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4 Step To Being More Mindful in The Chaos of Life

4 Step To Being More Mindful in The Chaos of Life

Until my late 20s, I felt like I had been fighting my whole life. Brought up on the south side of Johannesburg, in South African government housing (similar to “the projects” in the USA), I learned early on that what really mattered was not how smart you were, but whether you were tough enough.

Growing up, I often felt trapped in a really bad nightmare — and I wanted to wake up. My abusive, alcoholic mother kicked me out of the house at 17 and, as a result, I never finished high school. I found myself sleeping on the very same park bench I played in as a kid, with less than $20 in my pocket. I decided then and there, to change the trajectory of my life.

I turned things around, realizing that success comes down to what you do on the inside, no matter what is happening on the outside. What I have learned over the years is that sustainable success in life, in the workplace, and as an entrepreneur — is MORE than just head smarts. You may have the ‘head smarts’ to make things happen in your life, but you still have to make it actually happen. Being successful in your business requires skillful inner management. In other words, you have to learn how to overcome your inner opponent. Not so easy of course, in the fast paced, ever changing world we now find ourselves in.

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Getting Real About the Craziness of Modern Life

I doubt anyone in the modern world would deny that life has become somewhat frenzied. There seems to be a series of continuous deadlines looming at work, not to mention being met every morning with 100s of emails to clear — even before we start the day. For those of us with kids, we find ourselves racing around from one extramural activity to the next. Even simply keeping up with social media is becoming a chore. In an attempt to help us declutter our lives, we search out life hacks to manage both our time and daily activities in a more efficient way.

In all of this frenzy we face in our lives each week, we often forget about ourselves. Sure, we may get to the gym, but it seems more about simply working out just to keep fit, and not really about living fully. We may eat healthy foods, but it feels more about consumption of optimal fuel, than optimal health. While we find ourselves ‘hacking’ everything — from ensuring we get through the day-to-day tasks more efficiently, to a 10-minute all round workout on our home gym — we often forget what truly drives success – ourselves.

All the life hacks in the world become meaningless unless you can effectively hack your own embodied-interface. Said another way, without skillful inner management of your mind, body, and emotions, you will invariably burn out and crash — no matter how well you have attempted to life hack your life. I call these inner management skills, Embodied-Growth Hacks (EGH). Each EG Hack is designed to help a person skilfully navigate their inner terrain for optimal success in the actual chaos of life.

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Mindfulness-in-action

The No 1 EG Hack that can save your sanity is mindfulness. Maybe you have heard about mindfulness? There is no arguing that it has become all the rage. Some of the top key benefits of mindfulness include strengthening your immune system, as well as strengthening your physiological responses to stress and negative emotions. Mindfulness is said to improve social relationships both with family and strangers. Importantly for us living a fast paced life, mindfulness is said to reduce symptoms of stress, depression, and anxiety.

While the benefits of mindfulness are clear, the tough part for most people, is finding the time to sit still long enough to practice it. I am not sure about you, but as a go-getter myself, sitting on a zafu (a meditation cushion), in a quite candle lit room, and meditating — isn’t my cup of tea. I have tried it, and I just can’t sit still long enough to get any of the benefits. Let me be honest too, I don’t have the time either, I am busy. But what if I told you there is another way to gain the amazing benefits of mindfulness, without meditating?

Here’s how I do it:

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There isn’t a day in my life, that at some point I don’t find myself experiencing an aspect of modern life that I would consider the mundane. This could be washing the dishes, sitting in my car in early morning traffic, or in the line at the grocery store. It was in all these mundane moments that I began to purposely practice the art of mindfulness. Rather than sitting on a zafu, I did it in action. Approaching mindfulness-in-action seemed to fit my personality too.

I apply an easy four step process:

Step 1: First I recognize the mundane moments (“I am standing in a line at the grocery store”). Remembering to do it, is the first step to success.

Step 2: Then I intentionally begin to focus on my breath. By focusing on the length of both my exhale and inhale, It helps center my mind in the present moment.

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Step 3: If my mind begins to wander to anything other than my breath, I gently bring my focus back to my breathing (and trust me it’s going to wander, that’s just what the mind does). Here it is important to not judge myself when my mind wanders off. Simply I acknowledge that my mind has wandered, I smile, and then bring myself back to a focused attention on my breathing.

Step 4: Once I am present with my breath, I turn my focus outward, passively focusing on the outside world — while all along keeping my present moment awareness on my breathing.

Overtime, finding all the mundane spaces in my life to practice what I call mindfulness-in-action, began to have positive affects on the not so mundane aspects of my life. When things became really hectic at work, I found myself able to recenter simply by focusing on my breathing. Looking back now, those ‘mundane spaces’ in my life accumulated to a lot of time wasted. But now, when I take every opportunity to practice being mindful in them, by the end of the month, I have racked up an impressive amount of inner game training.

Practicing to be mindful in the mundane, also gave me some me-in time. It stopped me being on my phone simply to pass time, or frantically looking at my day’s schedule. Disconnecting from technology, even for brief moments throughout the day, can be really good for your stress levels, as I found out. More importantly, I was able to practice being mindful in the crux of life. By starting with the mundane moments, it allowed the benefits of that practice to spill over to the really stressful moments of my life, where I needed to be mindful the most.

More by this author

Rodney King

Embodied Performance Coach

The Fragmentation of Focus, And What You Can Do About it! Your Voice of Temptation Doesn’t Need To Be In Charge 4 Steps to Managing Your Emotional Life 4 Step To Being More Mindful in The Chaos of Life

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

Video Summary

Why is it important to train up our core strength?

There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

One Exercise, multiple benefits

There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

What will happen when you start doing planks every day

    1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

    Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

    • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
    • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
    • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
    • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

    2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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      Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

      Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

      3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

        Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

        4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

          Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

          A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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          A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

          On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

          5. You’ll improve overall balance

            Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

            6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

              Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

              7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                How to hold a plank position

                1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                  How to improve your plank time gradually

                  1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                  2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                  3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                  Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                  Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                  You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                  • Prolapse
                  • After prolapse surgery
                  • Pelvic pain conditions
                  • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                  • Previous childbirth
                  • Overweight

                  Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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