Who said becoming more self aware had to be boring? There are many fun mindfulness activities you can try on your journey to becoming more mindful. The more you practice mindfulness in your everyday life, the more you will realize that mindfulness really is about having fun with your daily routines and tasks.
The secret to really having fun with mindfulness exercises is to not take it too seriously. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you are experiencing difficulties in your practice. Rather take a step back and remember that mindfulness is meant to be fun and shouldn’t feel like work.
“There is so much more to mindfulness than long drawn out meditations”
Mindfulness is the process of bringing your attention to the experiences happening in the present moment. It’s about being aware and noticing your thoughts, sensations and emotions without reacting to them. It is also focused on developing compassion for yourself and others. You accomplish this through consistent practice, training and development of your mindfulness abilities.
Mindfulness contains elements of sati, Buddhist practice, Zen, vipassana and tibetan techniques. As you can see it lends elements from many traditional meditation practices but some would argue that mindfulness is in fact the basis for all other teachings.
Mindfulness was brought into the western consciousness by a combination of people, Thich Nhat Hanh, Herbert Benson, Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard J. Davidson. Since the 1970s mindfulness has been used to help many people with a variety conditions.
It has been used to reduce symptoms of:
“Essentially, meditation allows us to live in ways that are less automatic. This necessarily means less time spent worrying, ruminating, and trying to control things we can’t control. It means we become less vulnerable to the throes of the fear-driven, older parts of our brains, and freer to use our newer and more sophisticated mental abilities: patience, compassion, acceptance and reason.”
– David Cain
Nowadays mindfulness and meditation are used interchangeably, but they are not exactly the same thing.
As I mentioned before mindfulness is about being aware, noticing and paying attention to all your thoughts, feelings and bodily sensations. Mindfulness can be practiced anytime and anywhere by simply showing up and being engaged in the moment.
You can practice it informally by noticing and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings. A simple mindful practice is making a conscious effort to eliminate worries around your past or future or by letting go of judgements. Mindfulness can also be practiced formally during a sit down meditation.
Meditation refers to a formal seated practice whereby a person focuses on expanding their awareness and calming their mind. The ultimate goal of meditation is to reach a heightened state of consciousness and concentration.
To look inward into the mind and learn how to regulate it. Meditation is a form of physical, emotional and spiritual growth where love, compassion, patience and mindfulness can be practiced.
There are many different types of meditation. Some aim to clear and focus the mind, while loving-kindness meditation aims to develop states of kindness and forgiveness. Other meditations like Kundalini Yoga use the body to develop awareness.
However, all meditation begins with teaching you that your breath is your anchor. When you first learn meditation a lot of time will be spent learning how to breathe deeply and how to connect to your breath.
When you look at it this way, mindfulness supports and improves meditation and meditation helps cultivate mindfulness and expand it.
“The real meditation practice is how we live our lives from moment to moment to moment.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness helps people to accept certain experiences, emotions and situations rather than react to them. When you are being mindful you are simply changing your relationship with whatever you are presented with.
People who suffer with chronic pain have reported that by being mindful and accepting their pain they are happier and more relaxed. Instead of fighting with the pain they decided to accept it. They changed their relationship with their pain and therefore made it more bearable.
This is how mindfulness works, we learn to change our relationships with our surroundings, emotions and experiences.
“The most fundamental aggression to ourselves, the most fundamental harm we can do to ourselves, is to remain ignorant by not having the courage and the respect to look at ourselves honestly and gently.” – Pema Chodran
One of the greatest aspects of mindfulness is that everyone can benefit from it, no matter your race, religion, age or sex. Mindfulness is more than a skill we can develop it is a lifestyle we can learn to embrace over time.
Mindfulness improves well-being
When I started practicing mindfulness one of the first things I noticed was how content I felt in my life. Mindfulness made it easier be grateful and appreciative. I became fully engaged in my interaction with others or with tasks I had to complete. I worked harder than i ever had before.
The biggest change mindfulness made to my life was the way I dealt with my problems. To this day I worry less, I manage adversity better and have become much more resilient. I am confident, I trust my instincts and I don’t get caught up in drama.
Improves mental health
Scientific studies have proven that mindfulness reduces stress, depression and improves sleep. Mindfulness also has a significant impact on how the brain works and even on the brain structure itself. People that practice mindfulness have shown increased activity in the pre-frontal cortex which is associated with positive emotion, increased memory and attention. It is also known to enhance mental agility and alertness.
Improves physical health
Daily mindful practice has been found to alleviate stress, manage heart disease effectively, reduce chronic pain and improve overall sleep. A simple mindful meditation also improves blood circulation, lowers your blood pressure and boosts your immune system.
When we take all of the above into account it shows that the benefits of mindfulness form a holistic view that is adaptable to anyone. We often forget that it’s the simple practices in life that have the greatest impact on our overall health and well-being.
Specific benefits for children and students
Adults are not the only individuals who can reap the benefits of mindfulness. Both college students and children have experienced positive results from practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been shown to improve patience and self acceptance, increase curiosity and positively impact tolerance amongst students. One of the biggest benefits of mindfulness across the board is improved relation quality and emotional regulation.
When children practice mindfulness it improves their academic performance, coping skills and helps them to manage conflict in a healthier manner.
Benefits of mindfulness in the workplace
“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” -Albert Einstein
As we have already mentioned mindfulness makes us more present, therefore it makes us more focused and productive. Bringing mindfulness to the workplace has been shown to decrease stress and increase efficiency in employees right through to executives.
Do you remember the good old days of being a toddler with not a care in the world. It was just you and your coloring book, trying your best to stay within the lines of your subject. Mindfulness colouring for adults is a thing now, it’s a great way to practice mindfulness while having fun too.
The benefits of coloring mindfully:
This is one of the exercises people are often to afraid to try, because they think that they can’t draw. I’ve got news for you, anyone can draw. Whether its a work of art or not can be debated until the cows come home. But if you can pick up a pen or pencil you can draw.
I usually go with the doodling style of drawing, so my drawings might not make sense to anyone but me. The outcome we want for mindful drawing is to just have fun. Focus on the pen and not the finished product.
Just let the ink flow out onto the paper while you remain focused on the feeling of drawing and creating.
If you are privileged enough to be able to cook food for yourself everyday you can take this opportunity to be mindful. I have found cooking to be a celebration of sorts and not until I reached my late twenties did I fully appreciate this. The more I realized this the more fun I started having fun in the kitchen.
There’s nothing more satisfying or rewarding than cooking a delicious meal for yourself and your loved ones. Mindful cooking will help you to appreciate the food on your table. When you stay focused on what you are doing in the kitchen you will learn to love the process from start to finish.
Working out is hardly a fun thing to do for most people. There are day’s when id rather skip the gym session in favor of a quiet morning with a coffee. But we need to workout, our bodies need physical activity to stay healthy.
Listening to music helps me to be more mindful while working out. The music keeps me focused on the present moment and I just start doing without thinking about how hard it might be. The music makes it fun for me. You could also try and listen to some sort of affirmation audio. Listening to affirmations while practicing mindful exercise supercharges me for the day ahead.
To spice things up you can also join a class. Whether it’s yoga, Pilates or cardio boxing it doesn’t really matter. Practice being mindful around some strangers while you all sweat it out.
Walking is the most natural form of transportation we have, why not walk mindfully? I see so many angry looking people walking from one point to the next. Sometimes I just want to tell them that walking doesn’t have to be so bad.
Take walking and turn it into a mindfulness exercise! Notice your surroundings and experience it fully. Another thing I love doing is smiling at random people, you might look a bit crazy doing this but when you get a smile back it makes it all worth it.
Sometimes we forget that we even have five senses to begin with. The 5 senses mindfulness grounding exercise is fun and easy to do. If you notice that you are feeling stressed or tense this fun mindfulness exercise can help you to snap out of it.
Step 1: Find a comfy spot to sit or lay down.
Step 2: Choose one of your 5 senses to start with, I like to start with my sense of smell. Close your eyes and try to notice at least three smells in your environment. When you’ve identified a smell allow yourself to stay there for a moment without any judgement before searching for the next smell. Continue sniffing around until you have at least three smells identified.
Step 3: Now move your attention to your hearing. Keeping your eyes closed notice the sounds around you. Single out specific sounds and explore them without judgement. Try and identify at least four different sounds before you move on.
Step 4: After we have heard all we needed to hear we move on to touch. Take note of any sensations on the skin. What does your clothes touching your body feel like, perhaps you have an itch or a pain somewhere on your person. Are your leg’s crossed? What does that feel like? Feel these sensations without any judgement before you move on to the next sense.
Step 5: Bring your attention to your sense of taste now. Do you taste anything in your mouth? If there’s nothing to taste simply move onto the final sense.
Step 6: The final sense is sight. Slowly open your eyes. Scan your environment for an object. Once you have found an object simply look at it. Just see it for what it is, with no judgement or preconceptions of what it is. Look at it with a beginners mind and simply let it be.
The steps above are in no particular order, you can decide how you’d like to do them. On some occasions I don’t do them all, I will choose one or two instead of doing all five. You can also determine what the length this exercise should be. It’s meant to be fun so go ahead and make it your own grounding exercise.
We all have to eat and we all love food. Why not use eating as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Try mindful eating the next time you are hungry. Eat slowly and focus your awareness on every bite. Savor and enjoy the textures and flavors you are experiencing.
Mindful eating is very simple to do. Check out this article that goes in depth on how to eat mindfully.
These are my mindfulness activities that I try and incorporate into my life. In the bigger scheme of things I really do believe that being mindful in and of itself is a fun thing to do.
I know from personal experience that anxiety can be mentally and physically exhausting. While many of the exercises above will improve your anxiety and make you feel calmer, I do have a few extra tips and tricks that will add a little more serenity to your life.
Intention Is Everything
Each day try set an intention for the rest of the day. I also find it helpful to set an intention for a task or activity I’m about to start. Setting an intention helps you to focus and assists you when manifesting your goals and ideas. The aim of an intention is to give your life more clarity and direction.
An intention cant be willy-nilly it must come from a place of meaning. You need to believe what you are saying. Intentions must be positive, must be adapted to suit your needs at the time and must be realistic and achievable, dont plan too far ahead.
Here are a few intentions I have set for myself:
Share The Joy
Throughout your day, randomly wish for others to be happy. This is a mental practice you dont have to tell the other person you just have to set the intention. Next time you are at the office, the gym or the stores choose a random person and wish them well. This works best if you find yourself angry or upset with someone, and instead of getting irritated send them positive energy.
Bask In Natures Beauty
Find moments in your day where you take a break to look at the beauty around you. Whether you look up to the stars or notice the trees on your way to work, appreciate and be grateful for the wonders of nature. Let the world remind you that life is bigger than your anxiety.
One Thing At A Time
When you go through your daily to-do list try and consciously give ONE task your full and undivided attention. This means no multitasking, dont look at your phone, no emails and definitely dont scroll through social media. You will be surprised how much you will get done.
Cut Off Your Fifth Limb
Have you noticed how attached we have become to our phones, they go everywhere we go. Need to eat the phone is there, going to the bathroom the phone is there, even in intimate moments our phones are there. Our phones have become our fifth limb.
Constantly having our phones with us can cause anxiety so try and leave your phone in another room when it’s not needed. Make a conscious effort to eat a meal without having your phone on the table.
Try A Tea Ceremony
Tea ceremonies are deeply ingrained in many cultures and for good reason. The philosophy behind the ceremony is to appreciate the present moment. Whether you are making tea or french press coffee turn it into a mindful activity.
Notice how the tea leaves smell, what does the water look like when you add the tea, watch the steam rise from the cup and feel the heat of it in your hand. Consciously take time to sip your tea without distraction. Enjoy ever moment.
“Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future, but from wanting to control it” – Kahlil Gibran
When it comes to mindfulness consistency is key. However, its important to know that mindfulness is not a one size fits all approach. The beauty of being mindful is that you can fit it in anytime of the day with many different things in your life, walking, eating, cleaning, cooking and so on. Mindfulness is not necessarily something you need to sit down for and make time to do. Instead its something you can do on the fly.
If you want to notice significant changes in your health and well-being regular daily practice is recommended. Mindfulness is not a quick fix and like anything we master in life it takes time and energy. When you put in the time and remain consistent you will experience the many benefits that come with being mindful.
“Concentration is a cornerstone of mindfulness practice. Your mindfulness will only be as robust as the capacity of your mind to be calm and stable. Without calmness, the mirror of mindfulness will have an agitated and choppy surface and will not be able to reflect things with any accuracy.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
We tend to be too serious in our lives so why not lighten up your life by practicing some mindfulness today.