In this article, we will explore various effective mindfulness exercises with a step-by-step easy to follow guide for beginners. The below-mentioned mindfulness exercises are easy to follow and can be practiced at the convenience of your home and office.
Note: Please make sure to follow all the below-mentioned guidelines to practice any of the following mindfulness exercises.
You can choose any particular area of your life you want to work on, and then accordingly follow that particular mindfulness exercise and its guidelines to become more mindful and aware in your day-to-day life.
Related: Mindful Thinking and Feeling
Table of Contents
I. Mindfulness Exercises #1: Using Your Breath
‘Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.’ – Thích Nhat Hanh
Breathing is the foundation of mindfulness. It can help slow everything down, calm your mind and body and bring you into the present moment.
There are several ways you can focus on your breath – you can start by being aware that, just like the ocean waves, your breaths come and go. Each time you breathe out, you can let go and release your thoughts about the past and future. Just focus on breathing in … then breathing out. That’s mindful breathing.
You will notice thoughts arising as you breathe. Let them come and go and return your focus and attention to your breathing.
Mindful breathing is like a reset button you can push to return yourself to the present moment whenever you feel the need, an effective way of orienting yourself to the now, not because the breath has some magical property but because it’s always there with you.
Try to practice mindful breathing for a minute or two a few times each day. It could be before you get dressed in the morning, on the journey to work, with a cup of tea, at lunch, or before you get ready for bed.
There are several ways you can keep focused on breathing. Try them and see which one you prefer – which ones are the most doable for you? Wondering which breathing technique to use is not as important as just remembering to use one of them!
Mindfulness Exercises #1: Steps for Mindfulness Practice
‘When you own your breath, nobody can steal your peace.’ – Unknown
1. Feel your breathing.
Place one hand on your chest and feel your breath moving into and out of your body. Notice the natural rhythm. Be aware of the coolness of the air as you breathe in and the warmth of the air leaving you as you exhale.
2. Breathe slowly and deeply.
Start by breathing normally, then, every few breaths, inhale through your nose slowly to a count of five. Pause and hold your breath for a count of three then breathe out slowly, blowing out air through your mouth. When you’ve exhaled completely, take two breaths in your normal rhythm, and then repeat the cycle. It’s just like you’re smoking a cigarette. But without the cigarette.
3. Alternate your breathing.
Push one nostril closed with your finger. Take one long breath in through the open nostril and then pinch that one and let go of the other, breathing out slowly. Repeat alternately. Try to breathe out for as long as possible.
4. Use your imagination.
Breathe in like you’re smelling the scent of a flower. Breathe out like you’re blowing bubbles. Or imagine breathing out to the ends of the universe and breathing from there back into your body. Or breathe color: imagine the color of the air filling not just your lungs but also your entire body.
5. Count backward.
Inhale deeply. When you breathe out, count backward from nine: nine, eight, seven, six, and so on. On the next breath, when you breathe out, count backward from eight. With the next breath, count backward from seven. And so on, adjusting the length of time you breathe in and out according to which number you are counting backward from.
II. Mindfulness Exercises #2: Managing Interruptions
‘You will never reach your destination if you stop to throw stones at every dog that barks.’ – Winston Churchill
Mindfulness involves managing your attention so that it is focused and occupied with immediate experience. What usually stops you from focusing and engaging at work? Interruptions and distractions.
Interruptions arrive unexpectedly at any time of day. They come from other people in the form of questions, announcements, requests, and demands, by people who need decisions made, conflicts managed, and problems solved. Interruptions come in person, by phone, by texts, and by email.
Interruptions get in the way of managing your time and your work. They disturb, delay, and hinder you. Interruptions deplete your time and energy. They break your concentration and cause delays.
Because your day only has so many hours in it, a handful of small interruptions can rob you of the time you need to get on with and complete your work. Interruptions can break your focus, meaning that you have to spend time re-engaging your brain with the thought processes needed to complete your work.
Interruptions may feel like they are not in your control, but they can be managed.
Mindfulness Exercises #2: Steps for Mindfulness Practice
‘Focusing is about saying no.’ – Steve Jobs
1. Accept that interruptions will happen.
Then plan for them – leave gaps in your day for interruptions and, so prevent them from frustrating you.
2. Set criteria for other people interrupting you
So that only decisions above a certain threshold of importance will come to you. If someone interrupts you with a query you think needs discussion, tell them you will get back to them later when you’ll give it your full attention.
3. Set times to be available.
Other people will interrupt you only if they know it’s okay to interrupt you at any time and that you will respond.
4. Set times that you are available to deal with their problems and questions.
For example, tell people that you only check email at 3 p.m. because you need to focus on other work. Then you can deal with problems/requests at certain times of the day, and focus during other times.
If you’re in a supervisory or managerial position, when all queries and decisions must come through you, you’re inevitably going to be interrupted. To train others to make these decisions. Set guidelines for making decisions so they’d make pretty much the same as you in any given situation.
6. Learn to say no.
Be assertive. Learn to say no (nicely) to requests or tasks if you are busy if someone else can handle it, if it is not an important task or if it can be done later.
7. Be patient.
If you can’t avoid interruptions, deal with each interruption one at a time. Give your full attention to each person and each query or problem. This way, you will be less stressed and will deal calmly and fully with every person who needs your attention.
III. Mindfulness Exercises #3: Being Spiritually Aware
‘Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, we cannot live without a spiritual life.’ – Buddha
Spirituality: we all have some sort of vision in mind when we hear the word ‘spirituality’. Maybe it’s an image of a group of monks living a simple life in a faraway place. Perhaps it’s a vision of someone wandering down a mythological spiritual path on their ‘spiritual journey’.
With mindfulness, there is no spiritual path, because there is no need to go anywhere. You’re already there. You just haven’t realized it.
Quite simply, spirituality is a sense of being part of something bigger, more eternal than the physical and yourself.
Like many of the world’s religions, spirituality is an awareness of and a relationship with something that connects you to a purpose in life larger than yourself.
You don’t have to be religious to be spiritual. Even if you regard yourself as an atheist, you can feel a sense of connection from contemplating a beautiful sunset or the power of the sea.
Spirituality helps you to be mindful because it can anchor you and give your perspective – to be aware of where you are and how you’re connected in the greater scheme of things.
You can choose to define what that means for you, in whatever way feels most appropriate. Your sense of spirituality can be experienced by anything from cheering your team along with ten thousand other people to something as simple as gazing at a star-filled sky.
Spirituality helps you to feel grounded in the present and connected to the past and the future.
Mindfulness Exercises #3: Steps for Mindfulness Practice
‘The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another’s, smile at someone and receive a smile in return are to me continual spiritual exercises.’ – Leo Buscaglia
1. Raise your awareness.
Think about what you already do that makes you feel connected. Perhaps it’s playing a team sport, singing in a choir, gardening, being at a music festival.
2. Get connected.
Support and become active in an organization with a cause you believe in. Organizations such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, or the World Wildlife Fund can connect you to other people and unite you in a common purpose.
Or find a local charity that interests you, maybe one that promotes arts and culture or environmental concerns or works with children and young people. The positivity and sense of connection that can be gained from helping other people are key aspects of spirituality.
3. Learn to appreciate the beauty of what we are naturally a part of, concepts such as:
Music and art, wildlife, and the miracles of nature.
4. Find someone who is spiritual.
Who do you already know who has balance and a sense of perspective, who has a calm concern and rapport with other people? It could be someone with a sense of wonder, someone who seeks out beauty and peace in the things they do. Spend time with spiritual people you admire. Their attitude will inspire you.
IV. Mindfulness Exercises #4: Listening Instead of Just Hearing
‘The first duty of love is to listen.’ – Paul Tillich
Is listening to the same as hearing? No. There is a difference. If you hear something, you are simply aware of sound; you don’t have to make an effort to receive the sounds. You can do and think about other things and still be able to hear what’s going on around you and what other people are saying.
Listening, on the other hand, requires you to concentrate. Mindful listening takes things one step further. It focuses your attention: you closely follow what someone is saying.
Instead of half listening and thinking about something else or what you’re going to say next, with mindful listening you are completely present and tuned in.
Mindful listening helps to create connections with others. It increases understanding, interest, and rapport between you and other people, with friends, family, and colleagues.
Learn to listen mindfully, and you will improve your relationships with others.
Mindfulness Exercises #4: Steps for Mindfulness Practice
‘Think of listening as a form of meditation. Quiet your mind and focus your attention on listening.’ – Linda Eve Diamond
Practice mindful reflective listening with a friend or colleague.
One of you talk for two minutes on one of the subjects listed below. (If you can’t practice with someone else, listen to someone talking on the radio or a podcast for a few minutes.)
- The best job or holiday you ever had.
- The worst job or holiday you ever had.
- How you would spend five million pounds.
- The weirdest dream you ever had.
- Which three famous people you would join for dinner. Why?
When the person has finished speaking, the listener must summarize or paraphrase what the speaker said. Repeat in your own words your understanding of what the other person said.
What were the main points of what they said? What feelings were apparent?
Of course, it would be quite odd to repeat or paraphrase what you heard every time someone spoke to you!
The crucial thing is to listen as if you were going to reflect. Whether you do so or not. This is why mindful listening is so powerful. It focuses your attention, helps you to listen, be aware of feelings, and encourages further communication.
V. Mindfulness Exercises #5: Having A Beginner’s Mind
‘Be willing to be a beginner every single morning.’ – Meister Eckhart
Having a ‘beginner’s mind’ simply means that you engage with other people, events, objects, and activities as if for the first time.
Usually, what you do, how you think, and how you feel are based on experience, beliefs, judgments, and conclusions. But when you do things the same way and take the same route as you have done before, when you stick to your habitual ways of thinking and responding to events and other people, you miss all sorts of possibilities, discoveries, and insights. You are taking a narrow path that makes it less likely that you will come across new ideas and ways of seeing and understanding.
Rather than respond to events, experiences, places, and other people in the same old ways – ways from the past – beginner’s mind encourages you to take a new perspective and to respond to things as they are right now.
A beginner’s mind doesn’t dismiss or devalue your past knowledge and experience. It simply suggests you keep an open mind on how to apply your experience to every situation.
A beginner’s mind can help you to slow down, to experience life in the present moment because you are looking to notice something new in a situation. It puts you in the here and now because you have a heightened awareness of what’s happening right now.
This makes life interesting and fresh. It keeps you alert, aware, and keen to learn.
Mindfulness Exercises #5: Steps for Mindfulness Practice
‘Every day is a new beginning. Take a deep breath and start again.’ – Unknown
1. Take a different route.
Is there a journey you take regularly? Try leaving ten minutes earlier and taking a different route. Taking a different route allows/encourages you to engage/notice new things.
You can even try this at the supermarket. If you have a route that you normally take around the supermarket aisles, change the route. Yes, it will slow you down but, you never know what new foods and products you will discover!
2. Listen to music differently.
With a beginner’s mind, you can listen to familiar pieces of music as if for the first time. Choose a favorite piece of music. Pick out an element that you don’t usually listen to – the beat, the melody, the lyrics, or a particular instrument. Now listen to and follow the music, focusing on the new element you have chosen. Even though you may have listened to this music many times before, when you listen with a beginner’s mind, you experience it anew. You are in the moment.
3. Learn something new.
It could simply be a new recipe but, it could also mean learning a new skill – a language, creative writing, bricklaying, or drawing. It could be a sport – tennis or badminton. Learning something new is the definitive way of having a beginner’s mind because you are starting at the beginning.
4. See someone in a different light.
Think of someone you have always found difficult to get on with – a family member or a colleague, for example. Put aside your beliefs and opinions about them and see something new about them. Look for something positive. It could be an aspect of their personality, their attitude, something about the way they interact with others, or something about how they work.