Mindful Exercises That Help You Take Care Of Yourself

Medically reviewed by Karen Foster, LPC
Updated July 17, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Some people may think of mindfulness only in specific scenarios, such as a mindfulness class. However, mindfulness can also be a form of self-care that helps you prioritize your daily needs. Part of self-care is taking care of your body. Another component is making your mental health a priority. Mindfulness exercises can be incorporated into the daily lives of individuals of all ages, offering a way to simultaneously prioritize physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

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Mindfulness is a skill that can take time to master

Mindfulness exercises to try for self-care 

Below are a few of the most practiced mindfulness exercises for self-care and how to use them. 

Self-compassion exercises

Caring for loved ones and wanting to dedicate a significant amount of time to them can be natural. However, in the process, some people may forget to prioritize themselves. When you see a therapist, they may tell you how crucial self-compassion is. Self-compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for yourself but focusing on treating yourself as you would treat someone you love. 

Self-compassion can also be combined with mindfulness. By focusing on how you feel, the thoughts in your mind, and any sensations that arise in your body, you can mindfully validate your experience. Below is a quick way to practice self-compassion:  

  1. Identify the emotion you’re feeling.
  2. Talk to yourself as you would a close friend. For example: “I’m sorry that you’re hurting.” You can say this sentiment aloud or in your mind.
  3. Lastly, say aloud or in your mind, “Even though I feel ___, I love and accept myself as I am.”

Self-compassion exercises can help you understand that you’re human and have painful moments. It’s okay to nurture yourself, and being gentle to yourself when you’re hurting can be healing. 

Mindful posture and body awareness

When you’re caught up in an everyday routine, you may forget to pay attention to how you stand or your posture. Stress can cause you to slouch or tense your muscles. One mindfulness exercise you can practice is improving postural awareness. Whether commuting by car, train, or walking to work, you can remind yourself to stand up straight. Improving your posture relieves tension in the body, may make you more confident, and is beneficial for your overall health.

You can also focus on body awareness. Maybe you struggle with neck pain or lower back issues. During the day, focus your attention on these problem areas. In addition to improving your posture, try practicing gentle yoga. One way to increase self-care and body awareness is to yawn and stretch for ten seconds each hour to give your mind and body a break throughout the day. 

Mindful eating

Healthy eating is part of an overall wellness plan. However, eating well may not be as effective if you’re not taking time to focus on what you’re eating. One way to enhance your nourishment is to practice mindful eating. Before you take a bite, look at the colors on your plate. Once you’ve observed what’s on your plate, begin to eat. When eating, take the time to chew your food slowly. Taste each bite of your meal in your mouth. Notice the different textures of your food and the way it feels on your tongue. By doing this exercise, you are eating mindfully. Consider the raisin meditation as an example: 

  1. Take a raisin and feel it in between your fingers. Notice the texture and color. 
  2. Slowly observe the raisin while you put it into your mouth. 
  3. Ask yourself how the raisin feels in your mouth and whether you can notice any new tastes when eating it slowly. 
  4. Chew the raisin before swallowing it. 
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Mindful gratitude

Gratitude and mindfulness are interconnected. People may often say “thank you” throughout the day, whether at the store or when talking to someone they love. This phrase is so common that some may not think about its meaning. Instead of mindlessly expressing gratitude, pay attention before you thank someone. Think about what you appreciate about them and their actions. 

Articulately express your gratitude. Instead of saying “thanks” or “thank you,” say what you are thankful for to the individual. For example, you could say, “Thank you for taking the groceries in for me today. It made me feel appreciated.” If your partner does the dishes, you can say, “Thank you for taking care of the dishes. It’s a relief.” 

Another way to be grateful is to write a gratitude list. Write down ten aspects of life you’re grateful for and read them aloud or to yourself. Over time, you might notice that gratitude exercises increase your thankfulness for the “little things” in life. 

Mindful parenting

When you’re a parent, it may be easy to get overwhelmed by your feelings and your kids’ emotions. Before you care for your children, it can be vital to be grounded in your own emotions. Emotional insight and understanding of your behavior may allow you to be more compassionate toward your kids. When you practice emotional control, you can teach it to your children. 

If you’re stressed, burned out, or angry about events in your life, you might struggle to be emotionally available to your child. Self-care, learning emotional control, and mindfulness are ways to practice mindful parenting. You don’t have to be a perfect parent—perfection and parenting don’t necessarily go together. Instead, the key to mindful parenting is often to be present and attend to your child’s needs with awareness. 

If your son is having a tantrum, let him feel his feelings. It’s okay to validate his emotions. Let him know that you understand he’s upset. If you’ve drawn a boundary and said “no” to a request that caused a tantrum, all you need to do is be there. You can hold him while he cries or ask him what he needs from you while remaining firm in your “no.” Being present is often the core of mindful parenting.

Another aspect of mindful parenting is non-judgmental communication. Your child’s feelings are valid, as are yours. Take a moment before responding to their emotions if you become dysregulated. You can also leave the room before responding while communicating to your child what you’re doing and why. Mindful parenting takes practice but may improve your sense of self and relationship with your kids.

Mindful sensory awareness

Sensory awareness can be an effective form of mindfulness. When you pay attention to what you perceive, it helps you ground yourself in the moment. Sensory awareness can also be an effective technique for reducing anxiety, focused on noticing what you can see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. 

For example, imagine eating in a restaurant and experiencing anxiety due to the crowdedness. In this scenario, you can practice mindful sensory awareness by focusing on your senses. You can hear people talking, see the red walls, smell the scent of baking bread, touch the soft napkins on the table, and taste a bite of your salmon. The exercise engages all five of your senses, and you are diverted from the intense level of anxiety you were experiencing. If you’re experiencing severe anxiety, it may help to state the objects aloud or leave the situation to practice sensory awareness in a quieter environment and return to your original one afterward.

Getty/Xavier Lorenzo
Mindfulness is a skill that can take time to master

Practicing mindfulness exercises in therapy

Mindfulness is a skill that takes time to master, and you may want to work on it with a skilled mental health professional. A therapist can show you beginner and advanced mindfulness practices to nurture your body and mind. However, you may not know where to begin if you struggle to find a therapist in your area. 

Online therapy platforms like BetterHelp allow clients to meet with a provider from home. When you sign up, you can set your schedule in advance, outline therapy goals, and provide your therapy needs. When you get matched with a provider, you can tell them you’d like to try mindfulness. 

Mindfulness exercises can be a positive addition to a self-care routine. In addition to online therapy, you may effectively relieve anxiety or other challenging symptoms. Studies show that online mindfulness-based therapy can reduce anxiety, depression, and chronic stress, with results similar to in-person alternatives. 

Takeaway

Mindfulness is a form of self-care, and there are hundreds of ways to incorporate it into daily life. However, if you’re struggling to follow these exercises on your own or want to learn more advanced techniques, consider reaching out to a therapist online or in your area to get started.
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