When I have five minutes, or a half hour, or (delightfully) an afternoon, it's easy to fritter the time away. I go online to check the weather and ten years later... Or I'm just going to respond to that one email... So completely unstructured time doesn't work for me if I want to just. breathe.
One of the best ways I've found to appreciate what time I find is to have Something To Do. I don't mean "To Do," like folding laundry or flossing the cat. I mean something I can revel in and savor, even if it's just a cup of tea.
Advanced downtimers may actually pencil five minutes into their calendars. They're like Downtime Superheroes, who know they'll be way better able to Save the World if they're clear-headed.
But if it's all you can do to grab five minutes when you can, that's okay, too. Do what you can, with what you've got.
if you have five minutes of downtime...
Ideas if you stay where you are
- Give yourself a hand, foot, or neck massage
- Re-visit Amy Maricle's 5 Minute Self-Care techniques and choose your favorite
- Or give a try to Foxboro Therapy's Portable Art Kits, which art therapist Amy Maricle calls "self-care on the go" - what a clever idea!
- Write down as many things as you can think of that you're grateful for. Pick three that you're going to say "thank you" for today
- Try a five-minute breathing exercise from MindBodyGreen
- Write a thank-you note to someone
- Look out the window. Are there birds outside? People? Trees? Just watch them and breathe, no thinking required
- Try a 5-minute desk stretch
- Daydream about your perfect vacation, date, living room decor... Anything that puts you in your happy place. Don't let yourself make this in to a to-do list - just let your mind explore your happy place.
- Invent a secret, sacred space in your head. Is it inside or outside? Is there weather? Are there trees? Animals? Or is your sacred space a spacious, white room with no furniture? Visualize every detail about this space, including sounds, scents, textures, and colors. Bonus! You can build on this space every time you have five minutes, or create multiple spaces for different moods
My inner sacred space is a wild garden, and I've built it into something quite detailed over the years. I started a second space a few years ago, just a large, white room, for when I want something indoors and silent. But I keep coming back to my garden.
- Doodle in a sketchbook or on post-it notes. Don't try to draw anything, just doodle shapes and textures
- Sit with your favorite essential oil and just. breathe.
- Grab a notebook and write free-form for five minutes. You can write your feelings, thoughts, plans, to-do's, whatever comes to mind, in stream-of-consciousness. Give yourself permission to throw it away when you're finished, if you like
- Close your eyes and count backward from 1,000 by threes. 1,000, 997, 994... The minor math helps keep your mind from wandering back to your to-do list
- Write down three things to tell your spouse on your next date night. Humor is encouraged
Sometimes I'll take my 5 minutes to jot down things I've been meaning to tell my husband. This is especially helpful on date nights, when we're both trying to remember what we were going to talk about (other than work, housework, the to-do lists...)
Ideas if you want to move a little
- Make a cup of tea, slowly, with attention
- If you have time after you've brewed your tea, meditate on one goal for yourself. Find the goal or just think about it. Give yourself permission to put that goal away until the next time you have five minutes
- Mix up an oatmeal face scrub from Beauty and Tips Magazine. You can use it later, while you sort through the laundry, pay the bills, or you know, do other stuff
- Sit and pet your cat/dog/ferret/rabbit/resident furry animal. They will love this, once they get over the fact that you're petting them without attempting to give them a pill, clip their nails, or otherwise inhibit their happiness
- Have a single piece of perfect chocolate, and take the full five minutes to savor it
- Grab some colored pencils, pens, markers, or crayons and color a swatch of today's weather. Consider whether you want to add details like what flower/tree/building colors you see out the window. Personally, I make this as messy as possible. (If you have an art journal, this is an excellent activity to try there)
Doodling the weather is one of my favorite mind-clearing activities. This is in my art journal, and you see how messy I can get with it. After all, there are no rules, and I'm not getting graded!
- Brainstorm what you'd do with an afternoon to yourself. Collect phone numbers, maps, grocery lists, or whatever you'd need to make the afternoon possible if it happened right now(idea courtesy of Amy Maricle. She wrote more about this for us!
- If it's sunny outside, find a place to sit with your eyes closed, face to the sun
- Try the 5-minute exercises in WebMD's video (warning: this link has sound!)
- Close the curtains and dance. Just. dance.
- Eat a piece of in-season fruit. Really pay attention to the texture, flavor, juiciness, and mouth feel
- Throw away 10 things (Note: normally this wouldn't count for relaxation, but sometimes you need to clear your head by clearing your space. I suggest only using this when you need the catharsis of throwing away)
- Make yourself a Feel Good playlist, one where every single song makes you happy. Next time you need 5 minutes, any song you play from this playlist will be a quick pick-me-up.
Ideas to go outside
- Walk barefoot in the grass, slowly and with attention. (No grass? No problem! Just walk barefoot and feel the textures with your feet.)
- Turn your walk into a walking meditation. Walk veeery sloooowly, and just breathe. Pay attention to the space around you, the soles of your feet, your clothing brushing your skin. This can feel funny the first time you do it, but walking meditations offer a remarkable amount of relaxation
On days when it's too wet or cold to go outside and clear my head, I'll sit by the window for 5 minutes and just admire the view. I'm often amazed at the little details I would normally miss, like the watery sunlight shining on a spider web and glistening on berries.
- Walk in any direction for 2 minutes. Walk back. Notice how the walk back feels different
- Cut some flowers from your backyard and stick them in a glass. Or a vase. I have some tips for making anything work
- Sit and look for shapes in the clouds
There you have more than 30 ideas to inspire your next five-minute break. But what if you magically have a half hour? How about 24 ideas for 30 minutes to yourself? Or take a little brain break to browse what new sculpture I've added to the shop.