As we head into the final month of what has been a truly extraordinary year many of us are feeling like our minds are constantly being pulled from pillar to post, scattering our thoughts and emotions and leaving us feeling stressed, highly-strung and at times quite anxious.
So take a moment and refresh yourself with one of these mindfulness exercises to empty your mind and find some much-needed calm amidst the madness of your hectic day.
All you need is 30 seconds and you will be back better than before.
How Mindfulness Exercises Help
Mindfulness as a practice can help you in many areas of your life from health to relationships. Scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques improve self-control, objectivity, tolerance, enhanced flexibility, concentration, and empathy — you gain mental clarity.
Mindfulness exercises can help you make better decisions. It helps you stop reacting and regain clarity and focus.
1. Mindful Breathing
This exercise can be done standing up or sitting down, and pretty much anywhere at any time.
Take a long, deep breath in through your nose. As you reach the end of your breathe take one last effort to suck in an extra bit of air (you may feel your chest pinch)
Hold it and count to 2.
Release, slowly through your mouth counting to 4.
Hold it for 2 counts again.
As your breathe let go of your thoughts. Let go of things you have to do later today or pending projects that need your attention. Simply let thoughts rise and fall of their own accord and be at one with your breath.
You have just practiced mindful breathing!
There are a lot of different breathing techniques you can try. The one described above is our favourite. It’s easy to remember and can be done in a flash.
The perfect mindfulness exercise for a busy day.
2. Body Scan Meditation
If you have more than a few seconds, try a body scan meditation. This can take as long as you like. There are guided ones like this by mindful.org. Or you can do it on your own.
Bring your attention to your body. Start from your toes up.
Take a moment and feel your body. Notice where you’re holding tension. Sit or lie down if you can. Focus on your breathing for a few breaths. Then, notice your toes. Working from your toes up (or head down), focus on every part of your body as you reach it and consciously relax any tension you find.
3. What Do You Notice?
This exercise is simple but incredibly powerful because it helps you notice and appreciate seemingly simple elements of your environment in a more profound way.
Stop and pay attention to your surroundings. Focus on each of your senses one at a time, what do you see? what do you feel? what do you hear? what do you smell? what do you taste?
This mindfulness exercise brings you back into your body and out of your frazzled mind. It’s more powerful than you think. It will help you gain mindful awareness and notice things you overlooked. For instance, the smell of freshly made coffee. The papery sound of dry leaves rustling in the wind.
4. What Do You Hear?
This exercise is designed to open your ears to sound in a non-judgmental way, and indeed to train your mind to be less swayed by the influence of past experiences and preconception.
Choose a song you’ve never listened to before, or step outside. Whatever you decide, stand still and listen.
What do you hear? The idea is to listen intently, to become fully entwined with the sound without preconception or judgment. Just mindfully listen to everything. Hear how it fits together. Don't think, hear.
5. Talk about The Moment
This can be a fun activity for the whole family and a welcome break from those Netflix boxsets! The goal is to only talk about what is happening where you are right now. The meal you are making, the presents you’re wrapping or the birds that are singing in the trees as you walk through the woods.
Keep conversation to the present moment. It’s okay if you slip up, we all do! But, it’s a great way to raise your mindful awareness.
6. Go Outside
It’s impossible to stay angry when you are faced with a seasonal vista, glowing sunset or star filled sky. Everyone would agree that fresh air is good for your health, sanity and overall wellbeing.
Step outside, stand there and feel the sun on your face, or the cool of night. Breathe deep.
This mindfulness exercise can be as short as one deep breath. Or you can make a day of it, schedule activities outside with your family. Go for a walk and find a geocache, rake some leaves, build a snowman!
Taking the time to go outside and be present will leave you feeling refreshed. In our experience, it’s often the most effective mindfulness exercise. That’s why we saved it for last!
So, grab your coat and boots and go for it. If even for a minute.
Take a Moment
No matter what you choose, take a moment. It can be 30 seconds, 30 minutes or more. You deserve a break and it will recharge you and keep that holiday stress at bay.
What mindfulness exercise do you have time for today?