Mindfulness is a relaxation technique used in many types of therapies, and you can also practice it on your own. Several studies have shown that people who use mindfulness techniques throughout their day have reduced stress levels and an increased sense of well-being.
Mindfulness may help manage addiction, eating disorders, trauma, anxiety, and other mental health conditions or symptoms. You may benefit from regular mindfulness exercises to improve overall physical and mental health.
Mindfulness And Recommended Exercises
Mindfulness refers to being present and aware of the current moment. It can mean acknowledging what you are thinking and feeling and accepting it without judgment. Immersing yourself in the present moment may allow you to be fully aware of everything you’re experiencing.
When you think about an uncertain future or dwell on the past, mindfulness might bring you back to the present moment. Psychologists agree that living in the present is one way to maintain mental health, happiness, and well-being.
You can practice mindfulness at any age. Different exercises may focus on awareness, acceptance, breathing techniques, making lists, coloring mandalas, or replacing unhelpful thoughts with positive, helpful ones. You might also pay attention to your five senses.
Any moment can become a mindful therapy session if you utilize a certain mindset and focus on what you hope to achieve.
Elements Of Mindfulness Exercises
Many “normal” daily activities can be transformed into mindfulness activities. You can practice mindfulness during your everyday activities when you have gotten practice from more structured mindfulness exercises.
Experts agree that most mindfulness activities have the following three characteristics:
- Being present
For an exercise to be mindful, you may work on being fully aware of the subject or activity. There are generally three components to mindful awareness:
You may struggle to be mindful when doing activities or thinking of other things, so you may start by stopping outside activities or thoughts.
Second, you can observe your feelings and concentrate entirely on the subject at hand. This subject could be your breath or any object you use for your mindfulness exercise.
Finally, you might practice “returning.” When your mind wanders, actively return your concentration to observing and being aware of that object or moment. When a thought arises and steals your attention, come back, acknowledge it for later, and release it, returning to the subject at hand.
When you are mindful, you may be living in the present moment. You can observe everything going on at that particular time and place.
Try to avoid letting your thoughts shift to the future or the past. Think about what you can be aware of through the senses, such as what you are feeling, hearing, seeing, touching, smelling, and tasting.
To be mindful is often to be accepting. You may observe, be aware without judgment or preference, and accept what is happening with curiosity, courtesy, and kindness. When you completely accept the present moment, you might feel much calmer and more mindful of the activities you are performing.
Recommended Mindfulness Activities
Therapists commonly recommend the following mindfulness exercises. These exercises may be a way for you to stop what you are doing in times of need and be mindful of the moment. Simple mindfulness exercises, such as mindful eating, mindful breathing, and walking meditation, can be integrated into daily life to improve well-being and reduce stress.
Some of these exercises may be practiced in group sessions. However, they can also be adapted to an individual. If you struggle with mindfulness, know that it can often get better with practice.
The Raisin Exercise
For this exercise, grab a raisin or similar food with texture, color, odor, and taste.
- Sit comfortably and pick up the raisin.
- Focus first on how it looks. Look at its veins and its pits. What colors is it?
- Next, think about how it feels, and think about the texture. How does it feel on your skin as you manipulate the raisin?
- Take in its smell. Does it smell appetizing to you?
- At the end of the exercise, slowly eat the raisin and focus on its taste.
During this exercise, try to be mindful of changes in your perception of a raisin when eating it mindfully. Have you noticed more about it that you never saw before?
The Body Scan Exercise
For this exercise, you will lie flat with your palms facing up or sit in a comfortable chair. You should not move during this exercise if possible. If you must shift for comfort, do so slowly and mindfully.
- First, become aware of your breath through mindful breathing. Don’t try to change it; be aware of it.
- Next, focus on how your body feels part by part.
- Start with the toes, then move to the feet, the lower legs, knees, thighs, pelvic area, abdomen, chest, back, hands, arms, then the neck, and end with the face.
- Spend at least one minute “scanning” each body part before moving on.
After the exercise, ask yourself how you feel. Do you feel calmer or have more awareness of your body?
This is a great exercise to help promote increased visual awareness of your surroundings. You can redirect your thoughts to the present action of seeing things around you. Go to a room with a window for this exercise.
- Sit comfortably at the window and look outside.
- Observe everything about the scene in front of you.
- Do not try to label items such as stop signs or birds. Instead, focus on colors, shapes, and movements.
- Take in as much of the scene as you can, keeping your mind focused on the colors of the scene in front of you.
You can do this exercise for as long as you need. Focus primarily on how it feels to observe and label the colors of your environment.
Five Senses Exercise
The five senses exercise may be recommended for those with anxiety or significant stressors. It is often practiced when you are feeling dysregulated. You can do this exercise quickly without any tools, at any time, to help you ground and center yourself to tackle problems head-on.
- First, stop what you are doing and decide that you are going to be mindful for a moment.
- Don’t let what is going on prevent you from doing the exercise. Try to stop all activities and thoughts.
- Next, focus on the five senses. Find five things you can see, four things you can feel, three things you can hear, two things you can smell, and one thing you can taste.
This exercise can be done very quickly if you are pressed for time, or you can take the time to observe each thing you come to as you explore your senses.
You may also use the senses to create a self-soothing night at home. For example, you might put on comfortable pajamas for touch, light a candle for smell, look at old photos for vision, listen to calming classical music for its sound, and eat a treat for taste.
Increased Awareness Exercise
The increased awareness exercise may be practiced at any time with no tools.
- First, stop what you are doing and be present in the moment.
- Next, focus on your breathing for six breaths or up to one minute, depending on your preferred time.
- Do not allow thoughts to intrude. If they do, acknowledge them and send them on their way.
- Bring your full awareness to how you are breathing without trying to change it.
- Next, expand your awareness of your body. What are you sensing? What are you feeling at this moment? Focus on the sensations like the wind on your skin, the feeling of your clothing, or even any discomfort you might feel
- Finally, expand your awareness again to your environment. Take in the colors, shapes, and movements of your surroundings.
Focus on the colors and shapes rather than labeling items like the blanket you’re sitting on. For example, you might notice that the blanket is soft and white.
Breathing Space Exercise
A three-minute breathing space mindfulness exercise may be helpful for those who want to practice mindfulness on the go. This exercise may also benefit those with busy minds who have trouble focusing on a subject.
- Stop what you are doing and think, “how am I feeling?” Allow the thoughts and feelings to flow through your mind and give them labels and words. Do this for one minute.
- Next, focus on your breathing for one minute, letting those thoughts go with each breath.
- At the last minute, expand your awareness of your body and how the ins and outs of breath affect it.
This mindful breathing exercise can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Taking deep breaths, focusing on the sensation of the breath entering and leaving the body, and gently bringing the attention back to the breath when the mind wanders can cultivate a sense of calm and awareness.
The Leaf Exercise
The leaf exercise may benefit those looking for a simple mindfulness practice. It is a simple exercise that only requires a leaf.
- Sit comfortably and focus on a leaf for five minutes.
- Focus on its texture, its colors, and its patterns.
- Trace the patterns with your eye and your mind, maybe even with touch.
- If thoughts intrude, acknowledge them, let them go, and bring your focus back to the leaf.
This exercise encourages mindfulness by fostering a gentle awareness of nature's beauty and inviting a deep connection with the present moment.
Mindful eating involves being fully present during meals, paying attention to the physical sensations of hunger and fullness, and savoring each bite. This practice can help individuals develop a healthier relationship with food and foster self-compassion.
When you sit down to eat a meal, consider the feeling of food in your hand or the feeling of the fork if you aren’t eating finger food. Smell the food. Focus on the different smells of the food and environment. Then, move on to eat the food mindfully. Focus on the texture of it in your mouth and the variety of tastes that it has. Chew very slowly and deliberately.
This exercise may ground and center you and allow you to grow an appreciation for the meals you eat.
Mindful Observation of Thoughts
If you struggle to concentrate because of racing thoughts, this mindfulness exercise may help ground you and bring awareness to the present moment.
- Sit or lie down comfortably and allow your thoughts to flow.
- Acknowledge each thought, then dismiss it.
- Do not try to label the thoughts or put them in a box. Only acknowledge that it is there, then let it go.
- Do this for at least three minutes.
By practicing this exercise regularly, you can develop mindfulness skills and cultivate a sense of calmness, even in the midst of a busy world.
Walking meditation is a great exercise that combines mindfulness and physical activity.
- Start walking at a slow, deliberate pace, focusing on the movement and sensations in your feet and legs.
- Inhale as you lift one foot, exhale as you place it down, and repeat with the other foot, creating a rhythm with your breathing and steps.
- Observe the sensations in your body, the environment around you, and any thoughts or emotions that arise, but let them pass without judgment.
- If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath and the movement of your feet.
- Gradually come to a stop, take a few deep breaths, and express gratitude for the experience before transitioning back to your daily activities.
As you walk, pay attention to the sensation of your feet touching the ground, the movement of your body, and the rhythm of your breath. This practice can encourage mindfulness, emotional control, and help you stay fully present in the moment.
Mindful listening is another important skill that can enhance relationships and help manage anxiety disorders. To practice mindful listening, give your full attention to the speaker, making an effort to understand their perspective without judgment or distraction. This can lead to increased empathy, better communication, and deeper connections with others.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a program that encourages mindfulness in daily life. It may help participants develop a mindful state to cope with mental health challenges, such as stress, anxiety disorders, and addictive behaviors. An MBSR program may consist of weekly group sessions, homework, and other mindfulness-promoting activities like yoga and meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is a key component of MBSR, allowing participants to develop a consistent meditation practice and experience the benefits of mindfulness in their daily life. As individuals start practicing mindfulness, they may notice improvements in their emotional well-being and ability to cope with stress. Behavior research studies have found that mindfulness helps with self-compassion and empathy, which are important parts of emotional well-being.
Learn Mindfulness With A Professional
If you are experiencing anxiety or live with a mental health condition, mindfulness exercises may help you manage your symptoms. Working with a therapist might be beneficial if you need additional support with these problems or if you want more information about practicing mindfulness.
Experiencing a mood disorder could make it feel challenging to get out of bed in the morning or throughout the day. If you feel this way, online therapy may be a valuable option. Online therapy allows you to get care from the comfort of your home when needed. If your mental health makes it hard to wake up early or stay up late, you can choose session times with your therapist that benefit you most.
Online therapy has grown in popularity in recent years, backed by research that proves its efficacy. One study found that online therapy is similarly effective to traditional, face-to-face therapy. Researchers also found that those using online therapy were “significantly more satisfied with their treatment than those in the face-to-face group.”
If you want to try this therapy method, consider reaching out to a counselor on a platform such as BetterHelp. Your therapist may be able to notify you of new mindfulness techniques to practice at home.
Mindfulness, among other techniques, may help you cope with emotions and establish a baseline to return to in times of distress. While you might practice mindfulness on your own, you can also get support from a therapist to learn mindfulness techniques and skills.
No matter how you choose to confront and work through your emotions, you can have a toolbelt of coping mechanisms to benefit your physical and mental health. If you’re ready to start, consider contacting a counselor for further information.
What are five mindfulness exercises?
There are many easy mindfulness exercises you can do wherever you are to help keep you calm and centered. You can practice them for one minute, five minutes, or however much time you have to slow down. Here are five examples:
You can engage in mindful breathing exercises lying down, sitting in a comfortable position, or standing. It involves simple awareness of the breath and how it feels in the body:
- Begin by taking a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Be sure to breathe slowly and deliberately, balancing your inhale and exhale. You may repeat this type of deep breath as many times as you wish, but many find three is the most comfortable number.
- After your initial deep breaths, return your breathing to normal and simply observe how the air feels as it enters and exits your nostrils. Note the temperature of the air as it enters and exits.
- Now, extend your attention to how the air feels when it enters and exits your lungs. Note whether you fill your lungs completely, how your heartbeat syncs with the breath, and any other internal bodily sensations that present themselves with the breath.
- This can be a quick exercise or an extended meditation. Many people get the most benefits from at least one minute of mindful breathing, but you can stay in this space of mindfulness as long as you’d like.
Mindful Body Scan
The mindful body scan involves placing the awareness on the breath. Take a few deep breaths before settling gently into the natural breath. Next, begin at the toes, and working your way up, focus on any part of the body in which you feel tension and consciously relax that area.
Once you’ve targeted the areas of stress, scan the body again, paying attention slowly to how each area feels. Start again with the feet, then move slowly up the legs, abdomen, back, chest, hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and face. Try to linger on each body part for at least 30 seconds and note consciously how each feel.
Mindfulness Of Thoughts
Take a few deep, relaxing breaths before returning to your natural breathing. From there, pay attention to what you’re thinking about in the moment. Notice whether you’re thinking about something that’s happened in the past, noticing something happening around you in the present, or planning/anticipating something happening in the future.
How do your thoughts present themselves? Are they in a dialogue, play themselves out like in a movie, or do they appear as “snapshots” in your mind? Perhaps you experience a combination of the three?
From there, gently bring your attention back to the breath. Try to stay present on the breath as long as possible, but when thoughts arise again, don’t force yourself to put them out of your mind.
Instead, as your thoughts shift (they will almost certainly will), notice how they link with your previous thought. What led you to this next thought? For example, perhaps you were thinking about a friend’s birthday party yesterday, which led to thinking about a conversation you had with that friend. Maybe that conversation reminds you that you need to pick up your dry cleaning tomorrow.
Once you’ve noticed this thought pattern, return to focusing on the breath. Try to stay mindful of the breath as long as possible, and every time your attention wanders from the breath, repeat the above process. This exercise isn’t necessarily to prevent “mind wandering” or shut out negative thoughts— its purpose is to allow you to become mindful of how you think and the nature of your thoughts in the present moment.
Mindfulness Of Emotions
This next internal mindfulness exercise involves noticing the emotions you feel in the moment. Consider the details of those emotions and how they affect your physical sensations. Do they create feelings of tension or affect your breathing? Do they make you feel fatigued or sluggish?
Then, instead of linking the feeling with a thought, label it on its own. You may notice that as you pay attention to the feeling, it’s more nuanced than you initially perceived. For example, you may first label an emotion as anger but notice it’s actually more like resentment or irritation.
It’s essential to try this exercise with the intention of simply labeling the emotions without becoming preoccupied with the thoughts that may cause them. Be sure to check back in with the breath throughout the exercise. This exercise isn’t about attaching the emotion to a thought— doing so may take you away from the present moment. Instead, it’s about learning what they feel like in the body and recognizing their multifaceted nature as you feel them.
The Five Senses
Mindfulness isn’t only about focusing inward—it’s also about deep awareness of what’s happening around you. This exercise can be done anywhere but often works best when you can be still in one place.
Begin by taking a few deep breaths, then returning to a natural breathing pattern and relaxing the body. Next, pay attention to your surroundings and notice things as they present themselves in your awareness. For example, perhaps your attention is drawn to the sounds of construction outside your window. The first thing you notice may be all the noises from the construction site together, but try to tease apart the different sounds within the noise. Is there a keen, staccato jackhammer? The roar of a backhoe? The beeping of a truck as it backs up?
Then, note the next sensation that emerges in your awareness. You may notice the bright colors of the flowerbox hanging on your windowsill or the smells of food cooking in your neighbor’s home. You may then notice the texture of what you’re sitting on or something you may be holding.
This is an excellent exercise to practice while sitting still, but also throughout the day, as your awareness of the senses will change depending on what you’re doing. If you’re eating a meal, you may take time to slow down and really pay attention not only to how it smells or what the food tastes like but how it feels in your mouth. How does your jaw feel as you chew? How does the fork feel in your hand as you lift it to your mouth? How does the food look on your plate?
Again, to get the most out of this exercise, it’s important to label the experience without associating it with the thoughts. Become mindful of your senses as they arise without judgment or attachment.
What is a daily mindfulness practice?
A daily mindfulness practice is the simple, deliberate process of becoming and maintaining awareness of your inner and outer experiences. Whether it’s the daily routine of slowing down and focusing on the breath anywhere, sitting quietly in mindful meditation in your home, or using a guided meditation resource, you are practicing mindfulness.
What does it mean to be mindful?
You may use the term “mindful” in a couple of contexts. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, definitions of mindfulness include:
Careful not to forget about something:
Mindful of the poor road conditions, she reduced her speed to 30 mph.
Politicians are increasingly mindful that young voters are turning away from traditional parties.
Deliberately aware of your body, mind, and feelings in the present moment, in order to create a feeling of calm:
I’m trying to be more mindful, and I think it helps me with stress.
What are the activities of mindfulness movement?
Some find it’s easier to begin with simple exercises such as mindful walking. When engaging in walking meditation, you may start by paying close attention to how each part of your body feels with each movement, the sensation of the ground as your feet come in contact with it, how it feels to breathe with the activity, and even how the air feels on your skin as you move.
Many practice mindful movement with gentle stretching, yoga, or tai chi. You can also practice mindful movement while lifting weights, doing housework, or running. Regardless of the physical activity, mindful movement can put you more in touch with how your body and the senses engage.
What is a good example of mindfulness?
Perhaps the best example of mindfulness is being mindful of the breath. Breath is a constant activity; we do it often without noticing it. Breath mindfulness can be done anywhere at any time. When we take a moment to check in with the breath without judgment or attachment, it can provide all the benefits of mindfulness exercise by focusing just on one area.
Why are mindfulness activities important?
There are so many benefits to mindfulness. It’s important for relaxing and managing stress, alleviating feelings of depression, better emotional health, improving self-esteem, and achieving an overall sense of balance and greater well-being. Empirical evidence from research, clinical trials, and meta-analysis suggests that mindfulness can also improve cognitive functioning and promote better physical health.
What are the three mindfulness “how” skills?
The three mindfulness “how” skills refer to the primary skills used when engaging in a mindfulness-based therapy called Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). These include:
Observing means to note a thought or emotion without applying judgment or labels. It’s an objective process, allowing one to quiet the mind so one may become aware of thought patterns, feelings, and how we react to them in daily life. Noticing these inner experiences can help a patient understand them better, recognize them as simply thoughts or emotions, and allow them to pass.
Describing means to label our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. With the guidance of a therapist, one may make connections between the three to provide greater insight into how they affect us, and how those connections can be unhelpful. For example, after accepting an invitation to a party, one may think, “I shouldn’t have accepted the invitation; everyone’s going to think I’m boring and judge me.”
Labeling those thoughts and feelings may shift that perspective into something more straightforward, such as “I feel stressed right now because I think I’ll have a bad time at the party. But those are just thoughts and feelings, not my actual experience.” This separates the thoughts and emotions from the actual event and allows one greater understanding of how our beliefs about an experience can undermine the true experience, creating unnecessary anxiety and diminished well-being.
This part of the process allows one to become deeply involved in an activity. It means focusing on the moments within a particular situation as they really exist so unhelpful thoughts, overthinking, and self-consciousness don’t cloud the feelings and judgment. Actively engaging in the moment provides one the “space” to process it productively.
What is most important in mindfulness?
The most important thing about a mindfulness practice can be different between individuals. Some may find the most significant benefit for them comes from reducing stress; others feel it benefits them most by reducing rumination and increasing self-esteem. Some appreciate it as a personalized form of behavior research to understand better how they react in certain situations.
It’s important to take your time and enjoy the process of developing a mindfulness practice. Throughout your journey, you’ll become aware of how it benefits you.
What is an example of right mindfulness as a student?
As a student of mindfulness, right mindfulness is one of seven steps included in what’s known as the “Noble Eightfold Path” as described in the Buddhist “suttas,” or teachings. The term “right” is sometimes interpreted as “wise,” “correct,” or “skillful,” as translated from the Pali language used at the time of the teachings.
However, right mindfulness can also be practiced outside of the Buddhist context by simply using techniques like those listed above that cultivate awareness of the body, the five senses, the thoughts, and the emotions. Examples may include engaging in mindful movement through stretching, practicing breathing exercises, and engaging in thought awareness without labels or judgment.
What are the benefits of mindfulness activities for students?
As a student, mindfulness activities benefit one’s physical and mental health and may help cultivate better relationships and gratitude. As a student of Buddhism, mindfulness activities offer the same benefits but also serve to alleviate suffering, cultivate loving kindness, and eventually lay the foundation for enlightenment.
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