5 Habits that Create a Sense of Space

Last week was stuffed to the brim with meetings, classes, commitments, and deadlines. It was a highly productive week but one that I couldn’t repeat again this week, even if I wanted to. I fell asleep on the couch before 8 pm last night and woke up at 8:30 this morning, still in yesterday’s clothes. We live in a culture that places a ton of value on achievement. In my travels I’ve discovered that American’s are really in a category of their own when it comes to work. While I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and look forward to celebrating a long, packed day with a cold beer and warm, fuzzy socks, I’ve started to become more observant of the impact long hours with no down time has on my overall well-being.

We all have a threshold – that line that when crossed, tips us over the edge. When I cross the line I lose focus, my posture gets slouchy, I'm unattached to others and disconnected to my words and actions. With my defenses down I eat shitty food and become closed off to my thoughts and emotions. I tune out because the alternative is to be aware, and I've lost the energy for awareness. Knowing when and how to back away requires simple choice making. Those of us with the “Yes” syndrome may find that pumping the brakes and choosing to stop is something that doesn’t happen overnight. Good habits require repetition and commitment. Nothing can replace an entire day off but the following are a few habits that can create space in an otherwise full day.

  1. Meditate. I'm just going to jump right in and start with a biggie. If you only pick one of these habits, let it be meditation! This ancient practice is one that is still around for a good reason. Research has proven that meditation can actually change your brain. Neuroplasticity is a fancy, scientific term to describe brain changes that occur in response to experience. Scientists once thought that the brain remained mostly static after childhood, but research has proven that new connections and pathways can continue to form throughout your lifespan with mental training. Meditation can alter the way that you think and perceive the world around you. Studies show that meditation increases focus and concentration, decreases stress levels in the body, and can help manage difficult emotions. Meditation cultivates our capacity toward kindness. When we meditate we connect at a deeper level to ourselves, others, and the world around us. AND, meditating when your on the cusp of a busy day can actually make you feel like you have more time. Don't get too caught up in duration. Instead, carve out a few minutes each morning and be consistent. Lead yourself or find a guide. Headspace is an app that offers mindfulness meditation that is guided - you can choose the length and pick a practice that suits you. 
  2. Notice. Did you leave the house in a hurry? You can still meditate later, but for now just notice. Stop the habit of picking up your phone each time you have a spare second. Instead, can you just observe? See the details in the world around you. Notice that things aren't really moving fast at all. Observe your posture, your breath, and connect to the experience of being in your body. Simple awareness is a skill that we can hone anywhere, anytime.
  3. Breathe. You do it more than 20,000 times a day. I like to think of the breath as a doorway to the present moment. The brain is a chatter box that pulls us right out of experience and into a place that's not real. When we concentrate on the breath, and on taking deeper breaths, it's like hitting the re-set button. Breathing slow, from the belly calms the central nervous system. Two minutes can leave you feeling completely relaxed and refreshed. Click here to read how. 
  4. Get Outside. Take a walk or go stand in a patch of sunlight. Time outside clears the head and can make you feel more connected.
  5. Practice Yin Yoga. I could talk about the importance of the Yin practice all day long but ultimately, it's a practice of being still. When we are still we create opportunity for space - space to meet and tend to ourselves; space for rest and renewal; space to open physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you want to learn more about Yin, read on! Several of my posts here are dedicated entirely to the Yin practice.