How to Find Zen in Everyday Life

The concept of “zen” is an age-old stream of Buddhism. In essence, it’s about experiencing life directly through meditation. In the West, however, zen is mostly about finding peace and calmness through mindfulness and simplicity. On this basis, here is a simple guide on how to find zen in everyday life. 

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In our uber-busy, crowded lives, we often fail to breathe and savor the moment. 

We fill our days with uninspiring activities. We cram as much as possible into our schedules to avoid “missing out” on something. And finally, we let external distractions steal our focus. 

That’s where zen practices come into play. 

To counter the absence of peace, stillness, and mindfulness in our lives, we need to find everyday rituals that add zen factors to our routines. 

A guide on how to find zen in everyday life

The following are some of the most effective zen habits for busy people. On this basis, here are seven ways to find zen in everyday life. 

How to Find Zen in Everyday Life - stones on beach in San Francisco
Photo by Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash

Schedule your day intentionally 

The first step toward finding zen in your everyday life is to plan your days intentionally. 

Many of us arrive at work, look at the tasks that lie ahead, and hastily draft a to-do list. Intentional planning is the opposite. 

Successful scheduling starts the night before. Before going to bed, create a new to-do list. 

In this context, I use the “MIT” approach from Leo Babauta’s book The Power of Less. The method consists of the following: write down three “most important tasks” (MITs) for each day.

When you get up in the morning, you’ll know what your MITs are, and you’ll stop running from activity to activity without a sense of direction. Prioritize your MITs in the morning. Complete them before taking on minutiae like emails and social media. 

The next part of intentional scheduling concerns your “core activities.” These are the habits that secure your stillness, mindfulness, and enjoyment. 

Jeff Bezos has breakfast with his family and reads the newspapers before going to work. Other people do a workout in the morning. And finally, some like to go for a nature walk in the middle of the day. 

No matter your preferred type, base your routine around activities that secure your productivity and calmness. As such, try to plan your days by scheduling your MITs and your core activities. 

Once achieved, you’ll plan your days intentionally – ensuring an ample amount of zen factors.

Pause your mind after cognitively-challenging activities

Pauses are essential when it comes to finding zen in everyday life. 

After every cognitively-challenging activity, take a break and empty your mind. It could be a five-minute reading stint, a short walk, or just a coffee. Give your thoughts time to breathe and stop thinking about the task that you’re currently working on. 

The 20-20-20 rule is a powerful tool in this regard. The idea is straightforward: for every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something that’s 20 feet (6 meters) away for 20 seconds. 

The simple practice will give your eyes a rest and also remind you to watch your screen time. Better still, it will add mandatory stretches of stillness to your workdays – creating periods of zen throughout the day.

Learn how to focus on one thing at a time 

Multitasking divides your attention and leads to confusion and weakened focus.” – Deepak Chopra

If you’re asking yourself how to find zen in everyday life, start by rejecting the idea of multitasking. 

In our age of connectivity, many people celebrate the fact that they are at all places simultaneously. 

We see social media influencers connected 24/7. The media hails the triumphs of seemingly superhuman serial entrepreneurs. And everywhere we go, we try to listen to podcasts while working on a professional assignment and cleaning our desks. 

For the mast majority of people, however, multitasking does not work. 

The problem with multitasking is that it divides our focus – creating a breeding ground for errors and productivity hindrances. 

As bestseller author Susan Cain writes in Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,

What looks like multitasking is really switching back and forth between multiple tasks, which reduces productivity and increases mistakes by up to 50 percent.

Consequently, stop trying to do various things at once. If you have to complete an assignment, concentrate on that assignment for an hour, take a break, and answer your emails later. 

Repeat mantras 

Mantras are a powerful way to find zen in everyday life.

By repeating a phrase – both in your head and out loud – you remind yourself of the task at hand. 

Clean the dishes. Clean the dishes. Clean the dishes. 

Such a mantra might sound banal, but it can become a zen factor by preventing you from succumbing to distractions. As such, mantras will help you escape a multi-tasking habit and also further your calmness.  

Create space in between activities 

Much like pausing after cognitively-challenging activities, creating space between your daily habits is a substantial zen factor. 

People who master planning also thrive at incorporating flexibility into their routines. You can’t plan every single minute of your day. You can, however, organize your day into well-defined time blocks with spaces in between. 

In a 2013 blog post, Deep Work author Cal Newport compares this planning method to a chessboard. 

This type of planning, to me, is like a chess game, with blocks of work getting spread and sorted in such a way that projects big and small all seem to click into completion with (just enough) time to spare.

Consequently, take your MITs and put them into time blocks. Leave space in between to ensure the next zen factor: rituals of stillness. 

Create rituals of stillness

A guide on how to find zen in everyday life would be incomplete without mentioning moments of stillness. 

No matter how busy you are, integrate silence into your daily routine. Find rituals that you like – like walking, meditation, zen music, or hot baths – and practice them every day. 

For me, it’s a post-lunch walk. No matter the busyness of my day, I always take that walk – as it constitutes an essential stillness ritual. In other words, its productivity and mindfulness benefits outweigh the fact that it may cost some precious time on a busy day. 

Find little slices of happiness every day 

Finally, finding zen in everyday life can be achieved through little slices of happiness. 

We all have big goals, ambitions, and projects. Nevertheless, we can also find small pieces of satisfaction in everyday life. 

Whether it’s a home-cooked meal, a new blog post, or a finished book, these mundane acts can further our happiness and give us a sense of having accomplished something. 

By integrating many of these smalls deeds into our daily routine, we accumulate zen factors and let our calmness blossom. 

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