This 30-Day Mindfulness Plan Will Help You Feel Calmer and More Present in Just 1 Month
When your plate is already full – or, more likely, overflowing – taking actionable steps to be more mindful in your everyday life may seem like just one more thing on that to-do list that you can never quite finish. At POPSUGAR, we know the feeling, so we worked with three mindfulness experts to develop a month-long plan with one small task you can do each day to feel more present in all areas of your life. With the experts’ help, you’ll get more restful sleep, build better relationships, be more productive at work or school, take better care of your mind and body, and more. The goal is to feel happier and healthier at the end of this 30 days than when you started – and hopefully, pick up some habits you’ll want to continue long after the challenge is over. Keep reading to get started!
Day 1: Use a Soothing, Gentle Alarm to Wake Up
“How you wake up sets the stage for the rest of the day,” said Murray Hidary, founder of MindTravel, a company that creates meditative experiences through music. Switching to a gentler alarm – even if it’s just a song you select on your phone – will help get your day off to a good start. Over time, you might find that you want to invest in an alarm clock that wakes you up by simulating the sunrise or simply playing soothing sounds.
Day 2: Make a To-Do List That Is Actually Doable
A long to-do list can set you up for failure, causing you to feel stressed and anxious at the end of the day when, inevitably, you’re unable to check everything off. Josephine Atluri, a parenting and fertility mindfulness coach and host of the podcast Returning to Life, recommends that you instead “be mindful of your capacity to take things on,” by listing only three things to accomplish each day. “If you have time to accomplish more, go for it,” Atluri told POPSUGAR. “Listing three tasks sets you up for success and prevents overwhelm.”
Day 3: Really Feel Your Workout
If you tend to daydream during your workouts – or think about everything you need to do once you’re finished – try instead focusing your attention on the muscles that are essential to each exercise. “For example, feel your abs during crunches or your glutes when doing squats,” Atluri said. Not only will this teach you to be more mindful, but it will also help you keep those muscles engaged, making your workout more effective.
Day 4: Slow Down During Meals
Rushing through your meals can lead to overeating and even take a toll on your digestive system. Enhancing the cephalic phase – the time just before you take a bite, when you can see, smell, and anticipate your food – boosts secretions in the stomach and eases digestion, explained Mike Dow, PsyD, PhD, a best-selling author and psychotherapist at Field Trip Health. “As you bring the piece of food near the lips, make sure you mindfully savor the smell,” Dr. Dow said. “Notice the salivation that is present, even before the food enters the mouth.”
Day 5: Make Your Bedroom a "No Phone" Zone
If you want to feel rested and focused during the day, it’s important that you protect those precious nighttime hours. “For deeper, more restful sleep, you should actually prepare for it at least one hour before you want to fall asleep,” Hidary told POPSUGAR. Try putting your phone away – even if it’s just tucked into the drawer of your nightstand – at least an hour before bed, instead of mindlessly scrolling through TikTok until the wee hours.
Day 6: Take Your Time Getting Out of Bed
Once you’ve silenced your alarm, take a few minutes to just lie in stillness before jumping out of bed. “Let the day come to you, rather than chasing your day,” Hidary said. This short pause can help you feel more centered and prepared for what’s ahead.
Day 7: Look For Patterns in Your Daily Distractions
“Spend a day simply taking stock of the times you feel stressed, triggered, or agitated,” Hidary said. “What activities are you doing at those times? Who are you with at those times? How much time do you actually spend on social media, versus how much you think you do?” Once you’ve identified these patterns, you can turn that awareness into conscious action and begin making improvements.
Day 8: Reflect on a Few Moments of Joy
It’s easy to dwell on the stress and negativity you encounter each day, but taking a moment to focus on the good things that happened can help you get in a better headspace. “While winding down for bed, call to mind three things for which you are grateful,” Atluri said. “Gratitude is a great way to shift to a mindset of abundance and joy.”
Day 9: Use Music to Set the Tone For Your Workday
Listening to music while you work can be distracting, especially if you find yourself singing along to the lyrics. Instead, “find the right playlist of instrumental music to help keep you in flow with your tasks,” said Hidary, who’s a musician and composer. It’s just one more way you can create a more mindful work environment and set yourself up for success.
Day 10: Cut Back on Caffeine, Starting in the Afternoon
That extra cup of coffee or tea may be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep, and a tired mind is an unfocused mind. Instead, try switching to decaffeinated beverages at least eight to 10 hours before bed. “This may be tough to do at first, but I have a feeling you won’t need that 5 p.m. pick-me-up if you’re getting better sleep,” Hidary said.
Day 11: Give Yourself Just 5 Minutes With Your Phone in the Morning
Experts often recommend avoiding your phone first thing in the morning, and while it’s true that this allows the brain to slowly transition to being more alert, ignoring those notifications is easier said than done. Instead, Hidary suggests giving yourself five minutes to check in as part of your morning routine: “No answering emails, no responding to anything – just a brief ‘drive-by’ of the important notifications so you can release any anxiety from your mind before you go about your day.”
Day 12: Focus On Your Breath During Exercise
Bringing attention to your breath during your workout can help you stay present, and you can adopt this mindful practice no matter what kind of workouts you prefer. For example, when strength training, “inhale as you relax your muscles and exhale upon exertion, such as a pull or push movement,” Atluri said.
Day 13: Set an Intention For the Day
Be careful not to conflate setting an intention with making a to-do list – this intention is simply a touchpoint you can come back to when you begin to lose focus. Hidary suggests choosing one personal or professional project you plan to take action on. On a Friday, that might mean setting yourself up for the week ahead, which you can then break down into smaller tasks.
Day 14: Schedule Some Leisure Time
When you’re juggling so many responsibilities, it can be hard to make time for the things that help you destress, like taking your dog for a walk or reading a book. That’s why Atluri recommends carving out at least 15 minutes for leisure activities each day, and adding it your calendar so it takes priority. “When you schedule an activity, it won’t feel rushed and you can be more present,” she said.
Day 15: Perform a Nighttime Body Scan
This simple exercise can help you feel more relaxed, so you can easily drift off to sleep. “As you lay in bed, notice if you are holding on to any stress or tension in the body,” Atluri said, working your way up from the soles of your feet to the top of your head. “Use your breath to help you relax those areas and, if needed, also combine with some gentle stretching.”
Day 16: Add Affirmations to Your Morning Routine
Like reflecting on happy moments in your day, affirmations are another tool for guiding your mind away from worry and negativity and centering your thoughts on something positive. Alturi suggests writing out a few affirmations on sticky notes and leaving them on your bathroom mirror. “While doing your morning routine, say these affirmations to yourself,” Alturi explained. “Try something simple like ‘I am kind,’ ‘I am beautiful,’ or ‘I am courageous.'”
Day 17: Set Boundaries With Social Media
It isn’t practical to go without screen time, but establishing some ground rules can help keep you from getting sucked into Instagram (or worse, the dreaded doomscroll). “Set boundaries for yourself so you have certain times of the day and specific lengths of time that you allow yourself to access social media,” Atluri said. This can help ensure that you’re truly present with friends and family or with your work or studies.
Day 18: Gently Remind Yourself to Stay Present
It’s only natural for your mind to wander while you’re meditating, reading, or trying to get some work done. Instead of beating yourself up, Dr. Dow suggests “catching yourself the moment you start drifting so you can gently and mindfully bring your attention back to the one thing you’re doing in the present moment.” With practice, it’ll get easier and easier to maintain your focus.
Day 19: Spend Some Time Tidying Up
Cleaning your home may not sound like an exercise in mindfulness, but “it forces you to be present in selecting what’s important to you,” Dr. Dow told POPSUGAR. You might start by selecting just one space in your home that tends to get messy (like your closet, entryway, or vanity), then focus on donating or tossing anything you don’t need and designating a place for the essentials. This helps prevent clutter, and “naturally helps you to slow down and place things deliberately in a way that can help you feel relaxed and centered,” he said.
Day 20: Reserve the Bedroom Only For Sleep and Sex
It can be tempting to work, study, or even just watch Netflix in bed, but according to Dr. Dow, mindfulness means doing one thing at a time in an intentional way. “Keep TV watching, phone checking, and work in the living room or office,” he said, adding that the purpose of your bedroom should be to sleep or have sex. “Since the brain is an association machine, this will help the brain to pair the bed and sleep.”
Day 21: Tap Your Senses
“Find simple, small ways to create a peaceful living space,” Hidary said. Focus on things that will stimulate your senses, such as a scented candle or fresh flowers – and be sure to pause from time to time, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, to really take them in. “These are very effective at improving mood,” he explained.
Day 22: Practice Conscious Communication
If you ever find yourself waiting for your turn to speak because you already know how you want to respond, this tip is for you. “During your next conversation, be conscious of your ability to listen to the other person,” Atluri said. “If thoughts pop up while they are talking, gently acknowledge the thought and return to focusing on the speaker’s words and emotions.”
Day 23: Think About What Your Body Needs Before Choosing a Workout
“Take time before your scheduled workout to see what your body really needs in the moment,” Atluri said. “Often, we perform the same exercise routine without taking into account if our body needs rest, stretching, or a different type of exercise.” Maybe all you can muster is a few yoga poses and an extended Savasana – and if so, that’s OK.
Day 24: Be Mindful When Having a Disagreement
We’ve all said something we don’t mean out of anger, and it’s not only hurtful, but also unproductive. Atluri recommends that you tap into how you’re feeling when hashing something out with a partner, friend, or family member. “Use ‘I feel’ statements to label your emotions rather than taking them on as characteristics or thoughts,” she said. “Staying mindful should help you come to a resolution in less time and with fewer hurt feelings.”
Day 25: Do a Short Breathing Meditation Before Bed
Taking a few moments to focus on your breath may be just what you need to unwind at the end of the day. “I recommend listening to relaxing music that incorporates binaural beats,” said Hidary, who has created these tracks for MindTravel. “Through a process called entrainment, binaural beats synchronize your brain waves to the state in which deeper, more restorative sleep can occur.” (Note that people with certain conditions, such as a history of seizures, should talk to their doctor first.)
Day 26: Read a Book and Listen to the Audio Version at the Same Time
This tip is especially helpful if you’re someone who gets to the bottom of a page and can’t remember a single word you read. Hidary often listens to the audio version of a book while reading the physical one. “This was a game changer for me. You can put the audio on higher playback speed to match your reading pace and I’ve read hundreds of books this way,” Hidary said. “It is incredible how quickly you can get through a book and retain much more information.”
Day 27: Think of Some Ways You Could Practice Self-Compassion
“We need to love ourselves first before we can share love, kindness, and compassion with others,” Atluri told POPSUGAR. “Typically, we are kind and understanding to other people without giving ourselves the same type of grace. Write down some ways that you can show yourself kindness, compassion, and love.” Then try to put them into practice ASAP.
Day 28: Go Barefoot
Whether it’s in your backyard or on the beach, there’s no better way to be present than to literally feel the ground beneath your feet. Atluri explained that being in nature can reduce stress and anxiety. “Go outside and stand somewhere barefoot. Notice the textures under your feet and feel your connection to the ground beneath you,” she said. “Witness the support the earth provides you.”
Day 29: Assess Whether You Give More Than You Get in Your Friendships
“Your relationships should actively contribute to your overall enjoyment of life,” Hidary said. “The quality of your life is directly related to the quality of the relationships in your life. You do not have to stay in a relationship that brings you down, undermines you, or holds you back from your personal growth.” Take an inventory of the investment you’re making in friendships that might not serve you, and be more mindful of that moving forward. “Your time and your energy are precious,” Hidary explained. Protect them.”
Day 30: Try a Bedtime Mantra For More Restful Sleep
“Gently repeat a mantra to yourself to help you transition into a restful state,” Atluri said. “A mantra is a vehicle for your mind to keep you present and can serve as a reminder of the state you are trying to achieve. For sleep, try out the mantra, ‘I am ready to rest and recover.'”