Want to achieve a mind-body connection? Just head to the spa, a salon, a yoga class or your favorite shady tree for a solid, uninterrupted hour of meditation.
Sound impossible to do any of those things in the midst of your chaotic life? Too expensive? Too tough to schedule?
Take heart. There are plenty of other, perhaps more practical ways to pursue and attain a mind-body connection: a place of physical and mental peace that allows you to focus, relax and return to life re-energized. In this article, busy mothers and professionals alike share what works for them and what very well could work for you.
"The mind-body connection is incredibly easy to achieve," says Keegan Sheridan, N.D., a mom whose Beverly Hills, Calif., practice includes treating health concerns using natural therapies. "…Defined, it is bringing your awareness inward. It is simple to do and doesn't have to take more than two to five minutes," says Sheridan.
Surprisingly, the mind-body connection might come about most easily while going through the otherwise mundane and habitual tasks you do all day, says Maya Talisman Frost, mother of four teenage girls and a professional mindfulness coach at Real-World Mindfulness Training. Don't make seeking inner peace another item on your long to-do list, Frost says.
"We don't need to learn how to be mindful as much as we need to remind ourselves to be mindful," says Frost, 45. "…[W]e develop greater mindfulness by zeroing in on what we'realready doing. When we focus on something, we calm down."
Choose something you need to do, and you also like to do. It could be scrubbing the floors, doing dishes or preparing a nice meal.
For instance, take an onion (the kind that doesn't produce tears!). Feel its weight in your hands as you place it on the cutting board; notice the heft of the knife in your hand and the motions of your arm as you chop the vegetable; key into the scent released as the onion skin and filmy layers below it fall to the side.
Believe it or not, this is a meditative exercise.
You really can achieve mindfulness while doing housework; you get the tasks done and then can have fun with your children, says Frost, who lives in Mazatlan, Mexico. "This really is a powerful way to do that," she says.
Feel like the human public-transportation system? If so, use your car and your time in it to benefit your mental health.
Frost advises noticing each McDonald's "Golden Arches" that you pass. Manipulate the "M" symbol in your mind from the symbol of a fast-food chain into a mantra trigger.
Then say aloud: "'M' – I am mindful." That's the kind of attention you want to pop into throughout the day, Frost says.
"I give moms very clear ideas for how to find the serenity in the midst of the chaos," says Mimi Doe, mother of two and author of many books, including, Busy but Balanced: Practical and Inspirational Ways to Create a Calmer, Closer Family.
"One of my favorite ideas is creating a serenity tank on wheels," she says. For example, tape affirming phrases, such as "stay centered," "breathe deeply" or "lighten up," to your dashboard, says Doe, of Concord, Mass., and the founder of www.SpiritualParenting.com.
Achieve calm by clearing you car of clutter, she says. "Ditch the old newspapers, empty juice boxes, dried-up Cheerios and various toy pieces."
Many scents and herbs—such as lemon, vanilla, lavender and rosemary—are believed to harbor calming properties.
Don't have the time or means to stand all day in a lavender field in southern France? Turn your car into an aromatherapy haven. "Wipe the dashboard, mats and steering wheel with lavender-scented water," Doe says. "I leave some great-smelling citrus salve on the floor next to the driver's seat. When I hop in the car, I put some on my hands, lips, elbows." You can even put it on the kids!
Scented candles around the house (or bathtub, if you can eke out the time to draw a hot one) can also help you get at that mind-body connection.
Drinking lots of water, eating nutritious foods and getting adequate exercise all contribute to overall good physical and mental health.
Dr. Richard DeAndrea, N.D., treats many new moms, most of whom work and are single parents, at the Akasha Center for Integrative Medicine, in Santa Monica, Calif. With his clients, Dr. DeAndrea emphasizes a three-pronged check-in that includes ensuring the women drink enough water and set aside time to stretch each day.
"These are good point checks that allow a new mom to regroup and not get worked up over the trials of parenting," says Dr. DeAndrea.
And many moms and health practitioners advise trying yoga for its benefits to both body and brain.
"I am a busy mom of three boys who are all active in various sports throughout the year," says Kathy Dekramer, a full-time flight attendant, yoga teacher and trainer. "I have found that doing yoga has been my saving grace."
Dekramer tries to practice yoga four times a week, before her household wakes up in the morning. Failing that, she'll default to at least a 15-minutes meditation session every day, after her sons have left for school.
"It has really helped my mind and body," Dekramer says of her yoga practice, which includes meditation and deep breathing. "It helps me stay focused and grounded even in the chaos."
"Finding time to exercise is an important and necessary aspect to a mom who is healthy in mind-body-spirit," says Amy Hendel, a registered physician assistant with a lifestyle coaching practice in Encino, Calif., and the host of HealthZone, a medical talk show.
Hendel, mother of a son and a daughter, says she opts for one-on-one boxing sessions to "destress, pound out my frustrations and reach a wearying but wonderful fatigue … for my mind-body connection."
Moms must seek out independent "me-time" to get that mind-body connection, Hendel says.
Hendel recommends getting out for a massage, manicure-pedicure, a knitting class or to any other place women tend to gather to foster friendships and even a support network.
"I think the most important rule in achieving mind-body balance, especially for a new mom, is to set some time aside for yourself," says DeAndrea. "I call this quiet time. … It is very difficult to assist others unless you take the time to fill your own tank."
This was the philosophy Frost took to heart 30 years ago when she had four daughters under five years of age and "I couldn't even find time to go to the bathroom alone," she says. "The mere thought of meditation was laughable!"
So key to her own—and any mother's—search for mind-body balance is simplifying the effort. Make it fun, make it brief and be sure to make it daily.
"After all, we learn best when we are having a good time," Frost says. "We enjoy ourselves when we are really experiencing what is happening right now."
The mind-body connection isn't just for moms.
Involve your kids, says Maya Talisman Frost, who offers the e-course, Giggling Allowed: Mindfulness Games to Play with Your Preschooler.
Children can't really tap into true meditation, she says. Instead, emphasize to them the good it does their bodies and minds simply to just be in a moment.
Most evenings, Frost takes her children along to a plaza near the family's Mazatlan, Mexico, home. There, they listen to and are aware of the sounds enveloping them: children laughing, people walking by, others' conversations.
Frost says her kids owe their greater overall happiness to this mindfulness exercise.
Another way parents can introduce kids to the concept of mind-body balance is "engage [children] using what nature gave them—a wild imagination," says Wellness Consultant Kerstin Sjoquist.
"Simply ask any child to picture a unicorn or pretend they are on a trip to the moon, and they're off on a wonderful inner excursion," says Sjoquist, whose techniques can be found at www.blisstrips.com.
"Whatever your child suggests, go with it," she says, as it will benefit the two of you. "This is also a lovely way for a parent to spend some quiet time with their kids."
Jenn Director Knudsen is Associate Development Director for the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies at Portland State University. She studied at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. She is also the mother of two young daughters.