5 Steps Toward Improved Mindfulness

The mind is a very powerful thing. However, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to process our thoughts, emotions, and brain power in the modern world.

Woman and man meditating.

We are currently exposed to so much information at an accelerated rate. According to Frontiers for the Young Mind, “Scientists have measured… as much as 74 GB of information” on average is being thrown at us each day (from advertisements, to television, the internet, cell phones, tablets, billboards, etc…). While the research shows that, overtime, our brains adapt, there are only 24 hours in a day and our brains can’t process all of this information fast enough.

The “hustle” mentality that is being promoted throughout social media is leading many people down a path that encourages overworking and “stress for success”. It is a frustrating path towards mental decline, chronic stress, aches and pains, and a snowball of other problems.

It’s becoming harder to concentrate. There are more and more apps and courses to teach us how to concentrate and be more productive. Mental health awareness is becoming normalized.

“Sorry, I have mom brain today” is a common excuse when we are forgetful (ahem, is it just me?!) and supplements for “brain fog” are turning up in more and more advertisements.

When our brains are cluttered and full of “all the things” including bottled up emotions and to-do lists… our stress levels are going to increase and “fight or flight” is going to turn on.

When our stress is up, our immune system is low, our muscles are tense, and our mental clarity suffers…

In order to decrease your stress, it’s important to look at the whole picture. Try to weave more movement, better nutrition, and mindfulness or meditation into your day.

Taking a few minutes each day for some mindfulness and meditation, could greatly benefit anyone who is feeling the demands of work-life balance… especially, the stressed mom or soon-to-be mom in today’s busy, fast-paced society.

So, how to begin?

Woman sitting on dirt road with bike next to her, breathing in.

1. Keep it Short

Many people are turned away from meditation or mindfulness because they “don’t have the time”.

If this sounds like you, consider keeping it short! We all have smartphones with a timer. Set the alarm for one minute. Start with just one minute per day for a week. Then build up to two minutes a day. Then three. And so on.

2. Keep it Simple

Meditation doesn’t have to be a deep, quiet, isolated practice with a completely clear mind. It doesn’t have to be difficult. Start easy. It could be as simple as “being aware of the thoughts in your mind”. What pops into your head when you stop and breathe? Is there stillness in your mind or is it full of lots of things. This is a good place to start.

3. Understand your emotions

How do your thoughts make you feel? What emotions are present? Our thoughts drive our emotions. If you have a busy day ahead, you might feel anxious or uneasy. If you found out some upsetting news, you might feel angry or sad. Maybe you have a fun event coming up that you are looking forward to. Are you happy or excited about that?

Become aware of your emotions and see where they take you when you slow your mind down.

4. Understand The Physical Connection

How do your thoughts and emotions affect your joints, heart, muscles? If you’re upset or if your mind is running do you feel tense? Is your heart beating fast? Does your breath pattern feel short and is it creeping up in your chest, neck and shoulders? Or, does it feel slow and deep in your lungs and ribs?

Is your jaw clenched and your eyes tense?

Are you aware of the air surrounding you? The temperature in the room?

Woman in upward dog yoga pose.

5. Practice Mind-Body Connection

This is a good time to connect your mind to your muscles. If you are feeling tense throughout your body, mentally tell your muscles to relax and breathe deep.

Read ahead or listen to this guided one-minute mindfulness practice:

Try lying on your back or side on a mat or carpet.

Start with your eyes. Feel them lighten. Tell your jaw to relax and your neck to lengthen. Feel your shoulders to move away from your ears and tension begin to melt.

Feel your chest open. Inhale deep into your lungs. Feel your ribs expand and the space between your ribs open and lengthen.

As your jaw relaxes more and your stress levels lower, feel your hips release tension. Let your calves lighten. Feel your toes naturally curl and rest

Start to feel your body resting on the floor. Breathe deep into your ribs, back, pelvis, and hips. Breathe slow. Inhale and fill your belly and ribs. Exhales let your muscles relax.

Connect your breathe like the waves of the ocean. Let the waves move slowly and ebb and flow.

If you want to take this further, play around with muscle activation.

Try activating a muscle group (i.e. biceps) for 5 to 10 seconds. Then tell those muscles to relax and lengthen. Feel the contrast. Try doing this around different areas of your body and feel your relaxation and mind-body connection grow deeper.

Woman meditating


If stillness isn’t for you, there are other ways to be mindful.

  • Contrast highs and lows: Work up a sweat session. Practice 30 seconds to 1 minute of high intensity movement (like jump squats or mountain climbers. Then take 30 seconds to 1 minute to be still and breathe deep. Feel the contrast of quickness and stillness.
  • Try breath work: If you are feeling stressed out, try these breathing techniques and see how they make you feel:
    1. Boxed breathing: Inhale slowly for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Exhales slowly for 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Repeat. Try this pattern of breathing to calm a stressed mind. (This is a great tool when your kids are driving your heart rate up!)
    2. Sniff and sigh: Align your spine with some cushions on the floor. Place your legs up on a couch or put your feet together with some cushions under your knees for support. Sniff 3 times to inhale. Hold your breathe and then sniff two more times. Then with a great big audible sigh, exhale with an open mouth. Feel your stress melt away.
  • Move: Physical fitness to get your muscles moving and blood flowing can be its own form of mindfulness. Concentrate on the movement and how it makes you feel. Let your lungs fill with oxygen and send that oxygen to your extremities. Here are some great sources of fitness blended with mindfulness:
    1. Yoga: If you are new to practicing yoga, try a gentle yoga class to get started.
    2. A strength or cardio session with highs and lows emphasizing both rest and and work will help you tap into your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system.
    3. Walk it out. Take a 30-minute brisk walk outdoors to improve your mood, clear your mind, and improve cardiovascular endurance.
  • Nourish your mind: Read a book or learn something new.
    1. Slow your mind down and clear the clutter by reading a book. Read a paperback book and remove yourself from your digital devices to give your eyes a break from the harsh light and distracting notifications.
    2. Listen to an audiobook. There are many apps now for storytelling to promote calmness and relaxation before bed.
    3. Learn how to cook or learn a new language. The internet makes it much easier to go learn a new skill. De clutter from your to-do list and try something new to give your brain a boost!