The alarm clock sounds, and you hit the off button. As you do, your mind goes from zero to 60, immediately filling your head with all the items on your to-do list and any unfinished thinking from the night before.
As you brush your teeth with one hand and check your email with the other, your mind has already transported you to some other time and place, way ahead of your body that is still waking up. As you gulp down your coffee and eat your breakfast without really tasting it, your mind is firming up plans for lunch, going over the presentation you have to give, or planning kids’ transportation issues.
Sound familiar? We spend most of our time lost in thought, from the moment we wake up in the morning to the minute we finally fall asleep. We don’t realize how this incessant mind activity leads to stress and anxiety, which in turn causes much of our dis-ease.
Mindfulness, or present moment awareness, is the antidote to this. We can easily learn to shift from our multitasking, frenzied pace to the tranquillity of the present moment, just by finding a few minutes each day to practice a bit of mindfulness. Yet, even with the best of intentions, we simply forget. Or, for many of us, we remember for a day or two, then slip back into our old patterns.
What can we do to help stay on track? Using triggers is one of the easiest and most effective ways to remember to do things we have difficulty remembering to do. Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habits, talks about creating habit loops by using existing habits or routines to trigger new habits we want to create. As a certified meditation coach and founder of my own meditation app, I’ve come across several proven triggers you can use to rewire your day for a bit more peace and calm.
1. Your alarm clock
How you choose to start your day is up to you, so why not use your first sound of the day as a reminder to get started on the right foot? Let your morning alarm remind you to take a couple of deep cleansing breaths before jumping out of bed. Morning wake-up time is also a great trigger for daily intention setting or a gratitude practice.
2. Brushing your teeth
Even something as simple as brushing your teeth can be a wonderful trigger for you to practice some mindfulness. As you brush your teeth, turn on all your senses. Taste the flavor of the toothpaste. Notice the sensation of the bristles on your teeth and gums. Smell the scent of the toothpaste. Listen to the sound of the brush on your teeth.
If you’re like most of us, this is something that you do pretty often during the day, and probably pretty mindlessly. See if you can use the habit of checking in with your email to check in with yourself. Take just a few seconds to feel your body from the inside. Notice the feeling of your body in the chair, or your body’s movement if you’re on the go.
4. Incoming calls or texts
Our phones are buzzing all day long. They can be a wonderful reminder to come back to our breath. Each time your phone rings (or buzzes or vibrates), use it as a cue to take one fully conscious breath before responding. Give your full attention to the inhalation as well as the exhalation. Really feel it from the moment the breath enters your nose until it leaves your body.
5. Stop signs or crosswalks
Stop signs and crosswalks can be used as opportunities to pause and come back to the present moment by checking in with your senses. Take a few seconds to notice the sounds around you, any smells in the air, and the feeling of the air on your skin. Hopefully, these triggers can help you bring a bit more mindfulness into your daily life.