Mindfulness Training Exercises You Can Learn Today

Medically reviewed by Dr. April Brewer, DBH, LPC
Updated February 20, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Mindfulness is a form of meditation that encourages an increased focus on the present. Mindfulness has numerous benefits when it comes to mental, physical, and emotional health. By drawing your awareness to your thoughts, feelings, and surroundings, you can relax, alleviate tension, quiet your mind, and focus. Mindfulness can be practiced in several different ways and under varying circumstances. Below, we’re going to provide an overview of mindfulness and outline several common mindfulness exercises you can incorporate into your everyday life. 

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What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on and accepting what is happening in front of you. It’s a way to slow things down and quiet your mind. Mindfulness has been shown to produce numerous mental and physical health benefits, including lower blood pressure, decreased anxiety and depression, and reduced pain. Mindfulness training teaches you how to live in the moment. It’s also something you can likely integrate into your routine easily. 

Mindfulness is something that you’ve likely practiced without realizing it. If you’ve been absorbed in a task—while remaining focused on the sensations you’re experiencing and the thoughts going through your head—you’ve been in a mindful state.

Mindfulness practices—such as mindfulness meditation and mindfulness-based therapy—are typically simple. When you cultivate mindfulness, you may use guided imagery, a body scan meditation, and other mindful practices. Some people practice yoga and mindfulness together. When you’re engaging in different poses, you likely have no choice but to focus on what’s happening right now. Though some mindfulness exercises are intuitive, it can help to have some training to hone your skills. 

The following are three key principles of mindfulness: 

Attention

The world can be a hectic place. We are often busy with work, family responsibilities, social commitments, financial concerns, and other obligations. There is also an increasingly large number of distractions that can affect our ability to focus. Our attention is vital to almost every facet of our lives, so learning to channel it can be crucial.   

Mindfulness helps us pay attention to the task at hand, allowing us to be fully immersed in the moment. Look around you and notice what you see. Smell the air, listen to the noises you hear, or taste your favorite food. Paying attention to your senses can be an excellent mindfulness practice.

Presence

The ability to stay in the moment can have several benefits. Research shows that a sense of presence can improve our cognitive functioning. Instead of focusing on what could happen in the future or ruminating over your past regrets, concentrate on the present moment. Learning mindfulness is about honoring the right now. When you stay in the moment, you’re allowing yourself to let go. Mindfulness awareness allows you to relax and release your worries. That can be a relief for people who struggle with rumination. Remember, your mind may wander from time to time, but that’s okay. Gently bring yourself back to the present.

Acceptance

The practice of mindfulness involves radical acceptance of oneself. You may find it easy to have compassion for others but struggle to foster self-love. Mindfulness helps people let go of negative self-perceptions. When you have maladaptive thoughts, stop what you’re doing, close your eyes (if you can), take a deep breath in, and breathe out. Ground yourself and remember that you have value. 

Common mindfulness exercises

Part of the appeal of mindfulness is its versatility. You can practice fostering a sense of presence almost anytime and anywhere. The following are a few mindfulness exercises that you can incorporate into your daily life: 

Become a mountain

Mindfulness meditation practice comes in many forms. One technique is to visualize yourself becoming a part of nature. Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the leading mindfulness teachers in the West, has developed an effective guided meditation that focuses on becoming a mountain. You can use it when you’re feeling overwhelmed or negatively influenced by external influences. 

A mountain is steady and still. No matter what happens around it, it remains fixed. In this exercise, the mountain represents your body, and the things around it, including the trees, wind, and sounds of nature, represent all the outside forces of the world around you. While sitting up straight, breathe deeply and picture yourself as the mountain. If your thoughts drift from this image, bring them back gently. This visualization exercise can help you relax, reconnect with your body, and still your mind.

Mindful reading

Reading can be a form of mindfulness. We spend much of the day doing it, whether through emails, social media, or other online content. It can be tempting to skim through the words to get to the point. However, mindful reading is a way of slowing down and fully understanding the message someone is communicating to you. 

When you’re reading emails, instead of skimming them, take a moment to understand what the person wants to tell you. If you’re in the middle of a book, try to absorb each sentence while also taking time to comprehend the main points. Practicing mindful reading can help you gain a better understanding of others. 

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Take a break

Part of mindfulness and meditation is letting yourself take a break. There’s usually pressure to act or do something, but instead, allow yourself to just be. It’s okay to pause and take a break. Mindfulness and meditation allow you to be with your thoughts and be quiet and calm. You can also practice thought mindfulness, where you observe your thoughts as they enter your mind, allow them to be there without judgment, and stay in the moment. 

Mindfully do the dishes

Many of us dread household chores, including the dishes. You can incorporate washing plates, bowls, forks, knives, spoons, and even pots into your mindfulness practice. Feel the warm soapy water on your hands. Squeeze the wet sponge and feel the texture of it. Listen to the sounds of the water running while you clean the utensils. 

How to get started

A mindfulness meditation practice is something you can devote yourself to each day. When you work it into your daily routine, it can increase the quality of your day. It doesn’t take long. Set aside 10-20 minutes for mindfulness meditation practices. Mindfulness research shows that meditation for 20 minutes a day can increase your focus and help you make fewer mistakes. You can meditate while sitting, lying down, driving, or walking. 

Guided meditation

Guided meditation is another way to practice mindfulness. You can practice it in the company of others or by yourself. In both cases, you will be listening to a narrator guide you through a meditative exercise. A meditation teacher will guide you through an audio or video recording or a combination of both. Some people prefer guided meditation as opposed to doing it on their own because it’s structured. For example, many people who have anxiety or ADHD prefer to have a formatted way to practice mindfulness. That way, they don’t get sidetracked. It may feel like the teacher is supporting you as they guide you through the journey.

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