You’ve probably heard the term “mindfulness” thrown around quite a bit. But, do you know what it actually is, why it is beneficial for you to practice, or have mindfulness exercises lined up to try?
Get the answers to those questions and get started with your very own daily practice of mindfulness, and see how you can reap the numerous benefits you’re going to learn about.
What is Mindfulness?
It may be a good idea to start with a definition of mindfulness before delving into the benefits and exercises. What is mindfulness, exactly? According to Dictionary.com, “mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Simply put, being mindful entails living in this very moment, in the “here and now,” and being focused on what you’re thinking, feeling, and noticing about yourself and your surroundings.
What it is not:
- rehashing what happened at work today
- reviewing what happened during that tiff you had with your significant other
- thinking about what you’re going to eat for dinner
- planning your week
- worrying about paying the electric bill
These are all examples of things that are outside of “the moment.” Remember the phrase, “stop and smell the roses,” and you’ll grasp the meaning behind mindfulness.
- It’s not a religion.
- It’s not necessarily meditation.
- It does not have to take a long time.
- It does not require privacy.
What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
Clearly, being “fully present” means a moment-to-moment state of awareness. When in this state, it’s important to notice things without judging your experience. Practicing mindfulness often can help you in the following ways:
- Reduce stress
- Improve mental focus and ability to concentrate
- Lower anxiety levels
- Lessen depression
- Increase feelings of well-being
- Lessen emotional reactions to situations
- Increase calmness
- Promote greater clarity
- Improve behavior control and modification
- Lower reaction to stressors
Try These 5 Tried and True Mindfulness Exercises
So, are you ready to master your life by trying a few mindfulness exercises? Here are some important notes:
- Feeling bored at first is normal.
- You don’t need to specifically be meditating to practice mindfulness. You can do it anywhere at any time. Just slow down, notice, and appreciate everything about the moment.
- You won’t have an empty mind. You’ll simply notice thoughts and let them pass.
- Mindfulness exercises do take some steadfast practice, so don’t give up!
1. Mindfulness Breathing—focusing on your breath can be very calming. Find a comfortable spot to sit where you can focus and not be interrupted. Sit comfortably with your hands in your lap or resting gently on your thighs. Breathe in through your nose, hold for a moment, and then exhale slowly through your mouth.
Take three to five breaths to start. Begin by closing your eyes and noticing any thoughts you may have and letting them pass without judgement. Next, really focus in on your breathing. Notice how it feels to breathe in and how it feels to hold your breath for a moment. Do you notice it mostly in your chest, nose, or abdomen? How does it feel when you exhale?
Continue to breathe while focusing on your inhale and exhale. After 10 to 15 minutes, gently open your eyes and rejoin the world as a happier and calmer version of yourself.
2. Senses Mindfulness—begin by taking in three full breaths through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Next, pick a sense and notice everything about it.
For example, begin by listening. Notice every sound around you, including the silence.
Next, move to another sense, like smell, and notice all of the different scents around you.
Then, try to notice every single thing you can see. Observe all the details of the room you’re in, the doorway, the ceiling, the window, and what you can see outside the window.
Move on to everything you can feel and everything you can taste.
3. Mindfulness Minute—this is something you can do pretty much anywhere, although finding a private spot where you can be alone and possibly shut your eyes is ideal. Simply take a moment to stand or sit silently and let yourself relax. Next, mentally run through a list of all the things in your life you can be grateful for.
For example, be thankful for the room you’re in, for your health, friendships, for the food you have, the shelter, etc. Continue naming everything you can think of to be grateful for for one to five minutes and then open your eyes and return to your normal activities.
4. Walking Meditation—this simple mindfulness exercise, like most of its counterparts, can be performed almost anywhere.
Find an area where you can walk safely and comfortably without having to stop to cross roads or avoid traffic. Start walking and simply notice everything about the movements involved in walking.
Notice the muscles you’re using to propel yourself forward, to balance, to pick up your legs and feet, to swing your arms.
Notice the way you breathe and how your body feels moving through time and space. Continue this practice for 5 to 10 minutes until your head is cleared and you feel relaxed.
5. The Raisin Exercise—this quirky, yet effective, exercise is a fun one to try and can help you get focused on something other than whatever is going on in your life and allow your brain to completely relax.
Begin by placing a raisin in your hand. Sit in a comfortable, private place where you won’t be disturbed. Notice everything you can about the raisin.
Begin by noticing everything about how it looks.
Next, move it around in your hand, feeling the texture of the skin and the squishiness of it.
Smell the raisin and notice how sweet it is or if it has any distinct odor.
Lastly, you can eat the raisin and notice its feel and taste in your mouth.
5 Mindfulness Exercises to Help You Master Your Life
Start with just a few seconds to minutes each day with any of the mindfulness exercises, and build on your successes. You’ll soon notice that it’s easier to let go of chasing your thoughts throughout each day and likely find that it is easier to really stop and smell those roses, lilacs, lavender, or whatever sights, scents, and sounds appeal to you.