8 Exercises in Mindfulness

8-exercises-in-mindfulness

Being mindful means living in the now – being aware of thought patterns, the body and the breath. It’s easy for people to overlook the small details losing sight of the things we should appreciate around us. By living in the present moment, we take a break from our thoughts and the fast-paced lives we live in.

Mindfulness doesn’t just happen naturally, it’s a skill that is gained with practice. Here are 8 exercises to build the mindful muscle. Try each exercise for a minimum of 5 minutes. You can set your phone alarm or a timer. For more of a challenge, you can increase the time.

Exercise 1 – Looking at Nature

  1. Choose a flower, plant or rock and keep your attention only on this object. If you get distracted it’s normal, slowly bring your attention back to the object.
  2. Focus on sensations. Admire the leaves and feel the textures. Are there any smells?
  3. Reflection: Write down 3-5 things you noticed. Some people say it’s much easier to be present in nature versus when looking at man made objects. Try the next exercise and compare.

Exercise 2 – Looking at Man Made Objects

  1. Look at a small object you can hold in your hand such as a pen or a cup. If you get distracted it’s normal, slowly bring your attention back to the object.
  2. Focus on the details, textures, design or any other observations?
  3. Reflection: Write down 3-5 things you noticed. How was this exercise different than looking at nature? Did you find it easier, harder or about the same to focus on the present?

Exercise 3 – Sitting in a Quiet Place

  1. Sit up straight and either keep your eyes open or closed.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor or cross your legs and put your hands on your knees or gently cupped on your lap.
  3. Listen to the sounds around you.
  4. Focus on either the external environment or internal sounds of your body. Are you sitting indoors or outdoors? What sounds do you hear?
  5. Reflection: Write down 3-5 things you noticed.

Exercise 4 – Sitting in a Busy Place

  1. Sit up straight and either keep your eyes open or closed.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor and put your hands on your knees or gently cupped on your lap.
  3. Listen to the sounds around you. (ex: In an airplane, a bus, at a train station, etc…)
  4. Focus on either the external environment or internal sounds of your body. Are you sitting indoors or outdoors?
  5. Reflection: Write down 3-5 things you noticed. Compare it to sitting in a quiet place. Was it easier or harder to stay present?

Exercise 5 – Sitting with your Breath and Body

  1. Sit up straight and close your eyes.
  2. Place your feet flat on the floor or cross your legs and put your hands on your knees or gently cupped on your lap.
  3. Pay attention to your breath as it enters through your nose and slowly out of the mouth. Let the air come and go without forcing it in or out. Just observe your natural breath.
  4. Focus on where you feel the breath. Do you feel any other sensations in your body?
  5. Reflection: Write down 3-5 things you noticed.

Exercise 6 – Eating and Drinking

  1. Sit comfortably at a table with your food and drink.
  2. Before taking a bite of your food, notice how it looks. Is it dark, light, lumpy or smooth? Make the same observations with your drink. What is the consistency? Is it thin, thick, etc..?
  3. Slowly consume your food and drink. How does it taste? What is the flavor? How does it smell? Did the food have an interesting texture? 
  4. Reflection: Write down 3-5 things you noticed.

Exercise 7 – Walking

  1. As you begin your walk, feel the weight of your foot as it comes down from heel to toe. Where do you feel the heaviness? How do your legs contribute to the walking motion?
  2. Reflection: Write down 3-5 things you noticed.

Exercise 8 – Having a Conversation

  1. Give the next person who you have a conversation with your full attention.
  2. Stay present and really listen to what they are saying without preparing a response while they are talking. Notice the features on their face, the look in their eyes and their expressions. Do they seem happy, upset, anxious, excited?
  3. Reflection: Write down 3-5 things you noticed.

Now look at your list of reflections and see if there is a pattern in what you noticed about yourself. Were you able to practice mindfulness better under certain environments? The goal is to eventually be able to hold your attention in the present moment anytime and anywhere you want. Use any opportunity you can to practice mindfulness and keep stretching that muscle.




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