It is a really nice way of incorporating mindfulness into daily life.
The Mindful STOP
We all know that mindfulness is ‘good for us’, just as we all know that exercise is ‘good for us’. However that doesn’t mean we need to do intensive mindfulness meditation for 40 minutes every day! In my workshops for coaches and therapists, I like to say, ‘If we want to motivate people to exercise more, we wouldn’t tell them, “You have to go to the gym for 40 minutes a day!” Rather, we’d say, “Every tiny little bit of exercise makes a difference. If you walk for five minutes at lunchtime, that’s better than not walking at all. If you walk up one flight of stairs instead of taking the lift, that’s better than not walking up any stairs. If you park your car in the parking space that’s furthest away from the supermarket, that’s better than parking in the closest one; even walking those few extra metres across the parking lot will make a difference.” ’
Sure, if you do exercise for 40 minutes a day, you’ll be healthier than if you do it for only 10 minutes a day – but even 5 minutes a day is a whole lot better than none at all! And so it is with mindfulness skills. Just like any skill we learn, the more we practice mindfulness, the better we get. So if you’re willing and able to do 30 or 40 minutes of daily mindfulness meditation (or similar formal mindfulness practices like yoga, or Tai Chi), that’s fantastic! Those are truly excellent practices for effectively developing your mindfulness skills. However, let’s be realistic here; many of us are unable or unwilling to make the time for this type of formal mindfulness practice on a daily basis. That’s just life!
However, that doesn’t mean we need to give up on the idea of regular mindfulness practice. It just means we need to find alternative ways of practicing our mindfulness skills throughout the day. That’s why in all my books you’ll find plenty of suggestions for quick, simple, easy ways to do this – e.g. having a mindful shower, mindfully brushing your teeth, mindfully patting the dog, mindfully hugging your loved ones, mindfully drinking your tea or coffee, mindfully ironing your shirts, mindfully tying your shoe laces, taking ten slow mindful breaths, etc. After all, one of the beautiful things about mindfulness is you can practice it anytime, anywhere, any activity. (To download a one-page handout/worksheet/tip-sheet on informal mindfulness practice, click here.)
Now here’s one especially useful, ultra-brief, and very simple mindfulness practice, that you can easily incorporate into your busy daily routine, no matter how pressed for time you are. I call it the mindful S.T.O.P. Here’s how it goes:
S – Slow down (slow down your breathing; or slowly press your feet into the floor; or slowly stretch your arms; or slowly press your fingertips together)
T - Take note (with a sense of curiosity, notice your thoughts & feelings; notice what you can see and hear and touch and taste and smell; notice where you are and what you are doing)
O - Open up (open up and make room for your thoughts & feelings, and allow them to freely flow through you; use any defusion or expansion skill you like)
P - Pursue values (reconnect with your values, and let them guide whatever you do next)
The lovely thing about a mindful STOP is you can make it as short or as long as you like. You can zip through this in under thirty seconds – e.g. while you’re waiting at a red traffic light, or stuck in a supermarket queue, or waiting for your kids to come sit at to the dinner table – or you can stretch it out into a thirty minute formal meditation practice. I encourage you to try it out for yourself – not just once, but over and over and over again:Slow down; Take note; Open up; and Pursue your values. A regular mindful STOP works wonders.