There are so many ways to incorporate mindfulness in to your daily life and one post doesn’t suffice. Mindfulness is a moment to moment awareness of what’s happening internally (your emotions and physical sensations) and externally (using your senses to note what you see, hear, smell, taste and touch). While the definition may sound complicated, the actual practice can be quite simple.
It may seem like I’m constantly talking about mindfulness, but there’s a reason I keep encouraging its practice. By trying mindfulness exercises, you can gain various benefits such as:
- feeling more in control of your emotions
- improving your attention and concentration
- reducing stress and anxiety
- becoming aware of your thoughts and triggers
- having more capacity to pause and reflect versus acting automatically
- improving relationships
- living in the present moment (rather than worrying about the past or future)
How to be mindful:
When we start our mindfulness exercises, it’s important to keep the following components in mind. These four factors shift our normal daily activities into intentional mindfulness practice.
- Observe: When we are mindful, we are observing using our five senses to notice what is going on internally and externally.
- Note: You stop being mindful when you move away from observing with your senses to focusing instead on interpretations (e.g. “That person is looking away from me” versus “that person must think I’m the worst”)
- Participate: When we are mindful, we throw ourselves into an activity and fully engage with the present task. Rather than shying away, or being an observer, you want to be an active participant.
- Non-judgement: When we are mindful, we describe only what we observe. This means noticing and moving away from interpretations, evaluations or judgements.
- One thing at a time: Mindfulness means the end of multitasking! Instead, we want to only focus on ONE activity at a time.
15 Mindfulness Exercises
So let’s dive in! There are many ways to practice being mindful. The importance is doing these activities by observing with your senses, participating fully, being non-judgemental and doing one thing at a time. Whenever your thoughts stray away from the activity, you want to bring it back. This may involve bringing your attention back many times, and that’s okay! Mindfulness is like a muscle, and the more often you practice, the stronger it becomes. With practice, your attention will improve.
Eating a meal
Notice how the food tastes and smells. Pay attention to the movement involved in taking a bite. Notice the visual presentation and the sounds that you hear from the moment you pick up your food to swallowing.
Going for a walk
This is a great way to be mindfully aware of how your internal environment interacts with the external environment (e.g. can you notice how it feels when your feet hit the floor? What happens in your body when you notice your surroundings? How does your body respond when it hears a bird chirping versus a loud car horn?
Listening to the news
This is a great way to practice being non-judgemental! Try and sit through the evening news noting when judgemental thoughts arise. When they show up, can you try and bring your attention back to the material shared on the TV instead of evaluating the information?
This works especially well if you feel self-conscious about dancing. Can you throw yourself into this activity letting go of all judgemental thoughts and insecurities?
Yes! You can watch TV mindfully. It involves only doing this activity (not also playing on your phone, talking to your family member, or get supper ready). Can you bring all your thoughts back to the show that you are watching whenever you get distracted?
Can you notice the sense of touch when you are washing dishes? What temperature is the water? What does the suds and sponge feel like? Are you able to focus on just watching dishes instead of thinking of something else?
Describing your home
Can you close your eyes and describe your home? What is actually observable? Where are items located? Can you notice if any judgemental thoughts come up and replace them with observable facts?
Engaging in a conversation
Can you participate in a conversation with someone mindfully? This means truly taking the time and effort to hear what the other person is saying (as opposed to planning your retort). Are you able to focus on the conversation and not multitask?
Paying attention to your breath is boring, which is what makes it a great mindfulness exercise! It’s easy to have your attention wander if all you’re doing is focusing on your inhale and exhale. This means ample opportunity to gently bring your mind back whenever it shifts away from the breath.
Observing your thoughts
Set a timer for two minutes and notice the various thoughts that come to mind. We want to teach your brain to not become hooked to these thoughts. This means acknowledging a thought when it pops up, but not going down the train of thought to elaborate. This one takes practice and can be frustrating, and it’s part of the reason I recommend sticking with a two-minute timer to begin.
Using a meditation app
There are many online apps that can guide you through meditation such as: Insight Timer, Calm, Pacifica or Head Space.
Completing a body scan exercise
Take the time to start noticing the various shifts that happen internally. This video is a great starter to help you start mindfully observing your body.
It’s so easy to get critical of others’ driving when you’re on the road. Can you observe what is happening around you without these critical thoughts? If critical thoughts happen, can you rephrase so that you focus on observation rather than evaluations?
Finding music that puts you in a specific mood (sad, angry, happy)
Listen to each song, and observe the shifts it has in your body when various emotions come up.
Cleaning your home
Try and create a plan of cleaning your home one step at a time. Once a task is done, move on the next. Pay attention to judgemental thoughts if they arise, and bring your attention back to the task at hand. Notice how it feels when you are sweeping. What do your muscles feel like when you are dusting? Instead of focusing on the end result, can you slow the process down to being in the present moment?
As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to reach out.