I won’t sugarcoat it. It can be hard—really, REALLY hard—to practice mindfulness and being in the present moment when you’re a mom who feels like she’s being pulled in about a billion different directions. Take it from me. I’m a work-from-home mama who pretty much feels like I can never be completely focused on any given thing. When I’m spending time with my daughter or doing housework, I feel like I’m neglecting my job. When I’m doing my job, I feel like I’m neglecting my family. And since I am lucky enough to set my own schedule, this isn’t a feeling that goes away when the clock strikes 6 or on weekends like it does for other people. It’s a constant, nagging feeling that is with me no matter what… EXCEPT for during those times that I manage to implement some of my favorite mindfulness techniques. (I admit sometimes I’m a lot better at than others!)
Of course, I know I’m not alone. Whether you work from home, work out of the home full-time, or stay at home with your kids full-time, every parent feels stretched thin sometimes (and most of the parents I know report feeling this way MOST of the time).
So how do we shift our attention and focus so that we can be more present in the moment we’re in and enjoy the fleeting moments with our children—with our entire lives—more? Here are a few of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness that have helped me. I hope they help you, too!
7 Ways for Moms to Practice Mindfulness
1. Start a happiness journal.
One of my favorite exercises to help me focus on the good things in life is keeping a happiness journal. I don’t do this all the time, just when I really need a shift in perspective. (I came up with it when I kept reading about the benefits of a gratitude journal, but I never managed to do one of those for very long because I felt ungrateful if I didn’t write and write and WRITE the million things I have to be grateful for.)
Here’s how: At the end of the day, sit down and remember what the happiest moment of the day was. Write it in ONE line. This should take no longer than a minute or so (because busy mamas don’t have time to do much more than that and it has to be EASY or you won’t do it everyday!). Try to do this every day for a week. After a while, you’ll begin to start looking for those happy moments as you move through your day (after all, you know you’ll need to write SOMETHING down at the end of the day) and it becomes a mindfulness practice.
At the end of the week, look back on the things you wrote down and notice any patterns. Are the happiest moments the time you spend with your family? The quiet moments you get to sit and sip your coffee in the morning? Your evening walk? These things should be your priority every. single. day.
2. Set a timer for mindful play.
Whenever I feel like I need more quality time with my daughter, I will set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and promise myself (and her!) that I will play with her and give her my full attention until the timer goes off. During that time, I don’t let myself even glance at my phone. I try not to think about my to-do list or the deadline I have tomorrow. I do everything I can to be completely present. if she wants to play dress up, I try to get into character and appreciate the sparkles and pink as she does. If we decide to do an art project, I marvel at all the colors. No matter what we do, I take it in: Her sweet voice, the way she laughs, the faces she makes, and all the imaginative and sillly things she says. I take a snapshot in my mind because I want to be able to look back and remember this time, not just let it pass me by like a blur.
3. Find a mantra or affirmation that inspires you and spend time each day thinking it to yourself.
One of my favorites is Peace begins with me. But you can find TONS of them over on my Pinterest page—I created a whole board of mantras that are perfect for busy mamas who want to be more mindful. Write your mantra on a Post It note and put it on your bathroom mirror so you can see it everyday when you’re getting ready to leave the house. When things get crazy, repeat your mantra in your mind 3-5 times. I promise it will change the way you feel!
4. Try mindful breathing.
Sometimes the simplest practices can make the most profound difference in our lives. We all breathe all the time, whether we’re being mindful of it or not, which is why this is one of the easiest ones to incorporate into a busy day. All it takes is a little extra attention and focus and you can begin to shift your energy, calm your mind, and even melt tension in your body.
Try this: Stop what you’re doing right now. Close your eyes and bring your focus inward for five slow, deep breaths. With each breath imagine the breath moving deeper down into your belly. At the end of the fifth breath, open your eyes and notice how you feel.
5. Squeeze just a few moments of mindfulness into a task that you already do every day.
Notice the steam floating up from your cup of coffee in the morning and feel the warmth in your hands. Feel the sunshine on your skin and the breath in your lungs as you take the dog for her daily walk. Slow down and really pay attention to the taste, smell, and texture of your food as you eat one meal a day. Notice all the colors you see and the sounds you hear as you sit in the pick up line at your kid’s school in the afternoons. Take slow deep breaths and savor the sweet cuddles you feel as you rock your little one to sleep at night. We all have rituals in our lives that have the potential to bring us into the present if we just pay attention and make it a point to savor them everyday. It’s just a matter of slowing down and remembering to pay attention.
There are studies galore that show just how beneficial a meditation practice can be. As little as a minute a day of checking in with yourself can make a difference in your whole day. Whether you sit down like a cross-legged Buddha or just make a habit of closing your eyes and feeling your breath come and go for a minute every night as you drift off to sleep, meditate regularly and often and watch as your overall health and well-being improves over time.
7. Do a Yoga Quickie.
Well, duh. You knew you were going to find this on the list, didn’t you? It’s my favorite mindfulness practice for moms because it can incorporate ALL of the mindful things—exercise, breathing, meditation, intention, relaxation. Better yet, it can get the job done in just a few minutes. It’s like the ultimate in mindfulness multitasking. (Ironically one of the reasons it’s so great is because it pretty much forces you to focus on ONE thing at a time. Don’t believe me: Try this yoga pose sequence and then tell me if you could think about your to-do list while you were moving from one pose to the next!)