Before heading for the vending machine for a mid-day pick me up, try an all-natural, zero-calorie option: mindfulness. This energizing mini-retreat is the perfect remedy for workday sluggishness, waking up your body, refreshing your brain, and shifting you from foggy to focused.
Moving and breathing in rhythm for a few minutes makes you feel lighter, brighter, and more alert. A study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that acute physical exercise enhances executive functioning. In other words, short spurts of exercise have the potential to snap you out of afternoon dullness and energize us for the rest of the workday.
Mindful Movement to Beat the Afternoon Slump
Come as you are—this energizing mini-retreat is work clothes friendly and can easily be done in front of your desk.
1) Breathe of Fire: This invigorating breathing exercise involves 20-40 short powerful exhales. It’s an ideal way to release built up tension and lift your mood. Try it seated or standing. Take a full breath in through your nose and pause for a moment. Start with your arms up, making fists with your hands, and as you exhale pull your elbows down to your waist. Exhale out your mouth in short spurts, as if you’re abruptly shushing someone: Sh. Sh. Sh. Every time you exhale you pull your belly back to your spine.
2) Toes up/Heels up: If possible, take off your shoes. This full body reboot increases blood flow to your feet and ultimately to the rest of your body. As you inhale, lift your heels up. As you exhale, release heels and lift your toes up. Rock up and down for 5 breaths.
3) Squats: Hips and thighs get tight from sitting. Dynamic squats keep you limber and loose. Separate your feet wider than your hips. Inhale reach your arms overhead. Exhale out of your mouth, bend your knees and pull your elbows down towards your knees. Straighten your arms and legs as you inhale. Repeat for 5 breaths.
4) Side Sways: Moving your spine side-to-side is invigorating. As you inhale, reach your arms into a “T” position. As you inhale reach your right arm overhead and sway to the left. Inhale brings arms back to the “T.” Exhale sway to the raight. Repeat for 5 breaths.
These simple tools, movement, breathing, stillness and silence, can help you shift from feeling cluttered to feeling more clear—from feeling frazzled to feeling more focused.
5) Downhill Skier Stretch: To start, bend your knees and place your elbows on your knees. Reach your arms back to prepare. Inhale reach your arms overhead and slightly back and look up. Exhale brace your core, slowly bend your knees and reach your arms back. Repeat for 5 breaths.
6) Side Twists: For your last pick-me-up exercise separate your feet very wide. Make sure you have room around you. Slowly start to swing your arms like a helicopter from side to side. Pick up the pace if it feels good allowing your spine to gently twist with each swing. Repeat for 5 or more breaths.
7) Mindfulness Meditation: Now that your body is pumped up, sit down, with your feet on the floor. Close your eyes and tune into physical sensations: notice your body, any heat, or pulsing, your heart beating, notice your breath. Follow your breathing pattern and watch it slow down. Start to pay attention to the end of your inhale and exhale. Pause in at the top of your breath for a moment or two, and pause again at the bottom. Inhale and pause, and exhale and pause. Rest your mind on your breath in this moment. Explore the pauses with curiosity. Let go of any tension you feel and allow yourself to breathe naturally.
After a few minutes open your eyes and notice if you feel. Do you feel clearer, more energized? Do you feel more tired? That’s okay. What’s important is that you recognize that these simple tools, movement, breathing, stillness and silence, can help you shift from feeling cluttered to feeling more clear—from feeling frazzled to feeling more focused. Remember, short spurts of exercise can increase energy and focus for hours. Not a bad return for a no-money down, calorie-free pick-me-up.
Put your shoes back on and head back into your day with more vigor and verve.