How many times do you wake up, speed out the door, take part in too many frantic tasks and come home feeling frazzled? Probably more than you’d like.
This habit of busyness is far too common today and it has trained us to place our sense of self-worth in doing rather than being.
While the cycle of busyness is exhausting, we bring some of this onto ourselves because doing ‘nothing’ doesn’t seem productive when you have an endless to-do list. But these moments of stillness that allow us to just be with ourselves are the simple mindfulness breaks that everyone needs for a healthy mind and body.
For some people, this traditional form of meditation is not relaxing or beneficial, so remember that whatever works for you might not work for the next person.
With that being said, like any skill, mindfulness and meditation take some time to master. Stick with it and you’ll start reaping some amazing benefits from such a simple task – everything from stress relief to a reduction in chronic pain.
Being mindful allows you the chance to be more aware of your thoughts and not easily lean into those negative thoughts and emotions over time.
So, to help you find the best practices that suit your lifestyle and offer you the most reward, here are 17 super simple mindfulness exercises that you can start trying right now.
1. Write down three aspirations
Taking the time to write down a few aspirations pulls you out of the ‘now’ and helps you look towards the future and what you want to cultivate in your life.
It gives meaning to your every day which, in turn, will help you to not fall victim to some negative feelings and emotions when your daily routine feels like a slog. What do you want out of life? What do you want to achieve just today? Write it down!
2. Brew a cup of tea (but make it mindful)
This one is super simple. If you’re a tea (or coffee) drinker, all you need to do is transform your daily brew into a mindful practice.
Commit yourself fully to the task (that means no checking emails or phones) and spend a few minutes igniting your senses, from the smell of the tea or coffee to the feeling of the warm mug.
Allow yourself to just be while you wait for the kettle to boil and the tea leaves to infuse. It’s harder than you think but taking just a few moments to check in with yourself could entirely transform your day.
3. Take three deep, nourishing breaths
It’s something we do every minute of every day, so why not harness our breath into a practice that calms and nourishes us?
It’s as simple as consciously breathing deep into your nose (as far as your breath can go) and releasing it back out through the mouth. Be aware also of how these three deep breaths affect the rising and falling of your tummy and chest.
This is a super simple way to check in with your body and takes just a few moments to restore peace within a day.
4. Take your shoes off outside
From young kids, you’ve probably been taught that bare feet and the outdoors should never go together. While this holds value, especially for kids, there are some benefits of getting out in Mother Nature without your shoes on.
What’s otherwise called ‘grounding’, connecting with the earth this way is something we do so little of but can actually help reduce stress, pain, and instigate our body’s restorative mode, taking us out of our stressed fight-or-flight mode.
Just think of how calming it feels when you walk on the sand at the beach, right? So, go forth and dig your toes in the grass! (Just ensure you do this with caution of your surroundings).
5. Have a mindful workout
Whether you’re swimming, dancing, running, or lifting weights, any workout can double as a mindfulness practice.
While you move your body in a way that’s working on the physical side of things, be intentional about each exercise, check in with your thoughts and watch your body shift from feeling stressed or distracted to strong and capable.
6. Do a body scan
The body scan is a popular mindfulness exercise that you may have taken part in certain meditations or yoga practices.
It involves you lying or seated in a comfortable position, closing your eyes, and scanning through each part of your body. This helps you draw your attention to notice how different parts of your body are feeling and being aware of these feelings.
The exercise provides greater self-awareness, connects the mind and body, and can improve sleep and reduce stress.
7. Observe something for five minutes
Go outside or look through a window and pick something to observe for five minutes.
Whether it’s a tree, a leaf, a bird, or a road, the point of this task is to not label what you see but instead start noticing the colours, textures, or patterns in what you see.
Don’t be critical in your viewing, just be open to seeing something from a new perspective. If you find yourself distracted, accept that you’ve become distracted and bring your mind back to what you’re observing. This exercise can help improve self-control and attention.
8. Find a meditative hobby you enjoy
Ever wanted to take a spin on the pottery wheel? Interested in knitting your own scarf?
Find a creative hobby for you that allows you to enter a state of meditative flow, where you can channel your energy entirely into what you are doing in the present moment and enjoy the tactility of what you’re producing.
Hobbies also have the power to improve your mental health and wellbeing.
9. Read slowly and intentionally
Just like everything else, reading books these days is all about finishing quickly and efficiently.
While that may sound ideal, you can actually channel your reading time into a much more mindful practice that will allow you to reap the rewards of slowing down.
Read slowly, attentively, and quietly, and you’ll allow your mind and body to move into a calm awareness, offering a much more profound experience and understanding of the text.
10. Practise free writing
While you may have heard of journalling and its benefits, free writing is a different technique that allows you to discover truths about yourself you may not even know existed.
This practice requires you to write continuously for a few minutes, with your pen never leaving the page.
Start with a prompt like, ‘I feel…’ and simply observe what comes out after. If you draw a blank, just continue writing whatever comes out, even if it’s the same word over and over again.
When you feel you’ve got enough out or a timer you’ve set is up, go back through and read what you’ve written without any judgement.
11. Colour in
Colouring in books aren’t just for kids – they have amazing benefits for adults too.
The physical and mental act of colouring in is extremely meditative, allowing your mind to enter a state of flow where you can be present with your thoughts and notice how your body feels. It’s the perfect creative yet simple way to unwind after a long day.
And the best part? You’ll finish up with an amazing artwork in the end!
12. Smell the flowers (or whatever you wish to sniff!)
This exercise is quite simply as it states: go out and smell the flowers!
The act of intentionally smelling something awakens your senses and brings you into the present moment. If you don’t have access to some flowers to smell, try using something else instead, like spices or a fragrance.
Really think about the different notes you’re smelling and observe how each makes you feel, whether you like or dislike them or are undecided. You’ll feel super grounded and in touch with your surroundings after just a few minutes.
13. Listen to music
Yes, you might listen to music every day but do you ever stop to really listen?
Music is multi-faceted and it’s easy to miss subtle cues and notes even within your favourite, forever-on-repeat songs. Pick your choice of genre and listen to some of your favourites mixed in with some new songs you’ve never listened to before and take note of what you pick up.
Mindfully listening to music is super relaxing and it also gives this common activity a whole new depth.
14. Get out in nature (whatever that looks like for you)
Getting out into nature has more benefits than what just comes along with being mindful.
It’s beneficial for our physical health and helps reduce the likelihood of mental health distress. Whether you’re hiking to a waterfall, surfing, horse riding or simply sitting on a park bench, just the physical act of being in nature helps to reduce cortisol levels.
Aim to get 20 to 30 minutes a day and you’ll find your mind is clearer and you’re less distracted by the digital world around you.
15. Eat a meal mindfully
There are too many times we eat breakfast on the go, have lunch while working, or devour dinner while mindlessly scrolling.
Eating is something we do every day, so it can be simple and extremely rewarding to bring some mindfulness into this practice. Because we’re often distracted while eating, we tend to eat too fast or overeat and our gut health pays the price.
So, choose one meal a day (or more if you wish) where you commit to eating slowly and intentionally, feeling the food nourish your body from the inside out. Notice the tastes, textures, and smells, and stop eating when it feels right for you. Your mind and your tummy will thank you for it!
16. Set a daily intention every morning
Before you begin the daily grind, take a few moments every morning to set your intention for the day. Maybe you want to be kinder to yourself, accept yourself, achieve your goals or not be afraid to try new things.
Whatever it is that you set, this practice can help bring mindfulness to your entire day. And in moments where you feel distracted, stressed or any other negative emotions, reconnect with that intention and let it drive you forward.
17. Dance, freeze, repeat
This exercise is one you might want to save for home, but it’s a fun way to be mindful and also a perfect practice to get the kids involved in too.
The exercise involves dancing, wiggling, and shaking your body until somebody (you if you’re alone) says freeze. Once frozen, take a few moments to observe the sensations in your body, maybe it’s tingling, buzzing, or heat.
This practice might seem a bit silly (and that’s what makes it so fun) but it will actually help you cultivate greater self-awareness, which is a key component of being more mindful every day.
Whatever way you practise mindfulness or meditation, commit to making it a daily habit and experience all the amazing benefits it has to offer.
This article was originally published on A Girl In Progress.