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...
- Give yourself a hand, foot, or neck massage
- Re-visit Foxboro Therapy'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 down three things to tell your spouse on your next date night. Humor is encouraged
- Look out the window. Are there birds outside? People? Trees? Just watch them, no thinking required
- Make a cup of tea, slowly, with attention
- Write a thank-you note to someone
- 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
- Cut some flowers from your backyard and stick them in a glass. Or a vase. Really, we're flexible that way
- Sit and look for shapes in the clouds
- Give the 5-minute desk stretch a try from One Medical
- 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
- Walk barefoot in the grass
- 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
- Have a single piece of perfect chocolate, and take the full five minutes to savor it
- Daydream about your perfect vacation, date, living room decor... Anything that puts you in your happy place
- 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. If you have an art journal, this is an excellent activity to try there
- Brew some tea and 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
- 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's going to write more about this for us soon!)
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Doodle in a sketchbook or on post-it notes. Don't try to draw anything, just doodle shapes and textures
- Eat a piece of in-season fruit. Really pay attention to the texture, flavor, juiciness, and mouth feel
- Go outside. Walk in any direction for 2 minutes. Walk back. Notice how the walk back feels different
- 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)
There you have 31 ideas to inspire your next five-minute break. Bookmark this list or print and hang it on your bulletin board, whatever makes it easy to come back to next time you have five glorious, empty minutes to yourself.