Not only are mindfulness activities quick and easy to practice, they are great because you can do them anywhere and at anytime. We all need a bit of time to calm ourselves, but not everyone has 30 minutes to crunch out a sit down meditation whenever we are feeling overwhelmed. Becoming a mindful warrior doesn’t have to take hours out of your week. So why not give these activities a try?
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a simple. It is the practice of fully attending to the present moment, focusing on the here and now and being acutely aware of what you are doing, how you are doing it and noticing what you are thinking while doing it.
Seems easy right? It should be, but people possess a particular trait, we are distracted. We all find it so easy to become obsessed by our thoughts and fall prey to our anxiety and worry, its like second nature to us. How often do you become overwhelmed by the world around you? I sure do!
I can quickly become consumed by my thoughts about the past and feel worried about the future, and as natural as this uncertainty feels, it doesn’t help us in the slightest. What happens is that we become disconnected from our mind and body, we feel lonely and depressed and start focusing on the problems in our lives rather than appreciating what we have and what skills we already possess that can help us out.
“Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to the internal and external experiences occurring in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation and other training.”
Mindfulness is what brings us back to the present so we can make more sense of all our thoughts, feelings and emotions. It helps us to make better decisions, calms us down and helps us to make rational choices. However, mindfulness also involves accepting who we are and what and how we think. It emphasizes that there is no right or wrong way to feel.
It is okay to experience worry, the difference lies in the way mindfulness shows us how to embrace this worry, with all our other senses, emotions, feelings and thoughts with an open hearted curiosity.
When we explore mindfulness in this way it can be seen as an ability rather than a skill or practice. The challenge lies in the way we have been brought up, what society has taught us to believe. That worrying enough will help us find the solution. Society indirectly tells us that the more consumed we are with our feelings and thoughts the more productive we will be…. We all know this is not necessarily true.
That worrying enough will help us find the solution. Society indirectly tells us that the more consumed we are with our feelings and thoughts the more productive we will be…. We all know this is not necessarily true.
What is mindfulness according to Jon Kabat-Zinn?
The History Of Mindfulness
Mindfulness can be traced back to early Buddhist teachings, but the current increasing interest in Mindful teachings and therapies is owed to a Dr. Jon Kabat Zinn who is a professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts.
Dr Kabat-Zinn became interested in meditation after listening to a talk at MIT, he later went on to study various Buddhist teachings under some well known and prominent eastern teachers such as Thich Nhat Hanh. He used his Eastern foundation and knowledge to integrate it with western science and went on to develop the famous Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Program in the 1970s.
The success of this program is what sparked the mindfulness movement we know today. Thanks to Dr Kabat-Zinn many studies have been conducted that prove the effectiveness of Mindfulness on treating people who suffer with anxiety, depression and chronic pain. You can now find mindfulness based programs in institutions such as schools, prisons, sports arenas and financial sectors.
Despite coming from a religious foundation, modern mindfulness and mindful meditation is not a secular practice. It is more a lifestyle you adopt or a tool one can use. At its core mindfulness teaches us how to successfully function in our constantly changing and stressful world.
“Mindfulness is wordless. Mindfulness is meeting the moment as it is, moment after moment after moment, wordlessly attending to our experiencing as it actually is. It is opening to not just the fragments of our lives that we like or dislike or view as important, but the whole of our experiencing.”White Wind Zen Community
How Does Mindfulness Work?
We all know the feeling of not being able to turn our brain off. We have all experienced some degree of sadness, anger or anxiety. No matter who you are, we all have one similar trait and that is to overthink and compulsively ruminate about our problems.
Mindfulness teaches us that constantly worrying about an issue will eventually cause more suffering, and so it offers us an alternative.
Being mindful means to notice what is happening in and around you in the moment. It teaches you to recognize, acknowledge and accept all your thoughts, feelings and emotions, the good, the bad and the ugly, with a non-judgmental and compassionate outlook.
Mindfulness can be practiced in so many different ways, from seated mindful meditation to walking or moving meditation. You can practice mindfulness while you do yoga or Pilates, or while you color with your children. I am going to demonstrate below how simple it is to add mindfulness to your routine.
6 Mindful Activities You Can Practice Today
Below are a few of my favorite introductory activities for people starting their mindful practice. Each one of the activities has been designed, not only to help you cultivate self awareness, but are great tools to use when you experience moments of anxiety and stress.
1. Body Scan
A body scan focuses your attention on all physical sensations in your body. The aim of the activity is to bring your attention to every inch of your body, while you notice and become aware of your breath, skin, bones, organs and thoughts.
This exercise highlights the connection between your emotional experiences and physical sensations. For a more in depth explanation and practical example read our article (10 Minute Body Scan Meditation Script) here.
2. Mindful Eating
Mindful eating is a way to reignite your excitement around food. Eating is essential to our survival, we have to do it to keep ourselves healthy and happy. In the hustle and bustle of our busy lives eating has become something we do on autopilot, a quick bite before work or a sly hamburger before dinner, this is how many people experience their meal times.
Mindful eating can help you to reconnect with the food you are eating, with what you are putting into your body and the amount of food you are consuming. If you would like to learn more about the practice of mindful eating check out this article (8 Awesome Benefits Of Mindful Eating)
3. Raisin Exercise
The raisin meditation was the first exercise I did that helped me to truly understand what being mindful meant. All it takes is 5-10 minutes.
- To begin put aside all distractions.
- Take a few deep breaths and clear your mind of unnecessary thoughts.
- Take a raisin in your hand.
- imagine that you have never seen or tasted a raisin before.
- With the raisin in your hand, explore it with all your senses. Remember this is the first time you have ever laid your eyes on a raisin.
- What does it look like, feel like, what color is it?
- Explore the texture with your fingers. Is it soft, hard, coarse or smooth?
- Thoughts may pop up. You may ask yourself, “why on earth am I doing this weird exercise?” That’s okay, gently let your thoughts be and bring your attention back to the raisin.
- Take the raisin and smell it. What aromas do you notice?
- Now slowly put the raisin in your mouth, what does it feel like on your tongue? Notice how your mouth waters as you start to chew, what does it feel like against your teeth?
- When you are ready to swallow, actively notice your intention to swallow, and see if you become aware of the sensation of swallowing the raisin? Sense it moving down your throat and into your stomach.
What did you notice while you did the exercise? How much more aware were you of all your senses? Did any thoughts pop up during this exercise?
4. Mindful Drawing
This exercise really helps me to stay focused on the present moment. Mindful drawing is a great way to relax, stay calm or get yourself into a creative head space. Mindful drawing is the simple act of putting pen onto paper. The only difference is that the end product of the drawing is not as important as the process.
It all begins with the intent to be present. As you begin to draw stop worrying about the past or the future, simply observe what sensations and experiences you feel in the moment. Pay attention to the sound the pen makes against the paper and feel the sensation of your fingers holding the pen. The aim is to draw with no plan of what you will draw just notice how the drawing develops.
If you would like to learn more take a look at our article here (Mindful Drawing – Draw Yourself Calm)
5. Mindful Walking
Mindful walking is a form of meditation whereby you move without a goal or intention. It can be practiced anywhere, whether you are out in nature or walking between offices, with friends or alone. The idea is to become aware of each step and breath you take while moving.
The activity heightens your senses as you notice your posture, how your feet feel in your shoes or what the grass feels like against your toes. With each step you take notice the heal to toe rhythm and become aware of your breathing as you inhale naturally and deeply. If your attention drifts away notice what comes up (thoughts or feelings) and gently bring yourself back to the moment of walking.
We have a great mindful walking script here (Mindful Walking | How To Practice).
6. Positive Affirmations
I thought I would include affirmations as an activity because the process of affirming allows us to be fully in the moment. Affirmations are positive statements we say to ourselves over and over whilst training our minds to believe the words that we are saying.
Below are some affirmations I use
- I am success
- I am wealthy
- I am healthy
- I am happy
- I am lovable
- I am kind
- I deserve good things
Affirmations, when used correctly can help to strengthen your mindful practice. If you would like to learn more about affirmations we have 3 articles that cover a variety of affirmation styles and explain in depth what affirmations are.
6 Mindfulness Exercises To Be Aware of Whilst Doing The Activities
Below are a few proven mindfulness techniques that will help you to cultivate a more mindful mindset. The best part, is that mindfulness is not a new idea, we already possess the innate qualities, skills and abilities. Now we need to create the environment where these qualities can flourish, and all it takes is a little practice.
We live in a world that requires and demands our attention at all times and this can become exhausting. These quick mindfulness exercises can help you If you are experiencing stress in your daily life. I urge you to try at least one of them today.
These 6 mindfulness exercises wont take up too much time and can be done anywhere.
- Deep Breathing
- Observation skills
1. Deep breathing
Our minds have a tendency to wander, it’s easy to get caught up in thought. Whether you find yourself thinking into the future or the past it’s important to bring yourself back to the present moment. You need an anchor to bring you home, kind of like your north star. Breathing is the anchor and mindful breathing will bring you back to the present when you wander off.
When last have you truly noticed yourself breathing? Our breath is with us from the day we are born and is our constant companion throughout our lives. Just bring your attention to your breath, sound simple? It is!
Take 1 minute out of your day and try this.
- Breathe in slowly, let your belly fill up with air, not your chest. One breath in should last about 4-6 seconds.
- Take your breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t force your breath, just let your body be natural.
- Let your thoughts go. Your focus should be on your breath. When you notice your mind wondering simply and gently bring your focus back to your breath.
- Feel the air moving into your body, bring your awareness and focus to the motion of the breath.
- Allow yourself to relax into breathing.
This breathing exercise is very simple to do and in fact it is the basis of meditation. If you enjoyed this exercise you might want to think of doing more minutes as you get comfortable with it. Before you know it you could be doing 20 minutes a day – Imagine that!
2. Observation skills
Mindfulness teaches us the skill of observation. The below exercise is simple, and will help you to see your seemingly normal and sometimes mundane world with new eyes.
It can help you to appreciate things around you that you might of overlooked before. This exercise helps us to connect with the world around us, to see things differently and more intensely.
- Have a look around your immediate environment. Choose something to focus on, anything. A chair, pen, perhaps a plant or flower.
- Now, do nothing but notice the object or thing you’ve chosen. Let yourself relax into the pure observation of this thing.
- look at this thing as if it’s the first time you have ever seen something like it.
- Explore its curves and form, colors and textures. Become engulfed in your observation of it.
- Do this for as long as your concentration will allow you to. When you lose focus, gently bring yourself back to the beginners mind of exploring your object.
This is one of the mindfulness exercises I enjoy the most because it allows me to connect with a random thing in my environment. I start to wonder what it’s purpose is and how it affects my life. I have come to some profound conclusions developing my observation skills.
Listening is something we do automatically. However, our sense of hearing is intricately linked to our memory. Familiar sounds usually have an emotion or memory attached to it. Think about a song that means a lot to you and what feelings come up when you hear it? Notice how the thought of that song can bring up past emotions.
This mindful listening exercise helps us to listen with no judgement. It is designed to train our minds to be less influenced by past experiences attached to familiar sounds in our lives.
Take a moment and whip out spotify or whatever music streaming library you use. If you don’t use a streaming service get back to basics and grab a radio. Search for a piece of music you aren’t familiar with at all.
- Play the music and close your eyes
- Focus on listening to the music in a neutral state. Try not to judge the music in any way. Keep remembering to be neutral throughout the entire song.
- Explore the music. What do the drums sound like, is there a guitar in the background, what sounds are unfamiliar to you? Let go of your judgments of what you like or dislike and just explore the music.
- When you catch yourself judging the music (you will) bring yourself back to being an explorer of the sounds.
Listen with your ears and not your preconceived judgments. I find that listening to music with headphones on really helps with this exercise, you can then become immersed in only the music.
Mindfulness and awareness go hand in hand. In my opinion the point of being mindful and practicing mindfulness exercises is to become more aware in our everyday lives.
The aim of this exercise is to bring awareness to the simple tasks we do everyday and the results those tasks achieve. An example would be something as simple as picking up a fork. As you touch the fork to pick it up, stop for a second, be mindful and think about where you are, how you feel and what the purpose of picking up the fork is.
Perhaps it’s a cold night and you are sitting near a fire. Take a moment to appreciate the fire and the warmth it provides you. Think about the wood you’ve put in the fire, how many years did it take for the tree to grow? Think about the people involved in cutting the wood and how it got to your fireplace? Simply become aware of the small things we do and enjoy on autopilot.
Being mindfully aware could apply to your thoughts too. The next time you have a negative thought, stop, take a moment. Recognize the thought as negative and unhelpful then release it. This is a very powerful technique to overcome negative thinking patterns in your life.
This exercise is all about immersing yourself in whatever you happen to be doing. You learn to become content within the moment. It’s very easy to do things on autopilot or you might be trying to get something done as quickly as possible so that you can go and do something else.
Think of your house work and how fast you try and get it done, because let’s be honest, not many people enjoy house work. The next time you are doing the dishes try and immerse yourself into the experience. Don’t fight the fact that you have to do the dishes, rather experience it fully.
Perhaps you can try this exercise when you are making the bed in the morning or when you take out the trash in the evening. There are many tasks we do everyday that don’t seem to be the most exciting. The idea is to take an average routine or task and turn it into an experience. Become aware of every step and immerse yourself in the task at hand.
It’s time to start appreciating more. Take a bit of time at the end of your day and think about 4 things you usually overlook. It could be people, circumstances, objects or memories. Perhaps it is a mixture of all of them.
We commonly overlook things that make our lives easier. The dishwasher, running water, toaster, roads, traffic lights, electricity and so on. There are many things that add value to our lives that go unnoticed, I could write a list here that could go on forever.
Think about what life would be like without electricity or running water, how hard would it be to get things done without electricity? What would your morning routine look like without running water? These are the unnoticed things, the conveniences in life that slip under the radar.
Take time, make your list and appreciate the things that we all dismiss so easily.
“Mindfulness is a way of befriending ourselves and our experience.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
4 Mindfulness Tips
Below are 4 tips to keep in mind when trying to be mindful. Mindfulness is not about perfection or judgement. To live mindfully means to embrace where you are right now whether you are starting your journey or trying to improve your practice, work with what you have.
1. No harm in keeping it short
We all start somewhere, don’t stress yourself out about how long it takes you to practice mindfulness. The important thing is that you are consistent with your practice. The more you do it the better you will become at cultivating a mindful approach to life.
I would recommend starting with 10 minutes a day. If you find that you can consistently do 10 minutes a day then you can start thinking about increasing your time.
2. Autopilot activities are opportunities for mindfulness
We all do activities on autopilot and these are perfect opportunities to practice mindfulness. Don’t allow yourself to drift aimlessly throughout your daily tasks, rather take advantage and come to the present moment.
Turn your mindlessness into mindfulness.
3. Don’t worry about how “good” you are
When I started learning and practicing mindfulness I would often catch myself saying things like, “I am doing it wrong” or “I wasn’t good enough at it”.
If you find that you are a having similar thoughts just notice them and come back to the moment. Mindfulness is not a competition, not even with yourself.
4. Experiment with what works for you
These mindfulness exercises don’t have to be daunting or followed to the “T”. Keep experimenting, have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously. You are the expert on who you are, so figure out what works for you and go for it.
Mindfulness and meditation is a journey, you never get to the finish line. We are always learning and deepening our awareness. Have fun.
“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Take away at least one of these exercises and just start. Be consistent and you will experience a profound change not only inside of you but in the way you view the world. The universe needs more mindful warriors.