This article discusses various ways one can practice mindfulness to find peace and reduce day-to-day stress and anxiety with the help of mindfulness exercises.
When you try to understand something, it’s often most effective to set aside your preconceptions and observe them quietly so that the object of your examination reveals what needs to be understood. Instead of diving into the muddy water of your emotion as a way to conquer it, you should observe it from the outside and let it settle down and transform on its own.
As the spiritual teacher, Jiddu Krishnamurti said, pure attention without judgment is not only the highest form of human intelligence but also the expression of love. Observe the changing energy both attentively and lovingly as it unfolds in the space of your mind. I can imagine someone wondering, “What is so great about just observing? Isn’t it avoiding reality?” The answer is quite the opposite: You are not avoiding it; you are staring straight into it.
Rather than getting caught in the emotion without any self-awareness, you are inquiring and then feeling what is there. As you get better at it, you will realize that negative emotion is not a fixed reality. It naturally emerges and retreats within the space of your awareness, regardless of your will.
Once you awaken to this truth, you will not be swayed by negative emotions and can regard them as a passing cloud instead of identifying with them as a defining part of yourself. Do not fight your negative emotions. Observe and befriend them.
If you want revenge because your feelings are hurt, all you can see is your suffering.
But if you calm yourself and look more deeply, you will see that the person who hurt you is suffering, too.
In the chambers of our heart, we have two tenants living side by side: Adolf Hitler and Mother Teresa. When we are overcome by insecurity and fear, we feel the inner workings of Hitler. When we are in touch with love and connection, we hear the gentle voice of Mother Teresa.
We lose interest in movies or TV series in which good characters are always good, and bad ones are always bad. This does not match up to reality. No person is always good or bad.
“No person can be found Who has been, is, or will be Only criticized or only praised.” —THE DHAMMAPADA
Also Read: Ten Essential Steps for Personal Transformation with Yoga
20 Essential Mindfulness Exercises to Reduce Stress and Find Peace
Mindfulness Exercises #1: Grounded and flexible
TIME: 15 Minutes
Equanimity is the quality of remaining grounded and stable in the midst of your experience. When you notice suffering, you respond with compassion, and you don’t get knocked off balance by the unexpected. With equanimity practice, you cultivate a state of mind that is both grounded and flexible, especially amid intense emotional experiences.
“A modern definition of equanimity: cool. This refers to one whose mind remains stable and calm in all situations.”
— ALLAN LOKOS
Mindfulness Exercises #1: Steps
- Closing the eyes and finding your posture, bring your awareness into your present experience. Notice the sounds, the feelings in the body, and your overall mental state.
- Open your awareness. When something comes up, tune in to the mind, noticing where you get knocked off balance. Certain sounds, thoughts, or feelings in the body may feel charged, pulling you from your calm state of mind. Sit with this awareness of your balance for five minutes.
- Bring to mind someone you care about deeply. Connect with your intention to care for this person. Recognize that although you may care for this person, you cannot control their happiness. Offer a few phrases of equanimity:
- May you be happy.
- May you be in charge of your happiness.
- Your happiness is dependent upon your actions, not my wishes for you.
- After five minutes, switch to somebody else you care about. Try to find someone who is currently experiencing some pain or suffering. Connecting with your intention to care but remain stable, offer these phrases of compassion and equanimity:
- May you be free from suffering.
- May you take action to care for your pain.
- Your freedom is dependent upon your actions, not my wishes for you.
- Finally, bring to mind somebody in your life who has had some joy or success recently. Offer a few phrases of appreciative joy, staying connected to your equanimity.
- May your joy continue.
- May you be in charge of your joy.
- Your joy is in your hands and is not dependent upon my wishes for you.
- After a few minutes of offering these phrases, return to your own experience before opening your eyes. Recognize that your happiness is in your own hands. Be proud of your effort in practicing, encouraging happiness for yourself.
Falling into Apathy
Equanimity has what is called a “near enemy.” This is a quality that looks similar but is not helpful. The near enemy of equanimity is apathy—the quality of not caring at all. Whereas equanimity is about attending to your experience with care and stability, apathy is turning away from the experience altogether and ceasing to care.
Watch out for apathy or indifference as you practice. If apathy arises, return to your phrases of loving-kindness, reconnecting with the naturally caring part of your heart.
Mindfulness Exercises #2: Feel the Love
TIME: 20 Minutes
This practice offers an alternate way to allow ourselves to be cared for. We will work with a technique of visualization in receiving love and care. This will help you cultivate the capacity to accept love and recognize your innate worthiness.
Mindfulness Exercises #2: Steps
- As you find a comfortable posture and allow the eyes to close, make a special effort to bring kindness to your practice today. Relax the body and let the mind be at ease.
- Bring to mind a person who cares for you. It may be a family member, a good friend, or a mentor of some kind. Picture this person standing in front of you, offering you phrases of loving-kindness. Your job is simply to receive their wishes. Continue receiving these intentions for five minutes.
- Add another person who cares about you into the mix. Accept the wishes of well-being from these two individuals, allowing their care and love to land deeply in your consciousness.
- After a few minutes, bring in a third individual. Continue bringing others in slowly until you have a group of people in front of you, offering you words and feelings of kindness. Try to accept these wishes with an open heart.
- When you come to the end of your practice, bring your gentleness and care into your experience. Open the eyes slowly, and make your way back into daily life with patient kindness.
Closing The Heart
The heart and mind can grow uncomfortable as they receive love. You may not feel worthy of the love or kindness you are receiving. Notice when and if the heart begins closing, or when the mind tries to distract you with stories. Try to tune back into the felt sense of receiving love in the body. Work toward achieving an embodied sense of being loved.
Also Read: Benefits of Meditation for A Healthy Stress-Free Fruitful Life
Mindfulness Exercises #3: Cultivating Concentration
TIME: 20 Minutes
In Exercise 7, Every Breath Counts, you used breath counting to help build concentration in the mind for a short period. dedicating longer intervals to this practice can help you deepen your mindfulness practice (and it’s useful in day-to-day life as well). starting with the counting of the breath, this exercise offers a few different ways to build concentration more deeply.
Mindfulness Exercises #3: Steps
- After you settle into your posture, begin with the practice of counting your breaths. Focus the attention on the body breathing, and bring the mind back every time it wanders. Practice like this for the first five minutes.
- Let go of the counting, but stay with the breath. Mindfully watch the breath with your full awareness, noticing if it becomes more difficult without the counting. Continue for five minutes.
- Now, switch to the sensation of hearing. Find a relatively stable noise in your environment. It may be the sound of a nearby street, the humming of electricity or lights, or the subtle ringing in the ears. Use your hearing as the object of your awareness. When the mind wanders, come back to this sound.
- After five minutes, open your eyes. Find one object on which you can focus your attention. Look at it with curiosity, noticing every detail of the object—its outline, its color, its texture, and so on. When other sights, sounds, or thoughts distract you, return to the object you have chosen. Practice this for the final five minutes.
When working with concentration, you may experience what’s called the “monkey mind.” The monkey mind is when the mind is unsettled, jumping around like a monkey swinging from tree to tree. If monkey mind becomes distracting, open yourself up to the thoughts. Although you may start this exercise with the intention of building concentration, permit yourself to switch to a mindfulness-of-thoughts practice. Recognize the thoughts arising, welcome them in, and don’t push them away.
Mindfulness Exercises #4: Open-Awareness Meditation
TIME: 25 Minutes
This is traditional mindfulness meditation, similar to what most people think of when they hear the word meditation. using mindfulness of the senses, feeling tones, and your overall experience in the present moment, this is a practice in true open awareness. It is the cornerstone of mindfulness practice for many meditators across the world.
Open-Awareness Meditation is a combination of some of the shorter, more focused exercises earlier in this section. Throughout the exercise, rest in openness, receiving whatever arises into your experience.
Mindfulness Exercises #4: Steps
- Start with a brief body scan. Moving from head to toe, rest your attention on each part of the body with mindfulness.
- After completing the body scan, open your awareness to the sensations in the body—tension, pain, softness, the desire to fidget, or maybe an emotion or feeling. What arises and grabs your attention? Mindfully observe the body for five minutes.
- Open your practice to the experience of hearing. When a sound comes into your awareness, acknowledge that you are hearing it. Sit for five minutes with patience, noticing any bodily sensations or sounds present.
- Continue to open, this time including the thinking mind. You may see thoughts, emotional experiences, or general mental states. Whatever is present, note that you are having an experience of the mind.
- Finally, add in the practice of noting feeling tone. Cultivate an intention to receive and remain open. Recognize whatever is present in your awareness and how it feels. If the mind is reacting to any part of your experience, make that reaction a part of your practice.
- As you complete this meditation and move into daily life, try to sustain some of this awareness.
OPEN MINDFULNESS DURING YOUR DAY: You can make this practice a part of your everyday mindfulness. Pause for a few moments during your day and start with the fifth step of this exercise. Open up to your entire experience, and spend a minute or two noting what is present. This can help bring you back to the present-time experience in stressful or boring moments.
Open-mindfulness practice can sometimes feel too open. By allowing space for anything to arise, you may start to feel lazy or overly relaxed. As the mind relaxes, it may start to spin out on random trains of thought.
If you find this happening, try tightening your awareness a bit by focusing on one of your five senses (hearing usually works well). Remember that every time you bring the mind back, you are strengthening the mental muscles of mindfulness and concentration.
Mindfulness Exercises #5: Breathing and Noting
TIME: 25 Minutes
This is an alternate way to work with open mindfulness, and it’s how I practice every day. This combination of intentional concentration and open awareness is inspired by the Burmese monk Mahasi Sayadaw. Breathing and Noting is a popular practice among students of mindfulness across the world.
“Every time one notes an object well, it gives rise to delight. As a result of this, practice becomes enjoyable.”
Mindfulness Exercises #5: Steps
- Settle the body into a comfortable posture and allow the eyes to close.
- Focus your awareness on the breath. You can start with a counting exercise if you find it helpful.
- Choosing one location in the body, use the simple terms in and out to note each inhale and exhale. Continue for five minutes or more, until the mind begins to settle.
- Staying with the inhale and exhale, bring your awareness to the body in general. After the exhale, note one place in the body where you can feel a sensation. For example, you may note the following: “In, out, foot”; “In, out, chest”; and so on.
- After five minutes, incorporate the sensation of hearing. Continue to note the inhalation and exhalation; then note a feeling in the body or a sound.
- Next, open up to the thinking mind. As you have been doing, continue resting with your breath. As you breathe out, open up to any thoughts, feelings in the body, and sounds.
- Finally, include feeling tones. You now are resting with the breath and noting any bodily sensations, noises, thoughts, and feeling tones after each exhale.
Anxiety and feeling Overwhelmed
You may notice feeling overwhelmed or stressed arising during this practice. Welcome it in and make it a part of your practice. You can try slowing the breath down to encourage relaxation, or return to the simple practice of breath counting to give yourself a break before opening the awareness back up.
Mindfulness Exercises #6: The Awareness Trigger
TIME: 5 Minutes
One of the most difficult parts of practicing mindfulness is remembering to practice. for this reason, an awareness trigger can help you form a habit. You can incorporate this at multiple points throughout your day, experiment with different triggers, and use different methods of mindfulness with this exercise.
Mindfulness Exercises #6: Steps
- In the morning, pick one task or event that is likely to happen a few times during the day, for example, the sound of the phone ringing, the act of sitting down, or seeing the color red.
- Picking one event or behavior, set a clear intention to use this as a trigger for mindfulness throughout your day. Take a moment to connect with your goals and hopes for yourself, encouraging awareness during your day.
- Whenever you notice your trigger, pause and practice a few moments of mindfulness. You can do any of the exercises from part 1—working with the breath, observing the points of contact, or any other method in this article that works for you.
- After dedicating a few moments to present-time awareness, you can return to your daily life. Remember to continue bringing awareness to the present moment whenever your trigger arises throughout the day.
FINDING THE RIGHT TRIGGER: There are many different triggers you can use for this practice. Give yourself the freedom to choose a trigger that’s relevant and reliable in your lifestyle. If you work in front of a computer, you may try using the receipt of an e-mail.
If you spend a lot of time outside, use the feeling of the wind on your face. Continue to adapt and experiment with different triggers until you find the ones that work best.
Mindfulness Exercises #7: Waking up with Awareness
TIME: 5 Minutes
One of the best techniques to help bring mindfulness to every- day living is to start your day with it. Many of us have a rushed morning routine and do not pause to be present until later in the day. This exercise can help you start your day with a mindful moment, bolstering your practice in the coming hours.
Mindfulness Exercises #7: Steps
- When you wake up, take a moment to pause before you get up. If you use an alarm clock, try attaching a sticky note to it to remind yourself.
- Lying in bed, tune in to the body. Feel the body resting, and notice how it feels to begin moving and stretching.
- Bring your awareness to the breath. Take a few deep breaths, recognize that you woke up and are breathing this morning.
- As you get up and begin your day, try to retain some awareness. Routines make it easy to fall into autopilot. Notice when you lose your presence, and come back to mindfulness.
The Morning Chaos
Mornings may be an especially chaotic time. Rushing to get to work, taking care of children, and dealing with the foggy morning brain can make it difficult to be present. This calls for extra effort and kindness. The places and times that give you trouble are often the richest opportunities to practice.
Notice when your mind and body are moving toward stress. You don’t need to do anything; watch it happen with patient awareness. Just observing this process can help you understand it more deeply and become less vulnerable to it in the future.
Mindfulness Exercises #8: The Creative flow
TIME: 10 Minutes
Taking the time to be creative during your day can build lasting benefits in all areas of your life. Creativity can boost self-awareness, relieve stress, and help you solve problems more easily.
In addition, you can cultivate mindfulness while indulging your creative side. do this exercise with your activity of choice, and remember that you can pause at any time and use this technique to encourage present-time awareness.
Mindfulness Exercises #8: Steps
- Get a blank piece of paper and a pen. If you want to use crayons, markers, or colored pencils, that is even better. Set aside 10 minutes, perhaps setting a timer if it helps you dedicate the time to practice.
- Bring your awareness to your experience at this moment. Feel the pen in the hand, see the piece of paper, and notice any thoughts going through the mind. If judgment arises about your creative talents, notice them as they come up.
- Start drawing. You don’t need to create a masterpiece. There is nothing wrong with stick figures and doodles. Draw whatever you want. It may be a happy memory, scenery, or something you can see right now.
- As you draw, notice what you are drawing. If it’s a person, note that you’re drawing a person. If there is movement, notice there is movement. Watch for any emotions that arise, exploring whether the piece is happy, sad, fun, beautiful, and so on.
- Take special care to watch for judgments. However creative you consider yourself to be, you may find the mind telling you that you’re no good. Thank the mind for these contributions, and continue drawing.
- After 10 minutes, put down the pen. Look at what you’ve drawn, and take it in. Examine the lines, figures, and overall piece. Again, notice the thoughts and judgments when they arise. You may choose to save the piece, or not—the activity is the point, not the result.
CREATIVE OUTLETS: This exercise will work with any form of creativity. Try filling in a coloring book, taking photos, playing an instrument, or dancing. The only limits are the ones you put on yourself! Allow yourself just 10 minutes of freedom from judgment, and follow your passion.
Mindfulness Exercises #9: Cooking with Clarity
TIME: 15 Minutes
Cooking or preparing a meal is an opportunity to form a loving connection with your food. As you prepare a meal, you can cultivate mindfulness of your body and mind as well as the food you will be eating. Whether you’re making a quick meal or preparing a feast, use this exercise to ground yourself in the present moment.
“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”
Mindfulness Exercises #9: Steps
- Start your practice before you start grabbing supplies out of the refrigerator or cabinet. Form an image in your mind of the meal you will be preparing. Envision both the completed meal and the individual ingredients. Notice your intentions in preparing this meal.
- As you begin gathering the things you will need, tune in to the body. Feel the body moving across the kitchen and reaching for each item. To help cultivate mindfulness, make an effort to move more slowly than you normally do.
- As you chop, stir, and prepare, focus on one thing at a time. When turning on the stove, don’t just turn the stove on. Feel the experience with your complete awareness. Whatever you are doing, bring your attention wholly to the task in front of you.
- Use your senses. Notice if you’re hearing, feeling in the body, tasting, smelling, or seeing. When you see water boiling, investigate the sight, the feeling of heat, and the sound. As you chop vegetables, listen to the noise of the knife, feel the utensil in your hand, and notice if you can smell anything. Using all five senses helps you remain present and interested.
- When the meal is complete, pause to appreciate the experience. Recognize the effort you have put in. Bring gratitude to the energy that went into bringing the food to your kitchen in the first place. If you’re feeding others, reflect that you are providing sustenance to these loved ones. Allow yourself to feel grateful.
Mindfulness Exercises #10: Mindful speech
TIME: 5 Minutes
Humans are social creatures. Rarely does a day go by where you don’t interact with anyone—maybe you have a family, live with a roommate, or engage with people during work hours. When you talk, you can bring mindfulness to what you are saying, how it may impact others, and what your intentions are.
This exercise takes just a few minutes, and you can utilize it anytime. do this once or twice a day while on the phone, talking with a loved one, or during any social interaction.
Mindfulness Exercises #10: Steps
- Before speaking, bring mindfulness to your intentions. Ask yourself why you are going to say whatever you plan on saying. Examine the possibility of saying it with even more kindness or patience.
- Consider whether your words are timely and useful at this moment. We often gossip, interrupt, or talk simply to avoid uncomfortable silences. Think about whether or not this is the appropriate time to talk and what purpose your words will serve.
- If your words may put somebody else down, interrupt a person currently speaking, or ring as untrue, try reconsidering your choice of words.
- While talking, speak slowly and be mindful of the words you are using. When somebody responds either verbally or with body language, observe how it feels. Remember that you cannot control others, but you can bring mindfulness to your responses.
- When you are done talking, leave the words be. Listen to the other person and wait for the right time to talk again. As you practice mindful speech more regularly, you will be able to navigate challenging conversations with more ease.
RECOGNIZING UNWISE SPEECH: You will likely notice times in which you speak without mindfulness. Set the goal to tune in to your habits of talking. If you find yourself gossiping a lot, create an intention to avoid gossip. If you interrupt others often, bring special awareness to this pattern. Don’t beat yourself up. These are growing edges, and you have the opportunity to attend to them with compassion and kindness.
Mindfulness Exercises #11: Doing the dishes
TIME: 10 Minutes
On meditation retreats, I wash dozens of dishes silently every day. It took me years of silent retreats to appreciate this act as an opportunity to be mindful. for most of us, it seems like a dreaded chore. We wash the dishes in haste, rushing to get it done as quickly as possible. Instead, you can partake in this chore with present-time awareness and find some peace.
Mindfulness Exercises #11: Steps
- Look at the dishes you are going to be cleaning. Notice any natural reactions you have to the task at hand. Try to bring to mind the meal that was consumed and how it supported the well-being and life of all those who ate.
- Take a few deep breaths, centering your awareness in the body. Feel where you are standing and the weight pushing down the spine into the feet.
- Begin to wash, one dish at a time. Stay focused on the dish directly in front of you at the moment. As you clean, tune in to the smells that arise of the soap and food. Watch the dishes become cleaner. Feel the warm water on your hands. Hear the sounds of the water and the scrubbing.
- Place the dish in your drying rack or dishwasher slowly, bringing awareness to the body as you do so.
- Moving to the next dish, recognize that this is a new start. Let go of the dishes you have cleaned and the dishes still to be cleaned. Return to the one item you are cleaning right now.
- Watch the mind wander. When it meanders, bring it back to the task at hand. You can always pause and take a few deep breaths to recenter yourself.
- When you have cleaned the last dish, do not immediately stop the practice. Stay present as you wash your hands, clean up, and move on. With gratitude, recognize the reprieve you have been offered during this time.
Mindfulness Exercises #12: Mindful Cleaning
TIME: 10 Minutes
like doing dishes, cleaning grants us the time to step back from our active days and rest in present-time awareness. Instead of focusing on the task itself or how you feel about it (most of us are usually not that excited to clean the house), use this time as a chance to take care of yourself and encourage the habit of mindfulness. In this exercise, we will use the activity of sweeping. However, you can practice mindful cleaning while dusting, mopping, wiping down a counter, or doing any other household chores.
Mindfulness Exercises #12: Steps
- Start your practice when you are gathering your cleaning supplies. Walking to get the broom, feel the feet moving across the floor. Pay attention to the feeling of moving through space toward your supplies.
- Picking up the broom, bring awareness to the sense of touch. If the mind begins wandering into the future and the task at hand, bring yourself back to the body in the present moment.
- Sweeping is often repetitive, which can lead to a sense of boredom. To help stay in the present moment, try using a mantra. You can use a simple noting phrase, like “Left, right,” or a phrase of loving-kindness, such as “May I live with ease.” With each movement of the broom, mentally repeat the phrase in unison with the action.
- Recognize any mental states that arise. If you are frustrated, notice that you are frustrated. If curiosity arises about some dirt, recognize that you are curious.
- Continuing to clean, remember to check in with the body and state of mind. Notice the movements, the repetition, and the emotions that arise. Return to your mantra or phrase as many times as necessary.
- When you are finished cleaning, stand still and take a deep breath. Observe the space you have cleaned, and recognize its representation of your clean mind!
Mindfulness Exercises #13: Journaling
TIME: 10 Minutes
A regular journaling practice is a lovely way to check in with yourself. dedicate a few minutes each day to examining your experience through writing. This exercise is best to do in the morning and at night to start and end your day with mindfulness. It also is useful to have a dedicated journal or notebook for this practice.
Mindfulness Exercises #13: Steps
- Set aside five minutes in the morning to sit down and journal. As you sit down to do this exercise, tune in to the body sitting in the chair. Feel yourself sitting, your feet on the floor, and the pen or pencil in your hand.
- Take a few deep breaths, grounding yourself in the present moment. Recognize the state of the mind this morning. Is it calm, anxious, fearful, or hopeful? You don’t need to fix anything; just notice where the mind is today.
- For a few minutes, mindfully write about your current experience and the day ahead. You may set a timer if this feels like a daunting task. Address how you feel this morning, your state of mind, and any intentions you have for the day. Ask yourself if you have any worries, hopes, or events on your mind.
- Finishing your journaling practice, return to the breath for a few moments before moving on with your day.
- At night, return to this practice. For five minutes, reflect on your day. Identify anything you are grateful for, reflect on things that you could have handled better, and note any points of mindfulness during your day.
The Meditation Journal
You can also incorporate journaling into your meditation practice. After you sit in traditional meditation, open your journal and put down your experience in writing. Note whether the mind was focused or wandering, how it felt to practice, and anything unique or interesting about that day’s practice. Writing about your practice provides extra space for you to look at your experience with curiosity and equanimity.
Mindfulness Exercises #14: The Moving World
TIME: 10 Minutes
The very nature of mindfulness is to tune in to your experience at any given moment, noticing as you go that every experience is impermanent. That is to say, everything is always changing. feelings come and go, thoughts arise and pass, and sounds pop up and disappear. We can use this changing nature as the object of our awareness during the day. Tuning in to all the changes in the world will help you identify impermanence in action and give you a variety of things to focus on.
Mindfulness Exercises #14: Steps
- Sit outside or near a window, and leave your eyes open. Set the intention to rest in the awareness of your present-time experience. Place the awareness on the body and the breath, taking in where you are and how you are sitting.
- Begin by noticing where you can feel the motion in the body as you sit still. Rest with the breath and pay attention to the abdomen, chest, shoulders, and anywhere else you can sense the change.
- Open to your sense of hearing. Notice the presence of any noises, specifically tuning in to their changing nature. You may hear cars coming and going, your breath flowing in and out, birds chirping and stopping, or any other sounds as they rise and eventually fade away. When a sound comes into your awareness, focus on it for a few moments before opening up to other sounds again.
- Finally, use your sense of sight and see the movement in the world. What can you see that is moving or changing? There may be obvious movements, like cars driving, trees blowing in the wind, or people on the move. You may also notice subtle signs of movement and change, like the browning leaves of autumn, clouds floating across the sky, or a pothole that has been growing.
- After 10 minutes, return to the sensations of movement in the body. Reground yourself for a few moments before returning to your day.
Mindfulness Exercises #15: Color Your World
TIME: 10 Minutes
The world is full of different colors, and you can practice mindfulness by paying attention to which ones you are seeing in the present moment. seeing is a different experience from tuning in to the breath or body, but it offers the same opportunity to be deeply present. We rely heavily on our sense of sight, making it a powerful tool for the cultivation of mindfulness.
Mindfulness Exercises #15: Steps
- You can do this practice anywhere. You may be sitting at your desk, taking a ride on the bus, or walking down the street. Wherever you decide to do this practice, set aside 10 minutes to dedicate yourself to it.
- Arrive in the present moment. Take a few mindful breaths, feel the body where it is, and allow your energy to settle.
- Pick one color to focus on. You may try starting with red one day, and work your way through the traditional rainbow spectrum on each subsequent day.
- Find one thing you can see that is the color you have picked. Look at it with a beginner’s mind, as if you have never seen this thing before. Note what it is and its size and shape.
- After a few moments, look for something else that is this color. Observe this object in the same way.
- Continuing with this practice, notice when your mind wanders off. You can always return to the sensation of breathing, using the breath as the anchor for your awareness. You may find it helpful to mentally note exactly what you are seeing. For example, a red stop sign doesn’t get labeled “red stop sign”; it becomes “red, octagon, writing, metal.”
- When 10 minutes have passed, allow the eyes to close for a moment. Take a few deep breaths, let go of the practice, and return to your daily life.
A DAY OF COLORING: You can modify this practice a bit to incorporate it throughout your day. Pick a color and use it as an awareness trigger. Keep this color in mind throughout your day, and just notice whenever you see it. This practice can remind you to stay present during your day or to return to mindfulness as you get caught up in your day-to-day activities.
Mindfulness Exercises #16: Dedicated listening
TIME: 10 Minutes
This exercise requires a partner. Ask a friend or loved one to join you for 10 minutes of practice. They may be a complete beginner to mindfulness or have a practice of their own. It doesn’t matter! In this exercise, you both will be working with the practice of listening mindfully. Whomever you choose, they should be somebody you trust. The practice will require some vulnerability. The partner who is listening should listen attentively, with a clear mind and no judgment.
Try to be present with the experience of listening, and let go of the need to respond. While listening, you should retain awareness of your own experience as you take in the words the other is saying. Explore what it means to be present while listening. When speaking, practice mindful speech. Be honest, allow yourself to be vulnerable, and observe the words you are saying.
Mindfulness Exercises #16: Steps
- Sit down at eye level with your partner. Choose one person to speak first while the other listens.
- Set a timer for four minutes. The person who speaks first can begin talking about goals and intentions they have—for their day, for their loved ones, for their future, and so on.
- When the timer goes off, switch roles. The other person can now talk about their goals and intentions, while the other person practices mindful listening.
- When the timer completes, spend a few minutes conversing. How was the practice? What was it like to sit and just listen? Was it difficult to not respond?
PROMPTS: You can change the topics you speak about as you see fit. Instead of talking about intentions, you can discuss fears, happy memories, how your week is going, or anything else. You can use this practice to examine different parts of your life and to learn to be fully present while listening.
Mindfulness Exercises #17: Mindful Bathing
TIME: 15 Minutes
showering and bathing are common times to check out. You let your mind wander, go completely into autopilot, or just shut down mentally. Instead, you can use this time to work on your mindfulness practice. Make your shower time a cleansing ritual for the body and the mind, using the prompts in this exercise. You can practice with any or all of your senses in the shower, but for this practice, you will focus primarily on the physical body.
Mindfulness Exercises #17: Steps
- Begin your practice before turning on the water. Stand for a moment and bring your awareness to the rising and falling of the breath in the chest. Feel the lungs expand and contract with each inhalation and exhalation.
- As you turn on the water, feel your hands on the knob, watch the water begin to flow, and hear the noise of the shower. Notice if heat or steam fills the room.
- Once you step into the shower, acknowledge what you are feeling. You may notice the temperature change, the sensation of water on the skin, and any response of the body to the water.
- Go through your usual routine, feeling the movement, texture, and points of contact in the body. Rest your attention on the hands and skin as you wash and rinse your body. Moving more slowly than you normally do will help the mind stay present.
- Wrapping up the showering process, don’t let your awareness go. Stay present as you shut the water off and get out. Feel the towel on your skin as you dry yourself. Moving on with your day, try to retain this awareness of the body.
Mindfulness Exercises #18: I like. . .
TIME: 15 Minutes
One of the most pleasant ways to cultivate mindfulness is to notice the things that bring you joy. By taking the time to appreciate these moments, you are training the mind to recognize more of them in the future. In this practice, you will be taking a short walk and noticing what makes you happy.
“Joy does not simply happen to us. You have to choose joy and keep choosing it every day.”
— HENRI NOUWEN
Mindfulness Exercises #18: Steps
- Find somewhere to walk. It may be in a park, on a trail, or around your block. You do not need to be anywhere special.
- Before starting to walk, stand and take a few deep breaths. Notice the feeling of breathing at your nostrils. Ground yourself in the sensation of your feet on the ground, tuning in to the weight of the body and the gravity holding you down.
- Begin walking at a normal pace. While moving, look for something you like. You may not love everything you see or experience, but there are likely sights, feelings, and sounds that you like. It can be as simple as a color or a shape of a thing (not even the actual thing itself).
- When you notice something you like, say to yourself, “I like that tree,” or “I like the color blue,” or “I like the birds chirping.” Say this silently in your head whenever you notice something you enjoy. Or you can say it out loud if you want!
- Remember, there is no right or wrong with this practice. Be true to yourself and whatever you like. When the mind wanders off or falls into judgment, come back to the present moment by grounding yourself in the feeling of the feet on the ground as you walk. Then open back up to the experiences you are enjoying.
- After 15 minutes or so have passed, you can return to your day. Make some effort to bring this practice with you into your life. Whenever you notice something you enjoy—however subtle it may be—note to yourself that you like it.
Mindfulness Exercises #19: Where Are the feet?
TIME: 5 Minutes
This practice comes from my training with trauma therapists. In trauma therapy, the client is often encouraged to bring awareness to the feet. This is a grounding practice that helps engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for calming the mind and body.
Mindfulness Exercises #19: Steps
- Consider how you are going to remind yourself to feel your feet throughout your day. You can put a sticky note on your computer, set a reminder on your phone, or use one of the other awareness triggers you have discovered. If you use a reminder or sticky note, write the simple question, “Where are my feet?”
- During your day, bring your awareness to the feet. Feel how they are resting. Scan the foot from the heel to the arch, ball, toe, and top of each foot.
- Take a few deep breaths as you continue to pay attention to the feet. Allow the body and mind to settle a bit. With each exhalation, allow the feet to relax.
- Continuing with your day, be ready for the reminder to pop up again. Each time, return to this brief practice of relaxing into the grounding sensations within the feet.
Mindfulness Exercises #20: Shopping Mindfully
TIME: 15 Minutes
Going to the grocery store can send us into a state of anxiety and impatience rather quickly. All the decisions to make, the crowds of people, and the details of our shopping lists create the perfect conditions to “check out.” But within the busyness of shopping, this activity also provides an effective environment for mindfulness practice.
Mindfulness Exercises #20: Steps
- Before going inside, slow down to connect with your intention to shop mindfully. Breathing deeply, allow the body to relax with each exhale. Let the shoulders drop down, relax the abdomen, and release any tension in the jaw.
- As you walk up to the doors, practice a few moments of walking meditation. Feel each foot as it lifts off the ground and is placed down in front of you. Just for the moment, let go of the thoughts in the thinking mind, and relax your awareness down into the feet.
- Once inside, spend a brief minute taking it all in. Check-in with the six sense-doors of mindfulness: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, feeling in the body, and thinking. Note the colors and lights, any smells in the air, how the body is standing, the noise of the grocery store, and your state of mind. There isn’t a right or wrong answer; just tune in to your personal experience.
- As you move toward a section of the store to begin your shopping, stay present with the body. Feel the feet on the ground and the muscles in the legs working to keep you moving.
- When you pick something up to place in your cart or basket, stay in touch with the sensations in the body. Feel the arm and hand reach. As you grab the item, feel the texture, temperature, and weight. Setting it in your cart, pay attention to how it feels to release the object.
- Continue shopping with this mindfulness of the body. Each item offers an opportunity to practice, as does the space between grabbing things. When it is time to check out (from the grocery store, not from your mind), wait in line mindfully.
ADDING NEW SENSES: If you find the mind wandering a lot while shopping, try focusing on one of your senses. Instead of noting simply what is present in the body, tune in to the colors you see or the sounds you hear.
When you see the color red, note that you’re seeing red. When you hear someone talking, note that you’re hearing someone talking. This can give the mind some extra stimuli to help it stay present.
Meditation is a powerful way to ground your mindfulness exercises or practice and gain lasting insights that carry into daily life. However, you can’t spend all day sitting in meditation. Bringing mindfulness to your everyday activities and responsibilities can help create a more consistent state of presence.
In this article, we discussed some mindfulness exercises that help you remain present with kindness and wisdom as you move through your day. The more you practice this, the more easily it will come. Remember, this is a practice. It takes patience and persistence to train and retrain the mind.
Related: Mindfulness Exercises: See How Mindfulness Helps You Live in The Moment
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