Let’s face it, we live in a world that values business and productivity. Both of these things are of course partially to blame for the rise in anxiety and stress levels around the globe. Thankfully, we are also in the midst of a movement. A movement to take back our time, take back our lives and take back our peace. When you look up zen practices or mindfulness techniques on the internet, it can sometimes feel like one more thing you have to cram into your busy day. That’s why I’ve compiled a list of 5 zen habits you can adapt that take 1 minute or less but can help you make tiny transformations throughout your busy days.
*Quick Note: I may earn a commission on recommendations at no additional cost to you.
But first, the zen of less
There is nothing more freeing than consistently taking small steps in life that gradually lead you toward more peace. In a world where we already tend to overwork and exhaust ourselves, learning to adapt zen practices back into our lives can help lighten that load immensely.
One of the first ways you can begin doing this is by decluttering your stuff and creating space in your home. Think of it as space to breath. Of course, there are so many ways you can begin to create space in your home, be it my 4 bin method for decluttering or simply by filtering through and adding items to a donation pile when you realize you no longer need them.
When you start to create space in your home, you just might find that you also learn how to stop lightening the to-do list in your mind. If you need a little guidance on how to create space in all areas of your life, start with my Minimalist Lifestyle Guide that is designed to help you do exactly that.
Zen Practice #1: Sip slowly
It seems that in mindfulness and zen teachings there are a lot of lessons that we can learn when it comes to tea. The first one always being that we should never over-pour our cup. This is a teaching from a Japanese zen master, Nan-in, and it is the perfect example of how we are over-flowing in our busy culture today.
Sometimes, it seems, in this modern world we live in, we can do everything we can do not over-pour our cup, but someone else might just go ahead and keep pouring whether we like it or not.
A well meaning spouse or family member can gently ask you to run an errand for them. Your boss at work can shoot you an email requesting a speedier deadline. How about when traffic puts you at a stand still and throws off the rhythm for your entire day and sends you into a panic of rush and business?
There is no shortage of things that can add to the hustle of our already busy lives and make our cup runneth over (and not in a good way).
That’s why, in the midst of all these chaotic things, a great way to intentionally slow down is to begin sipping your morning coffee or tea. Other ideas for a peaceful morning routine.
From chugging to sipping
When we are living the hustle, we are very quick to just tip back our coffee, gulping it down, desperate for the caffeine. Then, we fill up for round two and chug it again.
One of the reasons for this is that we live in a time when we are used to being on the go and not really thinking about the things we do anymore. We are losing our ability to be present.
The second reason (I am convinced) is that if we drink too slowly our coffee or tea will get cold. As an avid fan of hot coffee, I know this is a reason that I tend to sip my coffee or tea a little quicker than I should. Nothing throws off my morning relaxation more than having to get up and re-heat my coffee. If this is one of your #firstworldproblems, I highly suggest looking into the Ember Heated Mug.
This is a mug that is controlled by an app on your phone where you program your beverage to stay at your exact perfect temperature for around 90 minutes!
You know I am not one to push a lot of products on you, but if you are someone who loves your coffee piping hot — and maybe want an excuse for a more zen, slow sipping start to your day, Click here to learn about the Ember Heated Mug.
OK, so here’s the plan. Once you’ve gotten your coffee to the perfect temperature, no excuses for having to chug or get up and re-heat, sip your coffee. That’s it. Slow down enough to sit quietly with your morning coffee — no TV, no podcasts, no distractions. Try even for just 60 seconds to sip your coffee, and really work to taste each little bit.
This practice helps activate all of our senses and bring us into the present moment.
This is also a good practice to do during times of transition.
For example, maybe you made the mad dash to get to work and you want to take 60 intentional seconds to just breathe before you book it to your 9am meeting. Sip your coffee. Eyes closed, taste buds in full gear and no interruptions (or at least, I hope not).
Zen Practice #2: Take off your lid
You know those times when you can feel all those bottled up emotions boiling to the surface? Maybe you didn’t even know you had all these little moments adding up because they can happen at any time.
Driving in traffic.
Dealing with a child’s temper tantrum.
Your spouse tells you something like it’s brand new information but you just told them about it last week!
After a long, hard day of accessing patience, choosing your words wisely, and being on your best behavior, there usually comes a point where we can’t restrain ourselves any longer.
Tell me it’s not just me?!
When this happens, as that water in our belly begins to boil we have one of two options:
- Let it boil over
- Take off the lid and let some steam flow out
From boiling over to slowly steaming
If you have ever had a pot on the stove boil over, you know the inevitable mess that can ensue. Trust me, these messes are fun for no one. Instead of letting your metaphorical pot boil over, the best option is to catch the pot before it bubbles up, remove the lid and turn the burner down.
The only way to begin to do this is to begin to recognize when you are hitting your boiling point.
Instead of trying to hold in anger or frustration (that just leads to a blow up), try intentionally releasing a little steam. This can be done in as little as one breath.
How to release steam in 60 seconds:
- Take a big, deep breath and imagine gathering up all the frustration inside you
- Slowly and quietly exhale and envision releasing all of it out of your body
This method takes some intentional reviewing of your body, so that you can catch yourself before you hit the boiling point. However, the more you practice becoming aware of these feelings, the better you’ll get at releasing them. Remember, suppressing or faking happy never works for long!
Zen Practice #3: 17 Second Climb
There is a 17 second rule that is often talked about when it comes to the Law of Attraction. The idea of this rule is that we have the power to shift our mood and mindset in as little as 17 seconds.
When you notice you’ve hit a slump in the middle of the day or you are reaching a point of total hopelessness, 17 seconds is a great starting off point for raising your energy level and improving your mood.
Improve your mood in 17 seconds:
- Repeating a mantra or affirmation to yourself.
- Holding a higher-energy thought for 17 seconds. (This can be an old favorite memory)
- Closing your eyes to practice a deep gratitude session no matter where you are. (I love doing this first thing in the morning in my bed — because I’m always thankful for my bed.)
However, keep in mind that if you are really struggling emotionally, you shouldn’t expect to all of a sudden make a massive leap into total joy. That’s unrealistic and wouldn’t be sustainable. Instead, think of it more like a gradual climb.
The Emotional Guidance Scale
One realization that might blow your mind when it comes to our emotions that is that most of them, even the bad ones, are actually beneficial to us.
For example, if you look at the Emotional Guidance Scale you’ll notice at the very bottom of the scale are the emotions, FEAR, GRIEF, and DESPAIR.
When we fall into those emotional states we become almost paralyzed, unless we try to work our way up the scale. The good news is we can start nudging our way up in just 17 seconds!
Going from FEAR to ANGER is actually a huge step. When we leave fear and reach the point of being angry, we are no longer paralyzed, therefore we are able to take action. Taking action is much better than staying stuck in a lower level where you are immobilized by your emotions.
How to climb the scale in 17 seconds
Choose an affirmation or phrase that feels slightly better than where you are right now.
For example, if you keep repeating to yourself, “I can’t do this, I can’t do this.” a better mantra might be, “I have done harder things than this. I have done harder things than this.”
Selecting a mantra or phrase like this can move you up the Emotional Guidance Scale from INSECURITY to maybe DISCOURAGEMENT. You’re not quite confident yet, but you’re getting there.
As you allow yourself to hang out in DISCOURAGEMENT, you can take another 17 seconds to choose and even higher-energy thought. Something like, “I know I am capable. I know I am capable.”
After 17 seconds of reciting this mantra you might find that you’ve moved up the scale again to overwhelmed. That’s great! Being overwhelmed means you are doing things. You are moving! You’ve officially gone from being paralyzed to being in motion! And it only takes 17 seconds to slowly get you there.
Zen Practice #4: 1 Minute Meditation
Chances are you have heard about the benefits of mediation. That it increases memory, brain function and even does things like lower your blood pressure.
Meditation has been a zen practice for thousands of years and more and more people are reaping the benefits of it! However, there are also people around the world who struggle with the quiet, still meditation we often think of. If this is you, you are going to love the simple method around the 1 Minute Meditation.
Speedy meditation breakdown
If you can sneak one minute of meditation, you are going to be golden in the middle of a crazy day. No, this doesn’t mean you are going to sit cross legged and start chanting at your cubicle.
Simply think of a time when you were at your happiest. Maybe it was a vacation, maybe just after a sexy-time session with someone you love or a time when you felt total bliss and peace.
- Take a deep breath in through your nose
- Slowly exhale out your mouth
- Hold a vision in your head of this time of total bliss
- Remember the sights, sounds, smells
- Most importantly, remember how you felt
Taking the time to hold your focus on a truly peaceful moment in your life can help bring a sense of calm even in the midst of total chaos.
Perfect apps for meditation:
- YouTube – There are tons of guided meditations on YouTube!
- Audible – Audible comes with a variety of meditations included with a membership!
- Aaptiv – Aaptiv is a fitness app that has guided meditations as well as other fitness things like yoga
- Headspace – Headspace is one of the leading apps for sleep meditations
Zen Practice #5: Brain dump
Sometimes, when our heads are swirling with crazy thoughts, a never-ending to-do list, and maybe even some nasty words that were said to us in the day, it can feel like our heads are going to explode.
One of the best things to do is to get as many of those things out as you can! Doing a brain dump can be so beneficial to helping us remove unwanted thoughts, organize our thoughts or just all around give us a sense of release.
This is something you could even do at your desk and anyone who passes by will just think you are seriously hard at work! (Score!)
One minute Brain Dump process
- Grab a piece of paper or your laptop
- Set a 60 second timer on your phone
- Write/type out every single thought that is coming to your head. Don’t interfere, just write.
- When the timer goes off either rip up the paper into tiny shreds or slowly hit the Backspace and erase all of the words
Trust me, this can be an incredibly freeing process. Sometimes all we really want to do is get it out. That’s why when we leave a stressful day the first thing we do is vent to someone…or scream to ourselves in our car like a crazy person.
Instead of waiting to unload all of your frustrations, make the habit of releasing them occasionally throughout the day when necessary.
To maximize the benefits of the Brain Dump you could follow it up by one of the 4 previously shared zen methods!
What works for you?
Ok, did I miss something? Is there a method you have found that helps you create peace when you are feeling overwhelmed? Drop it in the comments and share. We always have something to learn from one another!