How to be Mindful? 4 easy exercises
Let’s look at some practical solutions to help you keep mentally healthy, lower your stress levels, raise your creativity and productivity along with your overall health and well-being.
Mindfulness is about:
- PAYING ATTENTION to your thoughts and emotions
- Using your senses to become PRESENT
- RESPONDING rather than reacting to your thoughts and emotions
- SEEING THINGS AS THEY ARE, instead of judging people and situations
- BEING POSITIVE.
Paying attention and being present
I am sure it happened to you too, you were driving from A to B and you had no recollection how actually you got to your destination, or part of your journey went missing, you haven’t been aware of what was happening, because you were on autopilot i.e. you weren’t present.
The good news is you can be mindful from the moment you wake up, by training yourself to be aware and present at everything you do. There are two types of mindfulness exercises informal and formal ones. Let’s start with the informal ones.
#1 Mindful eating – Breakfast ritual
Start your day with enjoying your breakfast. Have your breakfast. Full stop. Not, when checking your emails, not on the go, when rushing to get to work.
Make it proper, set time aside, so you do not need to rush. When preparing your breakfast notice the texture of the fruit, or vegetables and other ingredients you are chopping, mixing, frying… Take a nice plate. Arrange the food on it, so it looks really appetising. Enjoy the colours on your plate. Then sit down at the table and use all your senses to enjoy what you are eating. Believe me, everything will taste different, you will slow down, and it will be a positive experience to start your day with.
#2 Mindful walking
Mindful walking is, when you look inside and notice your breath, your thoughts, your emotions and the physical sensations in your body. All you do is, simply observe them without judgement.
And now let’s move onto a formal mindfulness exercise with the same aim of being present.
#3 Your task is to count 10 in-breaths
So when you breathe in that is breath no 1, then you breathe out. Breathe in again, breath no 2, then you breathe out. Repeat until you have 10 in-breaths exactly.
The interesting part of this simple exercise is noticing how easily your mind can be distracted by your own thoughts; shopping lists, what do you need to do next, organising your weekend, etc.
If you notice that after 3 in-breaths, you forgot to count further that shows your mind is already somewhere else. However it is also possible you will realise you are at breath no 12 already. That is also a problem, because your mind wandered off, so you didn’t finish the task at breath no 10. If any of this happens, I am afraid you need to start it all over again from breath no 1, until you can complete the task. Some days it will be really easy to do. Other days, when you are more distracted it can be really hard. Try it for 7 days, without fail. Have fun!
#4 A mindfulness mini meditation (hourglass technique)
In this exercise we are exploring our awareness from a wide awareness, we get focused, then open up our awareness even wider. Sit comfortably in a chair and close your eyes.
Part 1. – check in what’s going on inside of you on all 3 levels: body, mind and emotions.
- starting with your body, scan it from your toes, gradually coming up to your head. Do you notice any tension, pain, anything different?
- Now move onto your thoughts. Watch them, notice them, but try not to engage with them.
- Finally scan your emotions. What do you feel? Are there any painful emotions, pleasant ones…?
Part 2. – Put one hand on your naval, so your awareness is brought down to your tummy area straight away. Now simply explore this area. How does it feel?
Part 3. – Now move your hand from your naval and widen your awareness to your entire body again, but this time imagine you can breathe through your skin. It’s weird at first, I grant you that, but give it a go. When you breathe in, imagine the air filters through the pores of your skin, from head to toe. And as you breathe out you imagine the air leaving through your skin. This helps you to expand your awareness wider than your physical body.
Now you have 2 informal and 2 formal mindfulness exercises in your tool box. Use them daily and notice how you are changing. Write your findings down in a diary, and in a few weeks’ time check your progress. You will be surprised to see how much more aware and present you became.
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