In this article, we will discuss what we mean by mindfulness exercise. We will also explore five mindfulness exercises with a step-by-step guide for daily life.
How often have you rushed out the door and into your day without even thinking about how you’d like things to go? Before you know it, something or someone has rubbed you the wrong way, and you’ve reacted automatically with frustration, impatience, or rage—in other words, you’ve found yourself acting in a way you never intended.
You don’t have to be stuck in these patterns. Pausing to practice mindfulness for just a few minutes at different times during the day can help your days be better, more in line with how you’d like them to be.
Your day-to-day activities offer ample opportunities to call up mindfulness at any moment. These simple practices will breathe space into your daily routines.
Related: Mindfulness Exercises: Part II
Explore these five daily mindfulness exercises for bringing more mindfulness into your life:
I. Mindfulness Exercise #1: Slowing Down
‘There is more to life than increasing its speed.’ – Gandhi
Technological inventions are continually saving you time: your car gets you there quicker than walking, the microwave cooker heats your food in seconds, Internet shopping saves you going to the shops, Internet banking saves you time from actually going to the bank, and so on.
What do you do with all that time spared? Like many of us, you probably use it to fit more things into your day, and so your life is more hurried and hectic than ever.
But doing too much is not an effective way to work or live. Moving quickly may make you less effective in completing a task and can be stressful. Slowing down is a calmer and more peaceful way to approach your work.
Take time to do what you’re doing instead of constantly looking for ways to save time so that you can fit more in. If you fill your day with things to do, you will always be trying to get ahead of yourself, and that’s not mindful.
Instead of trying to cram too much into every day, move at a slower, more relaxed pace and get the most out of what you’re doing now.
Slowing down is not always easy. Perhaps you tell yourself you just can’t, your job won’t allow it, or you’ll let people down if you don’t keep up with all your commitments.
Slowing down takes practice, but it helps you focus on what you are doing and what is happening.
Mindfulness Exercise #1 Steps:
‘Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you’re going and why.’ – Eddie Cantor
Prioritize: work out what’s important, what needs to be done. Do one thing at a time and let go of what’s not important.
Do it in slow motion.
Whatever you’re doing at the moment, slow it down by 25 percent, whether it’s typing on a keyboard, surfing the Internet, making a cup of tea, or cleaning the house. Take your time. If you do less, you can do those things more slowly, more completely, and with more concentration. Take your time, and move slowly. Make your actions deliberate, not rushed and random.
When you find yourself speeding up, pause and take a deep breath. Then take a couple more.
Give yourself more time.
If you’re constantly rushing to appointments or other places you have to be, it’s simply because you don’t allow enough time. If you think it only takes you 30 minutes to get somewhere, perhaps give yourself 45 minutes so you can go at a leisurely pace and not get stressed if delays occur on the way.
Make some space.
Don’t plan things close together. Instead, leave room between activities and tasks. That makes your day more flexible and leaves space in case one thing takes longer than you planned.
Reduce your commitments.
Stop overcommitting yourself at work, with friends, family, hobbies, and interests. Learn how to say no.
Choose a few essential commitments, and realize that the rest, while nice or important, just don’t fit right now. Let other people down gently – tell them you are letting go of some of your commitments.
II. Mindfulness Exercise #2: Gaining A Sense of Perspective
‘Perspective is everything when you are experiencing the challenges of life.’ – Joni Eareckson Tada
When a problem or challenge happens in your life, when major life changes come along, life becomes uncertain. You may be at a total loss as to what to do next.
Gaining perspective can help. Gaining perspective means being able to see the interrelationship between what’s happening within your world and what’s happening outside it. It means getting a sense of where you are in the scheme of things, taking everything else into account.
If, for example, you fail an exam, perspective helps you to understand that, as difficult to manage as it is right now, the situation will change: life will continue, and things will work out.
A sense of perspective often makes the difference between resisting or accepting the changes that are happening in your life. Perspective can give you a state of calm where, right now, you can rest without needing things to be different. This doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to something, to give in. It means understanding that at this moment something is what it is.
You may want things to be different in the future, but in the present moment, you accept things as they are and for what they are, knowing that this too will pass.
Mindfulness Exercise #2 Steps:
‘I see the big picture. Everything is in perspective now. Let’s just say I’m the kind of guy who knows how to enjoy the moment.’ – John Sununu
Ask someone over the age of 70 about their life.
What went well, and what didn’t? Understand that they also had feelings of fear, sadness, and struggle, just like you have right now. How did things turn out for them? How do they now view some of those problems when viewed concerning everything else that happened in their life? Be aware that right now you are the one living the life you will speak of when you are older.
Read about other people’s lives.
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is a partial narrative by a 93-year-old man looking back at his days in the circus during the Great Depression. Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom tells the true story of a man who looks up to his former university professor and listens to stories about his life.
Gaze at the stars.
The particles of light have traveled across millions of miles, often for billions of years through space. At the moment you ‘see’ a star, those particles of light are being absorbed by your eyes and you have touched that age-old faraway star.
When you look up at the stars, you know you are small. But you are also big because you are connected to the stars, and the stars are connected to you.
Try a spot of cloud spotting.
From the fluffy cumulus to the cirrocumulus clouds that make up the patterns of a mackerel sky, there’s an endless variety of clouds, and their fleeting beauty reminds you that all things will pass.
III. Mindfulness Exercise #3: Finding A Way to Forgive
‘When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.’ – Bernard Meltzer
Most of us regularly forgive other people: the person who held up the queue at the supermarket, the driver who failed to notice that the light had turned green ten seconds ago, the friend who forgot to bring wine for dinner.
These sorts of things are easy to forgive and forget. But what if you are faced with more serious issues? It’s not always easy to accept what happened and forgive the other person or people involved. It can also be just as difficult to forgive yourself for something you regret having done (or not having done).
As far as mindfulness is concerned, all the time you are unable to forgive, you are living in the past. You are holding onto something that happened days, weeks, months, or even years ago.
Forgiveness means letting go of the resentment, frustration, or anger that you feel as a result of your own or someone else’s actions. It involves no longer wanting punishment, revenge, or compensation.
Forgiveness is, first and foremost, for your benefit, not the person who hurt or offended you. It means recognizing that you have already been hurt once. You do not need to let the offense, the hurt, and the pain burden you by holding onto it. You deserve to be free of this negativity.
If you have reached a point where you want to put your own or someone else’s actions behind you and move on with your life, then mindfulness can help.
Mindfulness Exercise #3 Steps:
‘Holding a grudge over someone is painful, but holding over yourself is the worst. Learn to forgive yourself, not just other people.’ – Robin Williams
If you find yourself confronted and overwhelmed by painful memories, accept and acknowledge how you feel. Ground yourself by using mindful breathing to help you to manage the moment.
Accept what has happened and let go.
No doubt, the other person (or yourself) is responsible for their actions, and you wish that what they (or you) did had never happened. But you can’t change what has already happened. It is what it is.
Instead of thinking about how you can get back at the other person, think about what you learned from the experience. What would you do differently to avoid becoming involved in a similar situation?
Change the story you replay to yourself and other people.
Each time you think about what happened, each time you tell the story from the past, you relive it in the present. Change your story to one that tells of your courageous choice to let go, forgive, learn from what happened and move on.
Give yourself time to heal. Know that letting go, acceptance and forgiveness are all part of a process. Sometimes, your ability to forgive will come quickly and easily. At other times, it will take longer.
IV. Mindfulness Exercise #4: Taking Mouthfuls of Mindfulness
‘One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.’ – Luciano Pavarotti
What to eat and what not to eat? Which new diet to follow? What are the latest must-have superfoods? There is plenty of discussion about what we should or should not be eating but much less attention is paid to the question of how we eat it.
Mindful eating is not so concerned with the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ foods and how much to eat. Mindful eating is concerned with how we eat.
So often, we either shovel food into our mouths without paying any attention to what we’re eating and whether we feel full or obsess over what we should or shouldn’t eat. Mindful eating is not directed by charts and scales and it’s not dictated by an ‘expert’. It’s guided by you. You are the expert. In the process of learning to eat mindfully, you replace any ‘food guilt’ you may have with curiosity, nurturing, and respect for your wisdom.
Finding ways to slow down and eat and drink intentionally – ways that fit with your lifestyle – are part of developing a truly healthy relationship with food.
Mindful eating simply aims to reconnect you more deeply with the experience of eating and drinking – and enjoying – your food. Mindful eating is a way to rediscover one of the most pleasurable things we do as human beings.
Mindfulness Exercise #4 Steps:
‘The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.’ – Lucille Ball
Find out about the Slow Food movement
Which was founded as an antidote to the rise of fast food and fast life. It supports good food, the enjoyment of eating, and a slow pace of life.
Practice slowing down by swapping over your knife and fork or using chopsticks. When you take the time to enjoy your food you are more likely to notice flavors and textures and be more aware of when you are full.
Savor the silence.
Eat a quiet meal or snack when you can enjoy it alone. Or, when there’s limited opportunity for a mindful meal, simply enjoy a cup of tea in complete silence. Just a cup of tea can be a deep meditation.
Create a tasting menu.
Get together with a group of friends and create your tasting menu. Choose a theme – Mexican, French, vegetarian, or street food. Serve small portions of each prepared dish. Discuss where the ingredients came from, the smells, textures, and flavors.
Hold a wine-tasting evening with friends. Be aware of:
- Aromas and flavors: What flavor or aroma comes to mind? Apple, lemon, chocolate, blackcurrant?
- Texture and weight: See if the wine is light and crisp, full-bodied, rough, or smooth.
- Balance: Does the wine have a smooth mixture of flavors, or does one flavor, such as oak or tannins, dominate?
- The finish: See if the wine lingers on your palate or if it disappears the second you swallow it.
V. Mindfulness Exercise #5: Acknowledging and Being Aware
‘Awareness allows us to get outside of our mind and observe it in action.’ – Dan Brulé
You may have heard of the term ‘mindful awareness’ and wondered what it is you’re meant to be aware of.
Mindful awareness simply requires you to choose (something) to notice. Once you do that, mindful awareness will follow. If, for example, you were asked to look out for anything blue, anything that color would stand out.
You’ll have experienced this awareness if you’ve bought a car or a baby buggy: you start noticing cars and buggies of the same make and model as the one you’ve just bought. The number of that type of car or buggy hasn’t increased, but your awareness of it has.
Mindful awareness depends on being open and receptive to what’s going on within you and around you – to thoughts and feelings, experiences, events, and objects.
Mindful awareness also requires you to acknowledge what’s happening, to consciously recognize the existence of something, recognize thoughts, feelings, and experiences as events that are occurring.
The more you notice about what’s happening in and around you right now, the more at the moment you are. And being more aware helps you to appreciate what you normally take for granted and to notice when things are new or different.
Mindfulness Exercise #5 Steps:
‘Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.’ – James Thurber
Each morning when you wake up, lie for a minute or two being aware of the sounds you hear. Listen to the sounds inside: your breathing, a ticking clock, other people and children moving around, talking. Be aware of the outside: traffic, people, birds, the wind, or rain.
Get into the habit of being mindful of your surroundings.
Look for changes in the environment on your way to work, taking children to school, and so on. What’s different? Describe in your head or out loud what you are seeing or doing.
If you resolve to be more aware, you’ll see that almost everything is different each time: the weather, the pattern of light on the buildings, the faces of the people.
Notice small details in your environment and daily life.
Use waiting time – at the traffic lights, in the doctor’s waiting room – to notice something new.
Make yourself more aware by doing something new.
Try a new soap or shampoo, coffee, or cereal.
Move the clock or bin in your office.
At home, put the jam, tea, or coffee in a different cupboard. Why? Because just having to think about these things every time you go to use them will make you more aware.
Take a photo of a building or a view every day for a week. What’s different? The weather? The pattern of the light? The sky? Take a new photo of a tree every week for a year. Look for changes.