7 Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness is commonly described as "a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts and bodily sensations".
The difference between mindfulness and meditation
Mindfulness is a very simple form of meditation, which is about observation without criticism and being compassionate with yourself. When stressful events come into your life, instead of taking it all personally, you learn to treat them as if they were black clouds in the sky, observing them with a friendly curiosity as they drift past you. Mindfulness allows you to catch the negative thought patterns before they tip you into a downward spiral, helping you to bring control back into your life. True meditation is a state of profound deep peace that occurs when the mind is calm and silent. When in this state it allows us to have a higher state of awareness and enables us to fulfil our true Human potential. Meditation is not a religion, where you sit cross-legged.
7 straight forward mindfulness exercises
The good thing about this exercise is it can be done standing up or sitting down. All you must do is to be still and focus. Start by breathing in and out slowly, one breath cycle should last about 5 seconds. Breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow effortlessly in and out of your body. Letting go of the thoughts, not thinking about what you must do later or pending business that needs your attention. Simply allow thoughts to come into your mind and then let them go as quickly as they entered. Purposefully watch your breath, focusing in on your sense of awareness as it enters your body.
A simple but incredibly powerful exercise as it helps you notice and appreciate something in your environment in a more profound way. It is designed to connect us with the beauty of the natural environment, something we easily miss when we are rushing around. Simply choose a natural object from your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a second or two. Don't do anything except notice the thing you are looking at, relax into watching it for as long as your concentration allows you. Imagine you are seeing this object for the first time. Visualise and explore every aspect of its form, allow yourself to be consumed by its presence. Allow yourself to connect with its energy and purpose within the natural world.
This exercise is designed to cultivate a heightened awareness and appreciation of simple daily tasks and the results they achieve. Think about something that happens every day for you, more than once. Something you take for granted, e.g. opening a door. At that very moment you touch the doorknob to open the door, stop and be mindful of where you are, how you feel and where the door will lead you.
Before you start speaking in a counselling session, take a moment to appreciate that your voice enables you to help someone. Choose a touch point that resonates with you to help bring your awareness into the now.
In this exercise, you need to notice 5 things in your day that would normally go unappreciated. These things can be objects or people. Use a note pad to record then. The point of this exercise is to notice and appreciate things that seemingly are insignificant within our life.
Have you ever ate a whole chocolate bar and put your hand out looking for more, only to be disappointed at the fact you've ate it all? If we begin to employ mindful eating, we actually eat less. Try this: get an orange, feel the orange in your hands, what does it remind you of? Then, smell it, begin to peel the skin, how does the orange’s skin feel? Separate the orange and put a segment into your mouth, what taste sensations are you experiencing? What textures are you feeling and what do they remind you of? Spend time breaking this segment of orange down until you put another piece into your mouth.
Get a tealight candle and light it (remember safety). Put a timer on for one minute and spend this one minute focusing purely on the candle and nothing else, just look at the flame and the colours and shapes you see within the flame. When the minute is up reset your timer to one and a half minutes, this time focus on the flame but allow you mind to bring in the sounds you hear around you and acknowledge them, then let them pass out. You can repeat this exercise again but introducing a thought aspect, allowing it to enter your mind but letting it leave as quickly as it entered.
In a nutshell, mindfulness doesn’t have to be done in silence and in the siting position. It can be done on the move and whilst in company.
In closing, a last exercise that you can apply to yourself to help see the concept of mindfulness: what do you see? What do you hear? What colours can you see? What do you smell? What do you physically feel?
Remember it's all about the here and now and tuning in to your senses.