by Joy Jordan, guest blogger and mindfulness coach at Born Joy Mindfulness
As humans, we must wait—wait on college acceptance; wait on exam results; wait on medical diagnoses. Waiting is difficult. It parks us on uncertain ground. Our busy minds create elaborate (and unhelpful!) stories. Rather than get lost in distraction, it’s possible to engage with life, even in uncertainty.
Here are five practices to try while you wait…
Talk about what’s hard.
When we struggle, we often feel alone. This silences us when we most need to connect. Brené Brown wisely notes: “Naming an experience doesn’t give the experience more power, it gives us the power of understanding and meaning.”
When we share, we feel better. We move past fear and recognize our interconnection. Other people experience the same things we do. We’re never alone. If you talk about what’s hard, you allow it to be held in a bigger container.
Remember what’s good.
Our brains have a negativity bias: We easily remember what went wrong. The truth is that just as many things went well. But good memories slide by if we don’t pause and notice.
Even in our complex world, daily life contains moments of beauty, kindness, and grace. A smile from a stranger. The first green of spring. A heartfelt compliment. Laughter shared with friends. A good meal. A mistake that wasn’t really a mistake (phew!).
At the end of the day, in preparation for sleep, reflect on all the good things that happened.
We are a communal species. It soothes our nervous system to connect with people, pets, or nature.
Who makes you feel good? Consider the people who inspire you or make you smile. Reach out and make a connection. Give a call, send a text, or schedule a lunch.
You don’t need to have special news or feel great to connect. Connection happens in small, ordinary ways. Remember that you belong.
Get outside yourself.
It’s helpful to see the big picture: Your life matters and you’re not a big deal; you contain the light of a star and you’re surrounded by an infinite universe.
Engage a larger perspective: View the night sky. Participate in group yoga, meditation, or prayer. Walk in the woods. Attend a concert. Watch a big-screen movie. Get up early to see the sun rise.
Waiting isn’t personal. It’s not just about you. There’s a much bigger world to consider.
When life is stressful, we can inadvertently hold our breath. Notice if you’re doing this now. Then let yourself audibly sigh.
Relax your belly and try this: Breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth like you’re blowing through a straw. Breathe in through your nose, breathe out through pursed lips. Gradually, elongate the exhalation. Take your time.
When your exhale is longer than your inhale, a message is sent to your nervous system: rest and relax. Whenever you notice worried thoughts, do this simple straw-breathing practice.
Lasting change rarely occurs with a big leap. It happens with small, regular, ordinary(!) steps. A 3-breath pause is powerful. A belly laugh is medicine. A connection is empowering. Bit by bit, you make it through the waiting, and in the process, you can cultivate courage, empathy, and gratitude.
Joy Jordan is a mindfulness teacher in Appleton, WI. She shares low-commitment but high-impact tools that are quick to master, so mindfulness becomes a welcome everyday practice. Learn more at bornjoy.com.