Bringing Balance to the Bustle: Simple Mindfulness Practices for Urban Living

While living and working in a metropolitan area can have its perks, it comes with a unique set of challenges around balance and self-care.

Urban dwellers often build up a tolerance to the hustle and bustle of city life. It’s like building a tolerance to any substance, but the substance here is the stress hormone, cortisol. Mindfulness practices are a wonderful way to bring balance to your life without disrupting your day.

Here is a list of simple practices to help you incorporate mindfulness into your already full schedule.

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Shift perspective by beginning your day with gratitude

Before you get out of bed, before you reach for your phone, maybe before you even open your eyes, think of one or two things you feel grateful for that day. It can be helpful to keep a small journal by your bed and write them down to keep track of what brings you gratitude and joy.

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Slow down your morning by incorporating a daily ritual

You can turn anything into a daily ritual. Think about what your morning routine already includes, and set the intention of bringing mindfulness to that moment. Perhaps it’s making and drinking your morning cup of coffee or tea, showering, doing your makeup, or putting your shoes on. When you arrive at this point in your routine, use it as a reminder to center yourself, focusing only on the sensations of what you’re doing an nothing else.

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Use your commute to practice mindfulness or meditate

It’s so easy to begin working on your way to work but your day will not collapse if you take a few moments to pause before diving in to e-mails. Whether you are driving, walking, biking, or bussing, take a moment to be with your breath and check in with the senses. Try noticing 5 things you see, 4 things you feel, 3 things you hear, 2 things you smell, and one thing you taste.

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Schedule and prioritize mindfulness breaks at work

Put your breaks on your personal or shared calendar. Schedule a 10-15 minute walk around the block or the office. Schedule 5 minutes to stretch and gaze out the window. You can make it colorful, you can name it “mindfulness break”, and you can allow people to join if you want. The important thing is that it is time that is blocked off, screen free, and unavailable to be scheduled over.

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Use your lunch to practice mindful eating

Mindful eating is a great one to do alone or with friends and colleagues. During a mindful eating practice, make sure that you have little to no distractions and all you are doing is eating and noticing. Before you eat your lunch, take a fresh look at it. Look at it as though you’ve never seen it before, objectively as you can. Smell it. Touch it. As you taste it, taste it slowly, brining your attention to the sensations in your mouth. Notice the temperature, texture, taste, smell, etc. with every bite. Notice how your body feels as you nourish it.

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Offer yourself self-compassion during meetings

Mindful self-compassion means intentionally directing compassion towards yourself through thoughts, words, and/or touch. Create a loving mantra such as “I am enough,” or simply bring attention to your breath with kindness to center yourself during a meeting. Combine it with loving touch by holding your own hand, or placing a hand on your heart belly or leg. This can be super discreet and natural looking practice for all situations ranging from a stressful meeting, to a phone call with a family member.

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Allow screen-free transition time to wind down at the end of the day or between tasks

Give yourself permission to take time between tasks to integrate and process. This means rather jumping right in the next thing, taking a moment to be with yourself. Checking in. Walk slowly, feeling your feet on the ground, connecting with your breath and surroundings after leaving a meeting or running an errand. Take some time on your commute home to do a mindfulness practice rather than e-mailing or taking a call.

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Be intentional about boundaries. Decide when you are “open” and when you are “closed” for contact or interruptions.

Rather than letting your time and attention be given to whatever and whoever wants it, be intentional about when you are available. If you are at your desk, decide if you are open to interruptions or not. Have a kind phrase on hand such as “I’ll be able to give you my full attention once I’m finished with this task.” If you’re in public, having lunch, or on your commute, allow yourself to decide if you are open to contact or if you want time to yourself. If you want time to yourself, create an imaginary boundary around yourself, pull out a book, or put your headphones in to indicate, “I’m closed at the moment.” It’s not rude –it’s self care.

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Make a habit of asking yourself, “Am I working harder than I need to be in this moment?”

So many of us are attempt to 5 things at once, often without noticing we’re doing it. And we wonder why we’re burnt out at the end of the day. Make a practice of checking in with yourself regularly and asking “Am I working harder than I need to be?” or  “Am I doing more than I need to be in this moment?” If you find the answer is yes, ask yourself, “What can I allow myself to let go of in this moment?” Maybe it’s as simple as noticing your eyes are tired. Or saying to yourself –I don’t need to be furrowing my brow or clenching my jaw or —I don’t need to be contemplating my whole life while I wait for the bus.

And don’t forget to practice mindful self-compassion when you forget your mindful practices!

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