Hello, readers. I hope you’re interested in some mindful reading!
Mindfulness is all the rage or perhaps I should say all the ‘calm’. I know that is a bad joke; but in all seriousness, mindfulness and its related practices are very popular right now and this is for good reason. In an ever more connected world with more and more demands on our time, it can all seem a little overwhelming. Life can seem overwhelming. Yet, time marches on and so does our stress levels if we don’t manage them effectively. In steps mindfulness exercises as an effective option for managing stress and facilitating better well-being. However, you don’t just want to go through the motions. It is not enough just to tell your friends that you’re practicing mindfulness more regularly. You need to dedicate time to being more mindful along with incorporating mindfulness exercises and strategies readily when you’re stress levels are hitting a fever pitch. So, check out these mindfulness exercises along with a brief description of how to implement them.
10 Effective Mindfulness Exercises:
Breathing: Breathing is the cornerstone of mindfulness and forms much of the base of other mindfulness exercises. Take some time and pay attention to your breathing. Notice your breath going in and out. As you become more comfortable with this, strive to focus solely on your breathing and ignore internal and external distractions. Try to find a quiet place and feel free to acknowledge thoughts and feelings as they creep into your mind. It is natural for your mind to drift during this exercise; however, when your mind starts drifting, acknowledge your thought or feeling and redirect back to your breath. You can start small such as a minute at a time and gradually build up to longer sessions of breathing. Also, you can use deeper breaths to help manage heightened instances of stress in a more healthy way.
Body scan: Scanning your body can help you to relax and mitigate tension. During a body scan, you typically close your eyes and mentally move through the different areas of your body. As you notice physical sensations during a body scan, you may notice some discomfort or additional tension. When this occurs, strive to let that tension or discomfort go before moving on with the rest of the body scan. The more you practice the more effective you may become at lessening tension through this mental exercise.
Take a break from technology: This strategy is just what it sounds like. Feeling overwhelmed by the news, constant updates on your phone, and other related alarms and alerts. Step away from your phone. Step away from technology, especially before bed, to facilitate relaxation and destressing. Don’t get me wrong; technology is great and I definitely don’t want to give up my cell phone entirely any time soon. However, I also can acknowledge when it is demanding too much of your time or distracting me from more important things. When you notice this happening, it is probably time to take a tech time-out.
Reflect upon your day: It is best to incorporate this exercise at the end of your day or at least at the end of your workday. Not only can this help you to improve every day by taking note of what worked and what didn’t work. It can also help you to appreciate the little things, the little successes, and the little measures of kindness you may have received from others. Reflection can also help you to let go and move on from things that you may have been dwelling on, especially thoughts and feelings that may be unproductive or seemingly weighing you down.
Practice gratitude: Practicing gratitude can go hand-in-hand with reflection, especially self-reflection. I feel that for most of us we can appreciate the big, obvious positive events in life. “Yay, I got that big raise!” or “I’m so happy that I got that dog I always wanted!” But, it is much harder to practice gratitude when it feels like your day just sucked or it was just another mediocre or ‘meh’ day. However, this is where practicing gratitude is actually the most important. This is where you can attempt to supercharge your well-being. By taking daily stock in the positive or little things you appreciate, you can start to realize all the good that you experience. The more you focus on the good the more you can potentially shift your mindset towards positive thinking. With this being said, let’s be real; you’re only human. You’re going to slip up. You’re going to dwell on the negative sometimes or not be able to think of something positive in a given day. That’s okay because being mindful is a practice. Mindfulness is not based on sole instances in time, but rather on your cumulative effort towards being more mindful and aware of your well-being.
Self-compassion: We all screw up. We all make mistakes. In the past, I’ve had a tendency to really dwell on my mistakes and calling myself a bunch of derogatory and degrading names for good measure. But guess what I realized, it did not help me one bit. Honestly, that negative thinking tended to spiral a bit, which usually led to more negativity and more unproductive self-criticism. I’m a lot better at self-compassion now, but that negativity still rears its ugly head. Through being more intentional about practicing self-compassion, I’ve significantly improved my well-being overall along with my ability to cope with mistakes I may make or difficulties I may face day-to-day. So, be kind to yourself and acknowledge that it is okay to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and who would want to be anyway?
Mindful eating: At work, I hardly have any time to eat or to sometimes even breathe...or at least it feels that way. However, I know that for the important areas of life we must make the time, and eating is definitely one of those areas in which we can try to take the time to be mindful. As already mentioned, I’m not the best at practicing what I preach here; however, I encourage you to try to be mindful when you are eating. So, what does that even mean? Well, it means you actually chew your food and that you actually take time to savor what you are eating. Try to appreciate the nuances in the flavors and smells of the food you are consuming. Try to be mindful of what that food means to you and how it helps you maintain wellness. I’m no 4-star chef, but I still find ways to appreciate my cooking, so I’m sure you can do the same.
Mindful commuting: Do you ever find yourself driving along and all of the sudden, you wonder how you traveled miles further down the road without realizing it? Maybe, you're tired, distracted, or bored. Either way, attentive and mindful driving is not only beneficial, but it is a necessity for keeping you and other drivers safe on the road. Being mindful while driving can also make driving a more enjoyable experience. So, pay attention to the little things as you drive. Notice the various signs and scenery on your commute. Look at the cars as they pass by and note their appearance. Note the lines of the road as they guide you onward. Overall, just like most undertakings, the biggest step is often the first one, so next time you head out give more mindful driving a try.
Connect with nature: There are a lot of different terms being thrown around out there. But when it comes down to it, getting out in nature is good for you. As our lives become more bound to technology, it becomes ever more apparent that we need to allow ourselves time to step away from said tech and decompress. Being in nature, taking in the sun, and embracing other aspects of getting away can be helpful to one’s well-being. Practicing appreciation and gratitude while out and about in nature can help to better your own wellness, too. Be mindful of all that nature offers from the ground you walk on to the various animals and plants that make up that ecosystem. Take time to be outside everyday especially when the sun is out and if at all possible, try to take a nature trip at least once a week to help in fostering a more balanced life.
Journaling: Why write things down? I feel that journaling is becoming more mainstream now along with adult coloring books and other more creative forms of self-expression for adults. However, I don’t think it is fair to put journaling in the same category as many other creative exercises because you can get so much out of journaling, both practically and creatively. Journaling is a habit of people from all walks of life. Journaling offers golden opportunities for self-reflection, especially when you make it a daily habit. Journaling can be used to facilitate goal-setting along with monitoring of said goals. You can write about how things went in the day and determine where things went well and where things could have gone better. Journaling can help you to make every day a little better. It can also help you to practice gratitude, especially by incorporating little exercises like writing down 3 things you are grateful for each day. Journaling can help you to work through your own thoughts more privately. Addressing underlying thoughts and feelings can help to enhance well-being and avoid suppressing feelings or putting off addressing certain problems or concerns. Writing down your thoughts can help you to determine appropriate action when it comes to challenging situations. So maybe, it has been 10 years or maybe, you have never journaled, but I encourage you to give it a try. Put thoughts to paper and see where the words take you.
Why do mindfulness exercises and strategies matter? Mindfulness matters because you matter. Your well-being and happiness matters, so acknowledge you matter and put some intentional effort into incorporating at least some of these mindfulness strategies and exercises. Also, realize that starting is important, so give yourself credit when you choose to do a mindfulness exercise here or incorporate a mindfulness strategy there. Mindfulness is all about taking care of yourself and optimizing your wellness.