Picture this: you just got out of a super long meeting, suffered through a soundtrack of wailing car horns, and arrived at Trader Joe’s: and the line inside is wrap-around-the-store levels of crazy. What do you do?
While it’s tempting to give in to a stress nosedive, the key to calmness may be a lot closer than you think.
“You have more power over how you feel than you ever thought possible,” says meditation expert Jeff Cannon, who’s advised everyone from serenity-seeking individuals to entire companies. “Traditional meditation is a wonderful 2,500 year-old-practice—it simply needs to be refined for the realities of the modern world you live in.”
Yes, we’re talking mindfulness—but if you’re imagining a seated, hour-long om session, try again. The basic principles that Cannon teaches are actually simple, results-oriented exercises that you can carry with you throughout the day, whether you’re on the subway, in the midst of a work crisis, or navigating the general obstacles of modern life (#thestruggle).
We asked Cannon to share three ways for you to put the theory to practice—so no matter what the scenario, you can turn things around.
Want to try it? Scroll down for ways to keep your inner light shining even when you’re having a not-so-great day.
The breathing method
We’ve all been advised to “take a deep breath” at one point or another—but doing so with thoughtfulness is a whole other story. Here are the details you should know for maximum feel-good effect:
1. Pull the air down deep into your lungs and smile as you do. With every breath in, feel that smile spread across your cheeks, up to your eyebrows, and beneath your scalp. Feel the muscles around your eyes and forehead relax, and feel your tongue drop from the roof of your mouth as your shoulders relax.
2. When your body is calmed, attach that smile onto your next inhale and imagine that your breath is carrying that energy deep into your body, just below your navel.
3. Continue breathing, allowing the energy of your smile to expand beyond your lungs and into your body. Feel that energy as it expands down your arms and legs out to your fingers and toes, and imagine it washing the stress and strain from your body.
The awareness technique
It may seem counterintuitive to focus even more when you’re anxiety is through the roof—but in reality, the opposite can be true. By zeroing in on your five senses, you can actually ground yourself and put things into perspective, notes Cannon. How does he know? He’s trained first responders to do it.
1. Stop for a moment and scroll through each of your five senses: sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Simply note the sounds around you, free from judgment. Make a note of what scents or smells fill the air. Feel your body in the chair beneath you, or in your feet as they press into the ground.
2. If you’re walking down the street, simply notice the color of the sky, the cars, and the people. If a car is honking, label it as “honking.” Label everything, not as good or bad, but as a way to let your primordial brain understand that these are not threats you should be stressed about, but part of the modern world you live in every day.
3. Smile as you do this. (Smiling never hurts, no matter where you are.)
The two-minute break
Even if you don’t do a daily meditation, you can still get mega de-stressing bonuses from taking a series of short, mindful breaks throughout the day. “These practices will create a more positive, productive, and purposeful environment for you to enjoy no matter how fast the world spins around you,” says Cannon.
1. When you feel yourself spiraling out of control or sitting in the midst of chaos, take a small timeout to have a cup of tea or unplug from devices.
2. While you’re in “break mode,” use the awareness method above to scan your five senses and place your attention in the present moment (or the cup of tea you’re enjoying) to recenter.
Focusing on your five senses with an awareness technique is a key tool to recenter—and you can get a powerful boost from the mood-lifting notes in Donna Karan’s new fragrance, Cashmere Aura. Shop now at macys.com
Photo: Stocksy/Simone Becchetti