When you think of relaxation, you think of meditating in the morning, or taking a hot bath at night—perhaps a glass of wine is in the picture too. But sometimes, when your day gets crazy stressful, you need something to calm you down right then and there. These simple exercises will do the trick:
This first credo is what Kim Nicol, a mindfulness expert to Fortune 500 executives, says her students resonate with the most. You are your own worst critic, so allowing time for gratitude can be difficult amid a jam-packed schedule of team meetings, business pitches, and networking events, but it should be a priority. Make a list of your accomplishments that day—including little things like not hitting the snooze button for once—and your mind-set will instantly shift back into a positive place.
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Note: This is not a to-do list. Halfway through the day, pause and take a minute to ask, “How am I being right now?” Curt, or understanding? Defensive, or open-minded? “You may even find you’re engaging others and forming deeper relationships by being curious and intentional,” Nicol says. Make your “to-be” list into a goal—and try to maintain it as a discreet Post-it on your desk to keep your intentions in check. Bonus: Writing the note by hand is a physical cue that adds positive reinforcement.
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Breathing is second nature, but mindful breathing requires more attention. The Four-Part Breath Count is a yoga-inspired exercise suggested by Chiyoko Osbourne, cofounder of mindfresh. Sitting with your feet on the floor, close your eyes and place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Then inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts, and repeat. When the space your body takes up has true presence, there are physiological effects. For example, Amy Cuddy’s famous power pose communicates confidence to those around you, but also influences your mind in a positive way. By physically holding onto your body as it inhales and exhales, you’re syncing your mind and body to be one.
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I bet you never thought about rubbing your jeans for good luck. Yogi and wellness instructor Christina Scalera swears by The Amazing Pants theory. It’s derived from cognitive behavioral therapy, used by psychologists to help patients overcome phobias. Here, this exercise allows you to focus on the present moment with all five senses. Place your palms face-down on your thighs, breathe in, and rub your pants in one direction, then the other, feeling the texture and grain of the fabric. Then, concentrate on any sounds (birds, cars passing by, etc.) for three minutes while continuing to focus on how the pants feel. Sounds weird, we know, but it works!
Develop your “attention” muscle by taking at least 20 minutes away from your work devices and gathering your team members for a brainstorm meeting. Bring Post-it notes and encourage them to leave their phones at their desks. Given a strategy or issue at hand, allow everyone five minutes to write down their first ideas on the Post-its and place them on the wall. Repeat as needed. With a limited window of time and a bit of friendly competition, unique ideas will thrive. Holistic health expert Gabrielle Pelicci encourages frequent digital detoxes for increased productivity: “Twenty minutes is the ideal amount of time to restore the brain functions to make room for innovation,” she says. Free from digital distractions, teams are forced to collaborate to solve problems while creating personal bonds.