In our fast-paced society, we often find ourselves worrying about the past or fixating on the future. Sometimes, years can go by before we realize that in order to deal with daily stressors, we’ve numbed ourselves to our emotions in the here and now. I first learned about Mindfulness in graduate school back in 2009 and I’m so happy to see Mindfulness techniques making its way into mainstream society as an effective, natural way to relieve stress, reduce anxiety, to clear the mental clutter, and to simply learn HOW to be present in the moment!
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What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness, at it’s core, is awareness of the present moment. It’s essentially living in the here and now. It seems SO simple at first glace, however, the POWER of mindfulness is how, through mindfulness, you are freed from becoming entangled in thoughts of your past, and are freed from worrying about the future. Wouldn’t that be absolutely amazing if it were possible?!
I’m here to tell you right from the start, that it REALLY is possible!
In the here and now, everything simply is…and there is profound peace in that certainty. Everything is what it is without the weight of judgment, without criticism, without any form of fear or negativity that tends to trip us up on a daily basis when we allow ourselves to think about our emotions. This is because we’ve gotten into a cycle of allowing our emotions to control us and we feel powerless to handle negative emotion.
The key and solution is developing Self Awareness without Judgment.
These EASY mindfulness exercises are simple enough for anyone to try and incorporate into your daily routine, and yet they are an extraordinarily powerful method for developing self awareness!
It sounds great on paper, but the main question I’ve been asked, and I’ve asked it myself, truth be told, is HOW to get one’s mind to actually focus on the here and now when we’re simply so un-accustomed to this process. Well, the simple answer is to PRACTICE with the knowledge that with time and effort, mindfulness truly does WORK.
What makes mindfulness stand out from other forms of “tuning in” and meditation, in general, is that mindfulness is active, in that you can utilize this technique without necessarily stopping everything you’re doing. There are also A LOT of different mindfulness techniques. Other forms of meditation require a quiet place, time to oneself (which, hey, if you’re a parent like me, that’s a tough slot to fill!), and the ability to stay seated/still for a prolonged period of time. It sounds as if the moon and stars have to be aligned for traditional meditation to take place in my life at this point and I know I’m not alone in this struggle!
So, here is a list of 4 Mindfulness exercises that you can incorporate into your daily routine to reap the incredible benefits of meditation in a way that works for your lifestyle and current living situation!
These mindfulness techniques, when practiced on a regular basis, are an important part of learning how to practice mindfulness to reduce stress, to relieve anxiety, and empower you to embrace life in the present moment. You’ll begin to see the immense benefits of learning how to control your thought process, rather than having your thoughts control you.
Exercise 1: One Minute of Mindfulness
This is an easy mindfulness exercise, and one that you can do anytime throughout the day. I personally like to practice this one in the evening after my son has gone to bed or right before I go to bed. Past clients of mine have chosen to do this first thing in the morning (you can tell the morning people vs the night owls). This is my starting point. Once I get into this routine, I incorporate this exercise throughout my day, as needed.
- Take a moment right now to give this method a try. You can set a 60 second timer on your phone or take note of the current time on your watch. For the next 60 seconds your task is to focus all of your attention on your breathing. Even though, it’s just for one minute, it can seem like an eternity, especially in the beginning.
- Leave your eyes open and breathe normally. Be ready to catch your mind from wandering off (because it will) and return your attention to your breath whenever it does so. Take pressure off yourself by realizing that you can’t fail at this exercise, you can only experience it.
- This mindfulness exercise is far more powerful than most people give it credit for. It takes some people many years of practice before they are able to complete a single minute of alert, clear, focused attention.
- Use this exercise many times throughout the day to restore your mind to the present moment and to restore your mind to clarity and peace. This is a great exercise to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You can also do this any time you need to calm your mind to mentally prepare for a stressful event or an anxiety trigger (ie: driving).
- Over time, you can gradually extend the duration of this exercise into longer and longer periods of time. This exercise is actually the foundation of a correct mindfulness meditation technique.
- You can also use a mindfulness bell to focus your attention on, instead of your breathing. If you have struggled with mantra meditations or breathing meditation techniques in the past, then a mindfulness bell recording can really help you to focus your attention in the present moment and achieve a state of mental stillness.
Exercise 2: Conscious Observation
- Pick up an object that you have lying around. Any mundane everyday object will do…a coffee cup or a pen for example. I like to practice this with an item of food, such as an orange or a raisin, to get the full sensorial experience of touch, taste, smell, sound, and sight.
- Hold your object of choice in your hands and allow your attention to be fully absorbed by the object. Observe it. Don’t assess it, or think about it, or study it intellectually. Just observe it for what it is. If it’s an orange, for example, notice the bumps on the skin of the orange, the scent of the orange, the color, the weight of it in your hands, the size, etc. and take in every detail you notice.
- You’ll feel a sense of heightened “nowness” during this exercise. Conscious observation can really give you a feeling of “being awake”. Notice how your mind quickly releases thoughts of past or future, and how different it feels to be in the moment. Conscious observation is a form of meditation. It’s subtle, but powerful. By practicing mindfulness in this way you’ll really start to sense what mindfulness is all about.
In the book Mindfulness, Bliss and Beyond, the author, Ajahn Brahm describes his own personal experience of conscious observation…
“The mind is like a megawatt searchlight, enabling you to see so much deeper into what you are gazing at. Ordinary concrete becomes a masterpiece. A blade of grass literally shimmers with the most delightful and brilliant shades of fluorescent green. ..the pretty becomes profound and the humdrum becomes heavenly under the sparkling energy of power mindfulness.”Ajahn Brahm
- You can also practice conscious observation with your ears rather than your eyes. I love to use this technique with music! Or, when I’m outside, I consciously listen to all the sounds going on around me. I also do this exercise with my almost 4 year old son! Many people find that mindful listening is a more powerful mindfulness technique than visual observation.
Exercise 3: The Ten Second Count
This is more of an exercise in practicing concentration than it is in mindfulness (however, concentration is a key component of any successful mindfulness exercise), and it is a simple variation on exercise 1.
- In this exercise, rather than focusing on your breath, close your eyes and focus your attention on slowly counting to ten. If your concentration wanders, start back at number one and go from there.
- Here are some examples of what may happen when doing this exercise:
- “One…two…three…do I have to buy milk today or is there another gallon in the other fridge? Oh, whoops, I’m thinking.”
- “One…two…three…four…this isn’t so hard after all… Oh no….that’s a thought! Start again.”
- “One…two…three… now I’ve got it. I’m really concentrating now…”
- It all comes down to personal preference whether the mindfulness exercise described in Exercise 1 with breathing as the focus works better for you than focusing on counting. We’re all wired a little differently, so it’s always helpful to have different options in our Wellness Toolkit to pull from. And, what might work better for you on one day may be different on another, so it’s good to be familiar with both exercises!
Exercise 4: Mindfulness Cues
- In this exercise your goal is to focus your attention on your breathing whenever a specific environmental cue occurs. For example, whenever you hear the phone ring, you promptly bring your attention into the present moment and stay focused on your breath.
- Simply choose a cue that works for you and feel free to modify as needed once you begin putting this technique into practice. For example, you can choose to become mindful every time you look in the mirror, every time your hands touch each other, every time you go to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer (during the current pandemic, this has been my go-to cue, which helps re-center me).
- Mindfulness cues are an excellent mindfulness technique that are designed to snap you out of the unconscious “autopilot” state of mind, and bring you back into the present moment.
Mindfulness Exercises: Taking it to the Next Level
These mindfulness exercises are designed to develop and improve your overall ability to concentrate and to stay focused in the present moment, which is has never been more important in our current world that never stops! Our concentration levels continue to dwindle more and more each year with having constant access to never-ending distractions that once weren’t there (ie: the ability to check our emails, search the internet, and have our phones on us 24/7). The Mindfulness Movement has become a saving grace to our fragile minds, helping pull us out of living life on auto-pilot!
The Difference Between Mindfulness vs Concentration
It’s important to realize that there’s a difference between mindfulness and concentration. Concentration is so important because it helps you focus your attention on one thing or another, thus allowing you to take control of what goes on in your mind. Concentration is the tool you use to bring your mind into focus and to close the door on the seemingly never-ending mental chatter that goes on in our brains. Most importantly, it’s still up to you to “show up” and be present in the moment once these distractions are cleared away.
Mindfulness is another step beyond concentration, as mindfulness is a state of awareness: it is “presence” of mind.
The Final Takeaway:
If you practice these exercises, you’ll also find it easier to do traditional meditation, as you’re strengthening all the right mental muscles in the process! So, Mindfulness is a great starting point to open up a whole new realm of possibilities when it comes to tools we can utilize to take back control of our minds, thoughts, and ultimately, our lives.
Ideally, mindfulness is something that you’ll learn to integrate into all of the moments that make up your daily life. These easy exercises are a great way to help you experience moments of mindfulness – brief awakenings to flip off the switch from auto-pilot to fully alive!
To really experience the profound benefits of mindfulness, I strongly encourage you to learn to gradually incorporate mindfulness into everything you do and ideally, to learn how to practice formal mindfulness meditation. Read through these mindfulness activities, reflect on how each exercise resonates with you, and take a major leap towards a more conscious, enlightened and peaceful experience of a life truly lived!
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! I have lots of other ideas and mindfulness exercises to share with you, so if you found this post helpful, be sure to sign up for my email list at the end of this post to be notified of new posts!
I hope you’ve found some inspiration in this post to live life in the here and now, fully present, and opening yourself to all the magic that exists once the clutter is cleared away!
I know we’re living in really hard times right now, filled with uncertainty. Take each day at a time and always remember, you’re not alone in this!
Check out these related posts for more inspiration!
Love & Light,