Jumping right into a mindful way of life or even practicing mindfulness can seem a little overwhelming at first. There is an abundance of information out there, some of it even conflicting. It can be difficult to figure out where to start or if this is even right for you. Here are a few mini mindfulness exercises you can do to practice using the skills of mindfulness while you continue your journey to learn more about it and live the mindful lifestyle.
- Focus On Your Breathing: take a few minutes to really focus on your breathing. Slow your breathing by slowly counting to 5 or 6 as you breath in, hold your breath, and breath out. Notice how the air feels entering your nose, throat, and lungs. Notice how it feels leaving your body. Breath in through your nose and out through your mouth noting the different sensations. Focus only on your breathing during this time in order to ground and center you into the present moment.
- Engage Your Senses: find a scent of lotion that you find calming. Take a minute to lotion your hands. As you do this engage as many senses as possible. Note the scent of the lotion. Note the color. Note the sensation of it on your skin and how your skin changes as you massage it in. Take a minute to massage your hands to engage all of the unique little muscles in each part of your hands.
- Mindful Snack: have a snack, but don’t just eat it in front of the computer or tv. Take the time to sit in a comfortable position and slowly enjoy your snack. Pay attention to the texture, the smell, and the taste. Slowly chew each bite paying attention to how it changes in your mouth. Fully engage in the process of eating without the distractions of everything around you. Note how you feel while eating it.
- Observation/Description: take a minute to look at what is around you. In your mind, describe your surroundings. You can focus on an entire room, or one small aspect of it. Pay attention to the little details you have never noticed. Look at colors, shapes, textures, and shadows. Notice imperfections and appreciate them rather than judge them. If you need to touch things, engage that tactile sense.
- Focus On Thankfulness: spend time looking for the things you are thankful for or that are positive in your life. Rather than focus on the many details that can often be overwhelming or negative, search until you find something that gives you peace and hope. Focus on it. Make a list of these things. Make it a mantra. Keep the list with you and reference it when you need the reminder.
- Ice/Hand Tension: focus your attention onto the sensation in your hands during one of these two exercises. In the first, find an ice cube and clench it in your fist. Let it melt. Feel how the sensation changes from cold, to freezing, to burning. Hold it as long as you can. Pay attention to the melting water dripping down your hand. When you release the ice, note how long it takes for the sensation of holding ice to disappear. If you don’t have ice, or can’t make a little mess, clench your fist as tight as possible. Hold it for as long as you can. Notice the changing feelings in your hands and fingers’ muscles. Note the effect and feelings up your arm. Notice how long it takes for those feelings to change after you release the tension.
- Candle Focus: light a candle, preferably in a dark room. Focus on the flame and study everything about if for five or ten minutes. If your mind wanders, simply bring it back to the candle, do not become upset with yourself. Let yourself go into the candle visually and mentally so that all you are focusing on is the candle. When you are done, close your eyes for a minute and watch the shadow of the flame behind your eye lids and then slowly open them and resume your daily activities. (side note: using a scented candle in a calming scent can add another level of relaxation to this exercise)
- Full Focus Single Activity: put your full focus into any one activity you are doing. Do not have music or tv on in the background. Do not talk. Put in ear plugs if you need help keeping out the extra noises. Put your phone away. This can be any activity from running to cooking or reading. Pulling all of your focus onto one activity is such a rare experience in our society, it can be grounding and bring us back into the present moment, reducing anxieties by simply focusing on one simple task.
- Heavy Object: find a heavier object such as a book. Hold your arm out, palm up and balance the book on your hand. Hold it for two to five minutes. While doing this notice how the book goes from light to heavy to almost too heavy to hold. Pay attention to how difficult the task gets, what muscles you feel it in, and how to keep holding it. Your arm may start to shake and get lower, but keep holding the book. After you are done, remind yourself that this is often like many stressors in life. They start out small and get bigger and more difficult to deal with, but if you stick with it, you will be strong enough to make it through. Notice how your muscles relax as you put the book down and know that you succeeded.