Over the past few years, mindfulness practice has grown in popularity as everyone from thought leaders to celebrities, therapists and yoga practitioners celebrate the benefits. A plethora of apps, websites and books provide guidance and a range of different techniques to help incorporate mindfulness into your day. We even have a section of our website devoted to free mindfulness exercises here.
As we learn more about the benefits of mindfulness, it’s become more apparent how important it is to maintain both mental and physical wellbeing. Scientific studies have shown that regular mindfulness practice can help to reduce stress, increase the ability to cope with illness and injury, and improve overall health and wellbeing.
The great thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t take much to get started. You don’t need any fancy equipment or special clothing. All you need is a quiet spot (in fact, it doesn’t even need to be quiet necessarily) and a dedicated amount of time set aside each day.
While you’ll reap the most benefits from mindfulness by creating a regular routine, it seems that the jury is out on how much time you need to spend each doing mindfulness to feel the positive effects. Some studies indicate that a lengthy practice of 40 minutes daily is needed and others say ten minutes or even just a few minutes is enough for the benefits to kick in. In our opinion a short practice of just a few minutes is better than no practice at all, so why not start there? Hey, even 3 deep breath is can make a difference sometimes.
We’re big believers of weaving mindfulness into your everyday life. So in the spirit of making mindfulness portable and accessible, we’ve created a list of mindfulness exercises that can be incorporated into your everyday life. They can be useful strategies for moments when you need to pause and step back from what you are doing, thinking or feeling.
Why not jump in and get started with trying one of these mindfulness exercises each day for the next week?
1. Focus on your breathing
The most common form of mindfulness is to simply close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably and close your eyes if you wish. Bring your attention to your breathing. Notice the feeling of your breath passing through your nose. The rise and fall of your abdomen and chest.
Don’t try to change your breathing in any way, just let it happen naturally. If other thoughts enter your mind, just gently acknowledge the distraction then bring your attention back to your breath.
You can practice this exercise without any aids. But if you prefer to be guided, we’ve created a mindful breathing audio exercise which is available on our resources page.
2. A one-minute breathing space
This is a quick exercise, ideal for those moments when you want to centre yourself when you’re feeling anxious about something you’re about to do, such as speak in a group or meet someone new. Sit in front of a clock or watch that you can use to time the passing of one minute. For the entire minute focus your attention on your breath and nothing else.
3. Mindful eating
Mindfulness does not always have to look like quiet breathing. You can find moments of mindfulness is all types of activities, like walking or eating. Mindful eating not only helps you to find focus, but you may also find that you eat less.
When you sit down to your meal or a snack, simple eat without doing any other activities like watching TV, talking or reading. As you eat, pay attention to the way the food looks (the colour, shape, texture), what it smells like, how it tastes, what sounds come from your mouth as you eat it and what it feels like as you chew and swallow the food.
If you’re keen to learn more about mindful eating specifically, take a look at our blog Mindful Eating: The What, Why and How with Dietitian Nina Mills here.
4. Mindful walking
Next time you are walking somewhere, practice mindful walking. Focus on the feeling of your body as you walk. Notice how it feels as you take each step. Become aware of the sensations in your leg as you lift your foot and notice what it feels like when you place your foot firmly on the ground. Become aware of the movement of your arms and the rise and fall of your stomach as you breathe. Tune into the entire experience of walking. If you notice your mind wandering to thoughts, just note the thought and return your attention back to the experience of walking.
5. Mindfulness of daily activities
Choose any daily activity such as showering, brushing your teeth, doing the dishes or making your bed and try to do this activity mindfully. For guidance on how to incorporate mindfulness principles into your daily activities check out our audio exercise stepping out of autopilot using mindfulness.
#6 Mindfulness of the senses
This exercise can be really grounding if you feel yourself become overwhelmed by thoughts or emotions. Simply bring your attention to and name five things you can see, hear, touch, smell and taste (if applicable). Focusing on the physical things around you can bring your awareness back to your space and can help you to ride out uncomfortable or overwhelming emotions.
With so many benefits associated with mindfulness and numerous ways you can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, getting started is simple. However, if you’d like even more guidance with mindfulness and are interested in speaking to a professional, get in touch here with our wonderful Support Team to arrange an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists today.