The 30 Second Mood Makeover
Have you ever been going about your day when all of a sudden you remembered something you needed to do and as a result become completely overwhelmed with anxiety?
What about a loved one triggering a deeply dissatisfied feeling within you?
Although feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, irritability - to name a few - can leave us very unsettled, there is a quick practice we can use to turn those feelings into conscious awareness whenever they arise. The magic of this simple practice is found in its simplicity and can be practiced at any time.
As we turn towards our negative thoughts or emotions, we are able to see them as transitory, rather than innate to our being. You are not your anxiety, your anger; there is a deeper self. This perspective allows us to carry on with more grace, happiness, and even more intelligence.
The Mindful Pause, which only takes about 30 seconds, is an age old technique that Niroga Institute* teaches to the students and teachers they work with in schools.
Follow these four steps next time you are in need of a quick reset to get your mood in-check during the day:
1. Take one slow, deep breath
Slow and deepen your breath to create feelings of relaxation and calm. There is a strong connection between your mood and breath: as your breath is restricted, so is your mood. When you breathe with gentle length, in comes the ability to feel more at ease.
2. Turn towards the sensations of your body
Open your attention to the sensations in your body for just a moment. Let yourself notice whatever comes up: tension, warmth, coolness, pressure, or the touch of clothing. There's no need to evaluate the sensations as "good" or "bad." Itching is simply itching. Coolness is simply coolness.
Feel free to stretch your fingers as you inhale, and make soft fists as you exhale in order to notice your bodily sensations more. This step can take as little as 5 seconds.
3. Rest your attention on your breath
Pay attention to the sensation of air touching your nostrils as you breathe. With gentle curiosity, watch the flow of changing sensations at the nostrils. These sensations anchor you in the present moment.
In this step, you can choose to keep your breath deep and slow, or just let your body breathe however it wants to. And just like the previous step, this can be a very short amount of time. You might feel like staying with it longer, but that’s up to you.
4. Re-engage with the world, without hurry
That’s right - carry on! But see if you can maintain that calm, grounded feeling you just created. Don't reach for your phone or speed off to your next activity. If you can, take a few seconds just sitting or standing there quietly, and then move at a more leisurely pace.
Because mindful pauses are so quick and discreet, you can do them anywhere, anytime.
The important part is not “fixing” our negative emotions. In fact, it isn’t actually completing the mindful pause itself; it’s remembering to do it in the first place. Small changes can build momentum to face ourselves and the others with greater steadiness.
We encourage students to incorporate mindful pauses throughout the day by linking them to specific transitions, like when we get home from school or work, before we eat a meal. This keeps it fresh in our minds so that we can call upon our mindfulness practice during times when we may really be in need of a mood makeover. Happy pausing.
*This post was written in collaboration with Niroga Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities through professional development and direct service programs in Yoga and Dynamic Mindfulness.