Making Mindfulness Easier

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Meditation practice is not just about clearing your head for five minutes. It is meant to improve your ability to be mindful. All the times. About all the things. It strengthens the decision-brain. It makes choices and paying attention simpler.

While the goal is to always be more mindful and centered, we aren’t monks. We’re lay-people. Our job is to operate in the modern world, which means we cannot completely eschew being judgmental. We can’t always focus on our breath. We have to make decisions very often, and often very quickly. We don’t sit in a monastery and meditate non-stop. We will likely never have the strength of mindfulness of the Buddha.

Instead of pretending we can accomplish in 10-minutes-a-day what monks take 20 years to accomplish, what we can do is make it easier to be mindful. Easier to feel focused. Easier to remain calm. Easier to feel present, in the moment, with the people you’re with in the place that you are.

In light of this, below are 5 tips on how to make being mindful easier.

1) Early Rising: First thing in the morning, get the things done that you absolutely know will bug you all day if you don’t. People, in general, are creative in the morning. They’re also likely to get better grades, and be in better moods. This includes your children. They’re likely best able to entertain themselves in the morning. Take advantage of these natural tendencies and complete things when you wake up, so that you aren’t thinking all day about the letters you have to send.

2) Always Be Done: Break down different tasks into manageable bite-sized pieces so that you will feel that they are accomplished. This can be done by allocating a specific portion of a project that you have to do or by allocating a specific amount of time that you have to do things. Leaving things unfinished is hard and distracting. There are many things that take way too much time to finish, especially in the framework of a busy household and children’s whose needs you cannot schedule.

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I set aside 15 minutes to write every day. For many people, also setting a time period during the day to do it is helpful—say 9 a.m.–with the flexibility requisite for a parent. You know your family, so no one else can tell you what this time frame should be.

If I wanted to break it down by portion-blocks, I might write 1,000 words every day.
Shoot for a minimum. If you end up getting more time, feel free to either allocate another block or just go until you feel like quitting.

If you cannot get five minutes alone, I suggest that you start working towards that goal. You can look to Janet Lansbury on how to encourage independent play in children.

3) Declutter: This will create a more mindful space for your children and yourself. There is enough research showing that cluttered desks leads to poor cognitive performance to know that this is a good trick for being more mindful.

This will also help your children with their five minutes alone. You probably have too many toys. You should get rid of them. The less toys your child has, the less likely they are to make a mess with them, the easier they are to clean, the easier it is for them to focus on what they’re doing. Get rid of some toys. Try toy rotation.

Declutter doesn’t always mean being a minimalist. Not everyone agrees with keeping everything beige. In an interesting episode of Primal Happiness, host Lian Brook-Tyler and guest Maggie Minor talk about different ways to make rooms suited to how you would like to feel in them, which can be colorful and can include as many things as you absolutely love.

The sentiment expressed in this episode is echoed by productivity experts who say that you should design rooms based around how you want to function in them. Make your bedroom for sleeping and your office for working.

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4) Routine: Routines are not only for children. They don’t just help children feel calmed. As I’ve mentioned before, adults are not fundamentally different creatures than children; we’re just more developed. We still have strong feelings, and we still have a hard time with transitions.

Routines are not the same as schedules. They mean that after we do this, we do that.

This doesn’t mean getting rid of spontaneity in your life. In this episode of Achieve Your Goals, IMPROV experts discuss how routines can lead to more spontaneity. Since everyone is centered and knows what needs to be done, it is easy to know if you can repriortizie. It is easy to get back on track afterwards.

5) Note taking: Offload your cognitive burden. Don’t keep saying in your head “Pick the kids up at 5 o’clock.” all day long. Just put it in the calendar (two, if you’re worried; schedule a friend to call you if you’re very worried), and forget it until if needs to be known.

Get rid of the notion that you can remember a lot. That’s great. The point is you don’t need to.

If you take these steps, then you won’t need to work so hard to be mindful in every moment. Getting rid of distractions, both physical and mental, is the best way to be where you are, and be with who you’re with.

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