Moms are used to sacrificing their me time to take care of their families. And while we know prioritizing our own well-being is a must, it sometimes feels impossible to squeeze in self-care. Enter mindfulness and meditation—even a few minutes a day can yield huge rewards. The impact of getting your zen on extends far beyond a heightened sense of calm, according to the American Psychological Association. From stress and anxiety reduction to self-acceptance and enhanced mental clarity and focus, meditation has powerful health benefits.
Maybe you’ve heard about the perks of mindfulness and meditation, but you can’t find the time to just sit and chill. Or maybe you’ve attempted to quiet your mind, but distracting thoughts (or toddlers) keep showing up, disrupting your practice. Whatever your situation, read on for tips to incorporate these powerful tools into your routine, even on days when you’re too busy to sit down.
WHAT MEDITATION MEANS
Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind using a variety of physical and mental techniques. The good news is meditation isn’t limited to sitting on a cushion facing a wall, says Mark Van Buren, a meditation instructor based in Bergen County and author of Your Life is Meditation. “It’s not about feeling a certain way, nor is it trying to attain some particular type of experience. It’s not even about stopping your mind, and it’s definitely not a way to escape from the inevitable struggles of our lives,” he says. To help others understand the meaning of meditation, Van Buren created Awareness, Relaxation and Kindness (ARK). Using ARK, meditation can be practiced at each and every moment of our lives. Just tap into the present moment by simply experiencing it as it is, relaxing and holding it with a sense of compassion and warmth, he explains.
AWARENESS: We pay attention to our normal thoughts, expectations or storylines without judgment. Putting this into practice is as simple as pausing throughout the day and tapping into the present moment’s experience by relaxing and holding our feelings with a sense of compassion and warmth, Van Buren says.
RELAXATION: As we soften and relax, we expand our tolerance for the feelings we can sit with such as restlessness, worries, hopes, desires, grief, joy and sorrow.
KINDNESS: We hold our experiences, whatever they may be, with openness and unconditional warm-heartedness. “I like to bring my hand to my heart, relax my body and take a few deep breaths. I let go of all struggles and resistance and just let myself—and my life—be exactly the way they are. You’ll be amazed at how pausing many times throughout the day can positively affect your routine,” Van Buren says.
BECOME MORE MINDFUL EACH DAY
It’s easy to sprinkle mindfulness into your day—all you have to do is consciously show up. “Think of mindfulness as moving from a thought-based life to a reality-based one,” Van Buren suggests. Try setting an intention behind a task that you do regularly—like the dishes—and then execute it mindfully, he says. Instead of wandering around mindlessly in our thoughts, make the effort to be fully present for each experience, however mundane.
To put mindfulness into practice, consciously bring your attention to your senses while doing the dishes, Van Buren recommends. “Hear the sound of the water coming from the faucet. Feel the temperature of the water on your skin. Notice the smell of the soap. Be completely embodied and present for the experience without judging it,” he says.
If you practice staying present, mindfulness will become almost second nature, says Van Buren. It may never be perfect, but consciously showing up for your life, moment by moment, will slowly change your relationship to it. “Although your mind will definitely take you away from time to time, you begin learning how to live fully in the direct experience of whatever it is you’re doing,” he says.
EASY WAYS TO PUT MEDITATION INTO PRACTICE
If you’re not a fan of sitting still, no worries. Meditation can be performed through activity, too, says Lindsey Mansueto, a chiropractor and founder of Lifestyle Center at FCC in Flemington. “If you’re an avid guitar player, playing an amazing song can be a form of meditation,” she says.
Van Buren recommends walking meditation. To do it, take a walk or hike (alone or with family) and focus on being silent, experiencing the scenery and sensations of walking. Taking a few deep breaths is another accessible way to become present, says Carla Contreras, a Reiki master, meditation teacher and mom of two in Morris County. Busy moms can do it pretty much anywhere—in the school pickup line, while making dinner or even at the grocery store. “If you have the bandwidth for more, sitting down and breathing with a guided meditation for two to three minutes can really shift things,” she says.
Moms carry many burdens throughout their day in the form of to-do lists and responsibilities, Van Buren says. Meditation is a way to get some relief. “It’s like carrying around a heavy rock all day, only to realize you can put it down whenever you want. Of course, it’s still a heavy rock, but when you’re not constantly carrying it around there’s more room to look around and smell the roses.”
Fun Ways to Meditate With Your Kids
Meditation can be any activity your kids do mindfully. Being in the present moment can help your kids relax and focus. It can be done by sitting comfortably, doing a breathing exercise, scanning the body for tension and acknowledging thoughts as they come through your mind. Here are a few other things to try:
HAVE AN OPEN HEART CIRCLE: Sit in a circle, creating a safe space for kids and teens to talk about their fears, hopes and dreams, suggests Mansueto.
FIND A MANTRA: Contreras says her kids love to cite the Buddhist Loving-Kindness Meditation as a family: “May you be at ease, may you be content, may you be joyful, may you feel safe and secure.”
GIVE THANKS: Before bed each night, Mansueto and her children make time to recount all the things they are grateful for. “We reflect on the abundance in our lives as we drift off to sleep with full hearts.”