Mindfulness exercises for busy parents? Like you need another item on your to-do list, right? Point taken. However, studies show that being present and tapping into feelings of joy and gratitude can reduce stress and improve parents’ and caregivers’ interactions with their children. And, once you get the hang of doing it, mindfulness is pretty simple.
Here are 5 research-backed mindfulness hacks for parents who don’t have time to think about being mindful.
- Keep It Simple
Mindfulness practices don’t have to include meditation pillows, sandalwood candles, and chimes. A lot of people think that in order to do a mindfulness exercise “right,” they need at least an hour of silence and a clear mind. That’s not only unnecessary, but also unreasonable in today’s modern world. Simply try to be more aware of simple blessings and honor small victories. For instance, allow yourself a moment of joy for scoring the best parking spot or finding your toddler’s lost puzzle piece under the couch. They add up!
- Celebrate Red Lights
Many parents describe their days as a race, zooming from one task to the next. But in the midst of all that zooming, brief delays are inevitable. Waiting at the bank, at the doctor’s office, at traffic lights…you may even have to wait in line every morning to use your own bathroom! You can take advantage of these waiting times: Think about something you’re grateful for, something that brings you happiness, something that makes you laugh, or someone you adore. Look, you can’t run the red light! Dedicate that minute to yourself instead.
- Say Thank You
Expressing gratitude to others is one of the most effective and efficient ways to feel good. Thank your partner for refilling the toilet paper roll. Thank your toddler for putting his socks on all by himself. Thank the crossing-guard, the cashier, the neighbor who finally remembered to pick up after his dog who habitually poops on your lawn. Showing appreciation can improve mood, strengthen relationships, and boost optimism.
- Be Present
Being present isn’t necessarily as tricky as it sounds. An important part of being mindful is the ability to focus on one thing. A psychological study found that most people are distracted from the task at hand about 46% of the time. Consistent daydreaming or worrying about what lies ahead can increase anxiety and sadness. So, if you’re going to wash the dishes, really, truly, wash the dishes. Try not to let your mind wander from one stressor to the next. Also try to avoid multitasking (we get it, this is a hard one). Feel the warm water and soapy suds rush over your hands. Focus on each sippy cup, coffee stain, or greasy edge. Marvel at how shiny that plate looks! Being present and focusing on one task at a time can calm the mind and even fight off depression.
- Plan Ahead
What’s one thing that you’re looking forward to today? Sharing a snack with your toddler? BabySparks activities with your baby? Catching up with an old friend? Research shows that when we plan ahead to savor and enjoy a specific activity in the near future, we’re more likely to find pleasure in it. Ask yourself in the morning, “What am I excited about? Where can I find joy today?”
We hope these mindfulness shortcuts help you bring a little bit of joy, gratitude, and happiness into your everyday lives.