Mindfulness Exercises

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Mindfulness. It’s a pretty straightforward word. It suggests that the mind is fully attending to what’s happening, to what you’re doing, to the space you’re moving through. That might seem trivial, except for the annoying fact that we so often veer from the matter at hand. Our mind takes flight, we lose touch with our body, and pretty soon we’re engrossed in obsessive thoughts about something that just happened or fretting about the future. And that makes us anxious.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

Yet no matter how far we drift away, mindfulness is right there to snap us back to where we are and what we’re doing and feeling. If you want to know what mindfulness is, it’s best to try it for a while. Since it’s hard to nail down in words, you will find slight variations in the meaning in books, websites, audio, and video. Here’s an all-purpose definition that treats mindfulness as a quality that every human being already possesses, rather than something we have to conjure up:

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

While mindfulness is innate, it can be cultivated through proven techniques, particularly seated, walking, standing, and moving meditation (it’s also possible lying down but often leads to sleep); short pauses we insert into everyday life; and merging meditation practice with other activities, such as yoga or sports.

Mindfulness Exercises

Mindfulness Meditation

Find a place where you can sit quietly and undisturbed for a few moments. To begin, you might want to set a timer for about 10 minutes, but after some experience, you should not be too concerned about the length of time you spend meditating.

Begin by bringing your attention to the present moment by noticing your breathing. Pay attention to your breath as it enters and then leaves your body. Before long, your mind will begin to wander, pulling you out of the present moment. That’s ok. Notice your thoughts and feelings as if you are an outside observer watching what’s happening in your brain. Take note, and allow yourself to return to your breathing.

Sometimes you might feel frustrated or bored. That’s fine – these are just a few more feelings to notice. Your mind might start to plan an upcoming weekend, or worry about a responsibility. Notice where your thoughts are going and accept what’s happening.

Whenever you are able to, return your concentration to your breathing. Continue this process until your timer rings or until you are ready to be done.

Body Scan

During the body scan exercise, you will pay close attention to physical sensations throughout your body. The goal isn’t to change or relax your body, but instead to notice and become more aware of it. Don’t worry too much about how long you practice, but do move slowly.

Begin by paying attention to the sensations in your feet. Notice any sensations such as warmth, coolness, pressure, pain, or a breeze moving over your skin. Slowly move up your body – to your calves, thighs, pelvis, stomach, chest, back, shoulders, arms, hands, fingers, neck, and finally your head. Spend some time on each of these body parts just noticing these sensations.

After you travel up your body, begin to move back down, through each body part, until you reach your feet again. Remember: move slowly, and just pay attention.

Mindful Eating

Choose a food you would like to practice with (preferably something you can hold in your hand without getting messy). Something as simple as a single raisin will work well. Move slowly through these steps, take a moment to focus on each one.

Before you pick up your food, notice how it looks on the table in front of you. Notice its colour, how the light reflects from its surface and its size.

Now pick up the food. Notice the weight, and how the food feels against your skin. Rool the object between your fingers, or roll it in your hand and notice its texture. Not if it’s smooth, rough, slick, soft, firm or if it has any other properties. Hold the food to your noce and pay attention to its smell.

Next place the food in your mouth, on your tongue, but don’t eat it. Notice how it feels in your mouth. Does the fexture feel the same as on your hand? What do you taste? Roll the food around in your mouth and pay attention to teh feeling.

Finally, beging to slowly chew your food. Notice how your teeth sink into it and how the texture is different inside. Pay close attention to the flavour and how it spreads across your tongue. Notice how your body changes – does your mouth fill with saliva? Does your tongue feel hot or cold? Continue to chew your food, paying close attention to the many sensations as you finish.

Five Senses

Use this exercise to quickly ground yourself in the present when you only have a moment. The goal is to notice something that you are currently experiencing through each of your senses.

What are the 5 things you can see? Look around you and notice five things you hadn’t noticed before. Maybe a pattern on a wall, light reflecting froma surface, or a knick-knack in the corner of a room

What are 4 things you can feel? Maybe you can feel the pressure of your feel on teh floor, your shirt resting on your shoulders,or the temperature on your skin. Pick up an object and notice its texture.

What are 3 things you can hear? Notice all the background sounds you had been filtering out, such asn an air-conditioning duct, birds chirping, or cars on a distant street.

What are 2 things you can smell? Maybe you can smell flowers, coffee, or freshly cut grasss. It doesn’t have to be a nice smell either: maybe there’s an overflowing trash can or sewer.

What is 1 thing you can taste? Pop a piece of youm in your mouth, sip a drink, eat a snack if you have one, or simple notice how your mouth tastes. “Taste” the air to see how it feels on your tongue.

The numbers for each sense are only a guideline. Feel free to do more or less of each. Also, try this exercise while doing an activity like washing dises, listening to music or going for a walk.

I would love to hear from you so please leave a comment. All feedback is much appreciated. Thank you. Erin

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