This article explores the everyday mindfulness Exercises and how you can practice mindfulness. The only way to learn mindfulness is to practice it.
It’s not easy to keep your mind still, is it? Especially today, when we’re used to processing so much information, all at once.
Here’s the thing; you look after your body- by eating healthy and exercising; you look after your appearance and hygiene- by showering, styling your hair, picking your outfits; you look after your car- by changing your oil, getting it cleaned.
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How often do you look after your mind?
Whether you realize it or not, your mind is your most precious resource. It’s where your ideas, feelings, and creativity come to life. That’s why you need to pamper it, keep it warm, and keep it happy.
When anxiety hits…
I’m pretty sure just like me, you all know the feeling of having that little voice in your head that just keeps running and running AND running. Picture this: you get up in the morning, and as you’re brushing your teeth you’re already thinking of the next thing you need to get done. Getting your kids ready for school, making breakfast, or going for a quick walk with your dog.
You look at the time and start feeling anxious. Okay, I have 30 minutes, 20 minutes, and 10 minutes to go. You get in your car/bus/train, and you’re already thinking about all the work waiting for you at the office. You get to the office, and you’re thinking “okay these are the emails I have to answer “, “I have to call this person back “, “I need to get this filed “, and “this needs to be completed ASAP “. As you leave work, you’re thinking “okay what’s next? Dinner, kids, laundry, dog, workout, snacks, got to check my email, too”.
When you finally get to bed, you suddenly remember something you forgot to do at work, and the anxiety keeps you up all night. Truth is, most of the time, you’re thinking about doing or needing to do something different, from what you’re doing right now, at this moment.
You’re getting yourself worked up and anxious by thinking… about the thing you’re feeling anxious about.
I mean, this is crazy talk, hello?
Yet we all do it (well, most of us, anyway). All the time. Practicing mindfulness can help you deal with that anxiety. It can bring more awareness of what’s around you and help you notice just how much you’ve been missing out on.
The only way to learn mindfulness is to practice it. Mindfulness is the energy of awareness. Awareness of what’s around you. Sort of like observing yourself, without judgment or criticism. As you practice mindfulness, you start to notice how much you’ve been missing out on. You will also realize that you aren’t as aware as you thought you were.
Why do you need Mindfulness Exercises?
Evidence-based research validates a long list of benefits that come from practicing mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness exercises are a repeatable practice, doable for anyone, that can enhance quality-of-life at work and home in a reliable, sustained cumulative way.
To understand mindfulness, mindfulness exercises, and its benefits, and to avoid the most common misconceptions people have about mindfulness, be sure to re-read these articles:
1.1 Mindfulness benefits and concerns
Keeping the insights from those articles in mind, you’ll be ready to practice the basic sequence of steps — the fundamentals — that activate mindfulness.
The Fundamentals of Mindfulness
In mindfulness — as in other skills in life at home and work — knowing and practicing the fundamentals is a key to success.
For each of the mindfulness fundamentals, you’ll find explanations and specific guidelines for how and why to use them in these articles:
The mindfulness fundamentals enable you to use your mind for you instead of against you. When your thoughts, emotions, or sensations veer from your best interests, the mindfulness fundamentals can create space for you to respond insightfully, rather than react carelessly.
They also serve as mental training, providing cumulative benefits and enabling you to handle even unexpected challenges and opportunities more effectively as they arise. In such cases, there are specific methods you can use depending on the situation, covered in The Guide to Mindful Methods.
The Guide to Mindful Methods
I compiled a variety of mindfulness techniques, each tailored for specific challenges, difficulties, and opportunities we commonly face in personal and professional life.
You can try these methods with confidence because they’re supported by research, and evidenced in practice.
Each method has a separate video on YouTube that layout specific, concrete steps and illustrative examples, so you can be assured in each case you’re focusing on what’s useful.
I divided the guide into two categories of methods, with a sequence of separate videos in each category:
For dealing with unwelcome experiences
4.1 Stress and overwhelm
4.2 Fear and worry
4.3 Self-Criticism and self-doubt
4.4 Letting go
Watch here: Mindfulness Exercise
For personal alignment and connection with others
5.1 Pause and reset yourself
5.2 Peak performance
5.3 Strengthening compassion
5.4 Children and young people
5.5 Mindful leadership
5.6 Broader connection
Watch Here: Mindfulness Exercise
As you watch the videos, you’ll see how each method works, and how they all reinforce each other.
Later, as specific needs arise in your everyday life, you can come back, watch them again, and refresh your memory on how to use and combine the methods that are most relevant to your new circumstances.
Finally, be sure to re-read or re-watch:
6.0 Next Steps: Three key points to remind you about easy ways to integrate The Fundamentals of Mindfulness with The Guide to Mindful Methods in your everyday life.
Also, See: Mindfulness Quiz: How Mindful Are You?
Simple Mindfulness Exercises to Try Today
Someone once said: “miracles happen every day- change your perspective, and you’ll see them all around you “. Practicing gratitude can not only help you become more mindful it can completely change your perspective and outlook on life. You’ll start noticing those small miracles all around you. How does this tie in with mindfulness? When you take time to consider what you’re grateful for, you’re mindful and actively searching for those things.
You can look around the room you’re sitting in right now- what or who do you notice that you feel grateful for? Every morning, take a few minutes to write down five things you feel grateful for. Don’t just write them though; try to feel that gratitude with all your heart. Do this for a week, two, three, until it becomes a daily habit.
At the same time, as you start practicing and exercising mindfulness, you’ll experience increased feelings of gratitude. You’ll notice that when your mind is constantly racing, it often blocks you from seeing and appreciating all that is good in your life.
TURN IT OFF
The anxious mind loves the distraction. The main reason for this is to escape the “suffering.” Turn off your TV, and phone, put your laptop away and spend five minutes in complete stillness and silence. At first, this can feel very uncomfortable.
Um… okay, this is weird. It’s too quiet. I don’t like it. And then your mind might start to wander. Eventually, you might end up thinking about something you’ve been dreading, something that’s been bothering or annoying you for a while. Let that thought be. Recognize it as just that- a thought. It’s sort of like removing yourself from your mind and observing your thoughts without judgment. Then, allow that thought to pass.
As you practice taking that 3rd person’s perspective, you will be able to recognize those anxious thoughts and emotions, without the need to react or suffer from them. You’ll learn to detach yourself from those situations or emotions, therefore, they won’t have that control over you. You’ll be able to move on, and will no longer identify with that pain.
This is something that I personally still struggle with, at times, but keep getting better at it, with more practice. For a very long time, I had an unhealthy relationship with food. It wasn’t that I was eating bad food. Instead, I’d either not eat anything at all for long periods, or I’d just eat mindlessly. I wouldn’t stop after feeling full- I’d just keep eating.
You know when you’re eating a meal that’s so good, you don’t want to stop eating even though your stomach already hurts? Yeah, that’s the kind of mindless eating I’m talking about (and if you don’t know what I’m talking, about bless you! you’re a much better person than I am 🙂 I was always a healthy eater, so I thought well, what I’m eating IS super healthy, so I can finish this entire plate. I never paid attention when I ate. I could spend 3 hours cooking a fabulous meal, only to inhale it for 3 minutes, in front of the TV, while answering emails.
When I slowly made (or, I’m still making, since this is a process for me) this change, a few things happened.
- One, I only eat when I’m hungry- not when I’m bored or because it’s the weekend, or because I’m watching a movie and need something to keep my hands busy.
- Two, I enjoy my food. I can make out different flavors, and textures and appreciate them.
- Three, I no longer overeat when I do go out to dinner with friends or family. Just like with the gratitude practice, this goes hand-in-hand with mindfulness. Because I take time to enjoy my meal, I try not to eat while also scrolling through Instagram or answering my emails.
So, the more I practice mindful eating, the more I learn to practice being mindful and being present. Enjoying the moment.
DON’T MAKE IT OUT TO BE A CHORE
“That’s life: starting over, one breath at a time.” – Sharon Salzberg
Now that you’re ready to start using these mindfulness exercises to practice mindfulness you have to keep this in mind: you can’t make it out to be a chore. Don’t be too focused on the outcome. The main goal here is to improve your life, reduce your suffering and ease your anxious mind. This comes with practice. We aren’t fully conscious as we go about our day. Once you begin to practice that awareness, it might feel slightly uncomfortable- that’s because you’re used to being distracted all the time.
Eventually, as you practice mindfulness, every day, you will see that you no longer have to suffer from that worry, overwhelm, or anxiety. When negative things happen throughout your day- like someone being rude to you, you’ll be able to feel yourself get angry, but being aware will give you some room to have a different reaction to those situations. You will be able to choose to be a different person. You won’t judge, and you will let it pass.