ll make this a reg­u­lar thing.”

Vow of si­lence

In­stead of talk­ing for the sake of it, pipe up only if you need to. You’ll be­come aware of how of­ten you speak for a rea­son ver­sus just adding to the chat­ter. TRACY TRIED IT: “At my morn­ing barre class, ev­ery­one was talk­ing about their week­end plans. I was able to lis­ten 100 per­cent in­stead of de­cid­ing what I was go­ing to say, so it was a les­son for my lis­ten­ing skills. But I might leave it at that be­cause I felt awk­ward be­ing the only one not talk­ing.”

Anx­i­ety check

Scan your mind for stress, iden­tify the cause so it doesn’t spi­ral and note how it’s af­fect­ing you (e.g. your shoul­ders are up by your ears). You’ll regain con­trol of your feel­ings and learn how you han­dle times of un­ease. TRACY TRIED IT: “While driv­ing my daugh­ter to pre-school, my mind was con­sumed with my to-do list. My chest felt tight and my breath­ing was shal­low. To re­fo­cus my­self on the present, I talked with my daugh­ter and made a men­tal note to do this scan reg­u­larly be­fore I get be­hind the wheel.”

At­ti­tude ad­just­ment

When you run into some­one with neg­a­tive juju, recog­nise it with­out adopt­ing it to stay in con­trol of your own re­ac­tions. TRACY TRIED IT: “At work, a col­league was com­plain­ing about a task. In­stead of adding a work gripe of my own, I pointed out some pos­i­tives. Her at­ti­tude didn’t change, but I didn’t let it tank mine.”

Mean­ing­ful eye con­tact

A brief lock of eyes cre­ates a sub­tle con­nec­tion, an­chor­ing you to the present – bonus if it’s with a stranger, since that re­quires more con­scious­ness than do­ing so with a pal. TRACY TRIED IT: “I tried this in a meet­ing and no­body would look at me! But af­ter work, I saw a mom try­ing to cor­ral her daugh­ter, who was danc­ing in the mid­dle of the pave­ment. Our eyes met and I shot her a smile to say ‘your kid is adorable!’ She grinned back. Warm fuzzies all around.”

Ran­dom act of kind­ness

Do­ing a good deed boosts your mood (and the re­cip­i­ent’s), in­fus­ing up­beat en­ergy into your day. TRACY TRIED IT: “I made an af­ter­noon cof­fee run and paid for the per­son be­hind me in the drive-through line. It felt good to put pos­i­tiv­ity out into the world, which can feel pretty neg­a­tive lately. Best money spent all day.”

Re­sist­ing your phone

Avoid the mind­less so­cial scroll (we know, it’s hard) and in­stead, ob­serve your sur­round­ings or just sit with your thoughts. TRACY TRIED IT: “I left my phone at home dur­ing my older daugh­ter’s pi­ano les­son and that half-hour was fid­gety tor­ture. But I watched the les­son and now I can help her prac­tise this week! I knew I used my phone as a crutch, but clearly I need to un­plug more.” Im­pulse con­trol Ask your­self if you re­ally need some­thing be­fore buy­ing it to avoid fi­nan­cial stress and clut­ter. TRACY TRIED IT: “I was on Ama­zon or­der­ing a dryer part – I know, ex­cit­ing – and these pricey art pens caught my eye. I glanced at the pile of colour­ful Sharpies next to my jour­nal and re­frained. This tip is use­ful since I tend to be an im­pulse buyer.”

Time to read

Books of­fer an es­cape from daily life. Make time to read at least 30 pages. TRACY TRIED IT: “I fi­nally started Zadie Smith’s Swing Time. Her com­plex writ­ing is the op­po­site of the news items I usu­ally skim on my phone in bed. The switch felt deca­dent. I’ll make book read­ing a nightly habit.”

Re­think­ing daily com­mit­ments

Check your cal­en­dar for unessen­tial stuff you can cut and tasks that can be del­e­gated. Then pen­cil in time for you. TRACY TRIED IT: “Most things were essen­tial, like work, and stuff that wasn’t, like hav­ing friends over for din­ner, keeps me sane. I asked my friend to bring dessert, so in­stead of bak­ing, I re­laxed in my ham­mock. If this is mind­ful­ness, I’m sold.”


The Art of Stop­ping Time: Prac­ti­cal Mind­ful­ness for Busy Peo­ple (pub­lished by Rodale Books) by Pe­dram Sho­jai (R271),

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