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If you’ve completed a Journey Into Stillness silent meditation retreat at Happy Buddha (and soaked up some mindful goodness), you’ve no doubt thought of ways to make some changes once you return back home. But work, family and the hustle and bustle of life can sometimes get in the way of making permanent mindful changes, and it’s easy to fall back into old habits.

Here are five things I do since returning from the retreat that help me hold onto some of the magic I experienced.

1. Keep your phone away from your bedroom

One of the best things about the Journey Into Stillness retreat is handing over your phone and having a break from the constant notifications. I know that my screen usage is higher than I want it to be, and the weekend retreat was a great circuit breaker to detach from my constant scrolling. I knew when I got home I wanted to reduce how much time I spent on my phone – especially before bed.

By placing my phone in another room before I go to bed, it stops the mindless Instagram scroll that often occurs before my head hits the pillow. It also helps aid uninterrupted sleep as I’m not being woken by notifications throughout the night. My head isn’t filled with thoughts of work, or that text I haven’t replied to.

I have an alarm set for 7:45 every morning, and usually it’s a sluggish dance of hitting my alarm roughly six times before I eventually haul myself out of bed, rubbing sleep from my eyes, wishing for ‘just another five minutes’. Yet since putting my phone in another room, I find I’m often jumping out of bed before 7am, without prompt.

If you only try one thing to bring some of the retreat back home, make it this one.

2. Journal every day

Journaling was a great tool for getting my thoughts down during the retreat, yet it’s something I’ve always struggled to maintain in ‘real life’. I have dozens of half finished notebooks that start out with my inner musings, and eventually morph into lists of ingredients I need to buy for dinner.

To keep me going this time around, I set aside a specific time to journal – right before bed. I keep my journal in sight so I can’t forget, and because I’m no longer glued to my phone, I have extra time to just pencil down my thoughts for the day. This eases me into a good night’s sleep, as my head is not swimming with thoughts from the day.

I also make it easy for myself. I write in a small, two-lines-a-day diary. By reducing the effort required, it’s easier to keep going. And if I miss a day or two, it’s okay – it’s only a few lines to catch up on, not pages and pages which can feel overwhelming, and therefore easier to give up.

3. Go for a walk without headphones

I know, this is some people’s worst nightmare – to go for a walk and realise you’ve left your headphones at home. But if you want to be truly alone with your thoughts – then listening to a true crime podcast isn’t going to help. Meditation is all about being aware of our thoughts and letting them pass through – but if we’re constantly listening to music, watching TV, reading a book or tuning into a podcast, how are we supposed to be alone with just our own thoughts?

You know how people often have ‘shower thoughts’? Where you come up with amazing ideas while showering? That’s because in the shower, you’re not distracted by anything else. It’s just you, the soap suds and your thoughts.

Tap into this by making an effort to go out for a walk with only your thoughts for company. You may find it allows room for creativity to visit you. Plus, you might be surprised with what you start to notice on your walks, like spring flowers blooming.

4. Make time for meals

I want to caveat this by saying I am very anti diet culture. I believe in eating to nourish your body, and to eat intuitively and without restrictions (aside from, you know, allergies). But because I’m often eating at my computer, I’ve become disconnected from my food. I eat in a rush, and am often reaching for highly processed snacks to get me through the day.

Make time for meals. Eat at the table and put the phones away. Switch off the TV. Close the laptop lid, and carve out time specifically for food. You may find that the more you connect with your food, the less you’ll mindlessly snack on junk that’s just going to leave you feeling lethargic. And if you’re looking for something wholesome to enjoy in between meals, check out this recipe for bliss balls.

5. Have a cup of herbal tea in the evening

I am a coffee fiend, and I have been known to drink cups of bean juice well into the evening (and then wonder why I can’t sleep!). But one of the things I loved about the retreat, and also the yoga studio at Living Flow Yoga in Ashfield is the herbal tea on offer. Sipping a piping hot lemon and ginger tea immediately transports me to a place of calm.

Purchase a couple of nice flavours you enjoy, like peppermint, chai, lemon and ginger, or sleepytime mixes. Avoid green tea, as it’s chockers full of caffeine. Pop them into nice jars in your pantry to create your own little tea station.

But it’s not just the ritual of making a hot drink that puts herbal tea in the good books. According to Healthline, lots of herbal teas like peppermint and ginger have loads of health benefits too, like being packed with antioxidants and helping to relieve nausea. Chamomile in particular is also known to help aid sleep, thanks to a little thing called apigenin, a type of antioxidant that helps promote sleepiness.

You don’t have to overhaul your life to bring mindfulness into it. Small changes can have big impacts, so take it one step at a time.

PS. You can read more about my silent retreat experience here.