5 Tiny Practices That May Change Your Life

Antoinette Klatzky
5 min readMay 9, 2024

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This month is Mental Health Awareness month in the United States. While we continue to raise awareness about mental health issues that people may face under the surface, we can also explore ways to consciously address our mental health daily to shift our outlook and find positive uplift.

Over the last 5 years or so, I have been sharing Tiny Practices with the Eileen Fisher Women Together programs and some of our partners/organizations. When I started sharing these practices, I knew it was a useful way to process what was going on around me, but over time, I realized that these are habits, small actions that can have outsize impact.

Tiny Buddha Photo by Samuel Austin on Unsplash

Why TINY practices? We often get caught up in the constant barrage of the To Do lists of our lives — our partners, kids, work, career, homes all demand something that seems to take priority over our own internal spaciousness. In a work setting, slowing down for a 30 minute meditative sit with co-workers likely sounds strange if not downright impossible. Tiny practices are small windows into slowing down, becoming more present, and deepening our awareness of what is going on inside.

5 Tiny Practices:

Mindful Moment: One of the most efficient practices to begin to open our awareness in general is meditation. Meditation involves an active process to quiet the mind, although it looks like we are merely sitting still for a little while. Often, at the beginning of business meetings, Zoom calls, or alone, we can host a Mindful Moment tiny practice. Take about a minute to close your eyes or lower your gaze (stop checking the devices), feel the feet on the ground and the head resting on the spine. If thoughts come in, let them go. Focus on the breath.

Taking a Breath: Which brings us to- the very act of taking a breath as a tiny practice. The breath is moving through our bodies all day, every day. The only time we notice the breath is when we can’t breathe for some reason (allergy season, sinus cold or more sinister situations). However, attending to the breath (having studied yoga for over 20 years) is literally the key to life. ‘Prana’ is the sanskrit word for ‘life force,’ and broken down it means the flow of breath. It is understood that the life force flows in on the breath and then moves through and around the body, increasing our energy. Focusing the awareness or attention on the breath, even for a few moments, can open up energy centers, rebalance us when we’re stressed or just help us re-ground when we’re feeling off.

Wiggling Toes: The Polyvagal theory states that stimulating or awakening the vagus nerve can help to decrease stress and manage anxiety. The vagus nerve sweeps through the whole body and when stimulated, can actually help to move us out of triggered responses like ‘fight or flight’. One tiny practice we use is wiggling the toes. Sounds silly and yes, a 30 minute foot massage might also do the trick, but try it next time you feel something out of alignment. A more advanced form of this tiny practice — start in a seated position, place your feet on the ground and hands on your thighs. Push down on the tops of your thighs (not your knees) lightly. Feel the feet engage and push back against the floor lightly. Wiggle your toes up and down. If you want to get fancy, try placing one toe down at a time. That part may require some concentration!

Journaling: Journaling is one of those underrated practices (so is the next one). When the mind is racing, anxiety is present or stress is high, there are a lot of responses that might come up (and each may be more high stakes than the last). Journaling doesn’t always appear first on that list, but maybe it could. Pulling out a piece of paper and a pen stimulates the movement of the hands, which is already naturally calming. Writing down our thoughts, a letter to ourselves (younger, older or present), or writing down questions we have for ourselves and letting ourselves answer, are some great tiny practices.

Generous Listening: One of the questions we asked recently in a Women Together Circle we hosted with Women’s Funding Network asked: What is the greatest gift you’ve ever received? Some might have thought the answers would be physical gifts. The majority were not physical at all. My favorite response to the question was “words of wisdom from my grandmother.” One of the greatest gifts we can give each other, and again, maybe one of the most underrated practices, is the gift of listening. Otto Scharmer, Senior Lecturer at MIT, developed four levels of listening, which inspired us on this Generous Listening tiny practice. For just a moment, can we pause or own presumptions, projections and ideas about what the other person is saying? Can we listen without judgement and listen purely to give the other person a space to share and have the gift of being truly heard? How this tiny practice, if done often, could change our world…

Taking a few moments to do a Tiny Practice builds a muscle. The more we have practiced a mindful moment in stillness, or focused on the breath, the less we have to think about what’s needed when something stressful or anxiety producing comes our way (from an external or internal stressor). We can quiet the mind when we need to, we can be more present with a friend — We generally have more capacity for resilience. As we become more aware, we can begin to assess our reality with more clarity, and we can address others with curiosity and compassion. These practices, like any habit, build up over time. It is said that the way we do anything is the way we do everything — the way we show up for ourselves and others is how we live our lives. All we can do is keep practicing.

For more resources:

On Meditation / Mindfulness: Psychology Today, Article on Mindful interviewing Jon Kabat-Zinn, a world renowned mindfulness teacher and researcher. 16 Respected Mindfulness Teachers on the Mindful Steward.

On Breath/Pranayama: Understanding Prana from Yoga International, What is Prana from Insight Timer (great app to help build the habits of tiny practices)

On Stimulating the Vagus Nerve: Happiful Article, Polyvagal Theory authored by expert Stephen Porges from the National Library of Medicine

On Journaling: Journaling for Emotional Wellness from the University of Rochester Medical Center.

On Listening: Listening as a Leader by Otto Scharmer

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