It’s not just me. In a 2018 survey by the Mental Health Foundation think tank, 81 per cent of women said they felt overwhelmed during a 12-month period. So, when meditation teacher Liza Kindred’s book – Eff This! Meditation – arrived in the mail, I was intrigued. Can small daily practices truly slow life down? I decide to put Kindred’s strategies to the test.
If you have 1 minute… Try inbreath < outbreath
Just take a few (preferably deep) breaths, where you count your inbreath to five and give your outbreath a count to seven. Breathing as a calming technique is not new advice – it’s probably the first thing I ever learnt to do for my own wellness. But, do I actually use it? No, I do not. “We can take direct control of our nervous system by making conscious choices about how we breathe,” says Kindred.
I set the ‘Breathe’ function on my smartwatch for 60 seconds, three times a day. At first I found the prompts (which beep at random times) a little annoying because I didn’t have a minute to waste on frivolous breathing! But, the watch has a sensor and knows if I’m cheating, so I had to down tools wherever I was – in the cheese section at Sydney’s Harris Farm Markets once – to stop and exhaaaale. By the week’s end I’ve come to enjoy these forced micro breaks, which my heart rate monitor also registers as a drop in my BPM. Nice!
If you have 5 minutes… Make a to-done list
List everything that you’ve gotten done so far today, or this week, or even this year. “Be specific, re-read it and take a moment to really appreciate everything that is on it. You’re doing better than you think!” explains Kindred.
The smuggery I got from this retrospective over my week was really quite surprising. I called my mum! I worked out four times! I made a roast dinner! I went to the movies by myself! Look at me go! I managed to list 22 things that I’d never give a second thought to. This was a great slowing-down moment and it also gave me a confidence boost. I’m going to make it a Sunday night ritual.
If you have 30 minutes… Do a deep clean
Set a timer for 30 minutes and spend that time deep cleaning something that’s been bugging you: the junk drawer, your kitchen pantry. “The point is to stick to the time and relieve some low-grade stress in your life,” explains Kindred.
I chose a digital deep clean. I deleted thousands of sent Gmails (very satisfying), cleaned my desktop and trashed a load of old files. I still had 15 minutes left so I attempted to clean up my iPhotos but got sidetracked clicking through old travel albums. I’m not sure if this was the point of the exercise, but I found a wonderful photo I’d forgotten about of me standing in the ocean in Cambodia and I set it as my desktop because it makes me happy.
If you have 1 hour-ish… Try forest bathing
This is about spending time among the trees and connecting with the Earth. “This might help create spaciousness for you,” Kindred advises.
I’m fortunate that my backyard backs onto bush, so there’s a forest literally on my doorstep. I spent one glorious, uninterrupted hour absorbing it. It’s magical that, if you really tune in, you can hear the song of magpies, whipbirds, kookaburras and wagtails separately. I love that you can hear, see and feel the wind, as well the distant sound of a neighbour playing the radio. I got a kick out of noticing one solitary purple flower in a towering tree that gives shade to my garden, and spent a long time admiring a riot of tropical orange bougainvillea flowers. This is the most relaxing and delightful tip. Nature is the real antidote to modern life, and it’s right there whenever I need it. This little pink book is now a permanent fixture on my work desk. In the words of Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast; Kindred’s book can really help you stop and look around so that you don’t miss it.
Best of the Rest
Upgrade your zen with these 60-second stress-busting tricks
1. Belt it out
Singing – especially in groups – promotes an ongoing feeling of wellbeing, according to a study by the University of East Anglia.
2. Legs-up-the-wall pose
Or any fave yoga pose, actually. A Harvard study found that people who consistently practise yoga sleep better.
3. Feel your feet
The practice of grounding – where you focus completely on the bottom of your feet touching your shoes or the ground – increases energy and improves mood, reveals research published in Explore
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