Two Steps From Bliss

Mindfulness Exercises

The Mindfulness Moment

There’s a lot of talk these days about living in the present

The present moment is the only one that exists. When tomorrow comes, it will be today, and when yesterday was, it was also today. Everything else exists only inside your imagination.

“So live in the moment…Be here now man!”

The problem is, I find it quite annoying when people say things like that.

I think I find it annoying because it’s actually incredibly difficult to live in the present moment. It seems simple, but given the nature of our lives, it can be quite challenging. If we know how to do it, and if we remember to do it, it becomes easy. 

We’ve spent a lifetime living in our minds, worrying about what we did in the past or what will happen in the future. And the mind repeats what it is accustomed to doing so we live permanently in the world of mind instead of experiencing life as it is.

So, how can you be mindful and live in the moment? The answer is that you have to practice mindfulness exercises, and ideally meditation, regularly. Then eventually, it begins to happen spontaneously and you find yourself able to enjoy the present more fully.

Here are my top 10 mindfulness exercises. There are many more, but these are some of the most popular and easy to do.

Download the checklists below if you want to practice these exercises in daily life and check them off as you go.

Mindfulness Exercises Checklist

Most people will read this post then forget to take any action. Download this checklist to practice these exercises in daily life and check them off as you go. See if you can complete them all in 10 days for greater happiness, peace, and wellbeing. 

Mindfulness Exercise #1 – Breathe

Mindfulness exercises breathing

Start by sitting down and relaxing. You could be at your desk, on your bed, or even on the toilet – it doesn’t matter.

Take a couple of deep breaths in and out, trying to relax. Then stop controlling the breath, and feel the sensation of the breath in the body.

Feel the abdomen rising and falling as you breathe, then the current of your breath in the throat. Also feel the cool air in your nose as you breathe in and the warm air as you breathe out.

If the mind wanders, notice and bring it gently back to focus on your breath. Don’t try too hard, but breathe with effortless concentration. Practice for a few minutes. 

Summary: focus on the feeling of the breath in the body

Mindfulness Exercise #2 - Listen

You can practice this anywhere, but somewhere you might hear a range of noises is best, like a park or street. If there are plenty of noises within your home, this could also work.

Take a deep breath and listen carefully to your surroundings. Close your eyes and make a real effort to listen. Can you hear birds singing, the wind howling, the floors creaking, or people talking?

Try to leave behind the other senses and focus solely on the world of sound.

If your mind wanders, as always, bring it back to the sounds you can hear around you. Try not to judge, shut off the analytical brain, and be present with whatever you can hear.

Summary: Close your eyes and listen closely to your surroundings

Mindfulness Exercise #3 - Think

Take a seat, allow the body to be still, and take a couple of deep breaths.

Tune into your mental state. Notice if the mind is busy, or if it’s calm. Then begin to notice the specific thoughts. Don’t try and shut them out; just let them be there.

Watch as they float through your head. Look at them with the joyful curiosity of a child. Where do these thoughts come from and where do they go? What is the content?

Imagine that your thoughts are clouds passing by. Watch them come and go without getting lost in the mind and without judgment.

If you practice this often, you’ll create space between you and your thoughts. Eventually, you will realize that you are not your mind. The mind is an instrument, a tool, and you have more control over it than you might think. Let thoughts come and go, and watch with relaxed attention.

Summary: Watch your mental processes with calm awareness

Mindfulness Exercises Checklist

Most people will read this post then forget to take any action. Download this checklist to practice these exercises in daily life and check them off as you go. See if you can complete them all in 10 days for greater happiness, peace, and wellbeing. 

Mindfulness Exercise #4 – Feel

This is similar to the previous exercise, but instead of focusing on thoughts, we focus on our feelings.

Sit down, take a couple of deep breaths, and relax. Tune into your emotional state. How do you feel? Are you calm, happy, sad, or stressed?

Notice how you feel without judgment, whether the emotions are pleasant, unpleasant, or neutral. Sometimes we don’t feel very much at all, and that’s fine too.

See if you can feel the emotion in your body. Is it in the stomach, the heart, or maybe the head?

Be honest with yourself about how you feel. Often, we pretend we are ok when we are actually suffering inside.

Once again, don’t let the mind run away. Focus on your emotional state and bring the mind back when it wanders.  

You can also practice this when you are experiencing difficult emotions, like anger or anxiety. It will help calm the storm.

Summary: Feel your emotions as they are without judgment or criticism.

Mindfulness Exercise #5 - Eat

Practice this exercise whilst eating. Do it alone if you can or if you are with someone else, invite them to do the exercise as well; otherwise they might wonder what you are up to.

Turn off your phone and the television, and try to be completely present. Take plenty of time to prepare your meal with peace and joy.

Before you eat, take a moment to be grateful for the meal. Think of the energy and effort that went into its production and transport. Thank the plants and animals that made your meal possible.

Then begin eating, but eat slowly, chewing each mouthful carefully and feeling the sensations as you swallow. Employ all of the senses: sight, smell, taste, feel, even listen to the sounds you make.

As always, stay present and try not to get lost in your thoughts. If you do, that’s fine, but return your focus to the sensations of eating whenever you notice.

You could also do this exercise while drinking a cup of tea.

Summary: Eat a meal with deep awareness and use all of your senses

Mindfulness Exercise #6 - Live

Practice this exercise when you are doing the mundane tasks of daily life: perhaps when you are tidying the house, or doing the shopping. You could also do it at work – especially if your job is more physical – but not while sitting at your desk or computer.

As you do your task, become completely present. Try to be aware of the movements of your body: feel the movement of your legs, your arms, and your muscles.

Do this activity with a smile and with joy. Usually, we rush through tasks so we can get on to the next: try to feel the joy of being, even in every day tasks. If you are serving you family or a client, feel the joy of service.

Your mind will wander of course, but try to bring it back to the body whenever you can. Avoid getting lost for long periods in the mind.

Summary: Bring awareness and joy into every day activities that are usually monotonous

Mindfulness Exercise #7 - Thank

mindfulness exercises thanking

Take a moment to sit and look at all the wonderful things around you. Mentally say “thank you” for each of them.

You have so much to be grateful for: food and running water in your home, a fridge, and a toilet; a computer, a smart phone, and a television; you have family, friends, and enough money to get everything you need.

Look at your blessings and feel the joy that is within you. We take things for granted once they become commonplace. But do you see how blessed you are? How fortunate you are to be born in such a time.

If you practice this every day, you will be surprised how much your life changes. Why? Because when you practice gratitude, the brain’s mirror neurons begin to mimic this behavior. So you begin to find joy in the simplest of things.

Summary: Express gratitude for all of the blessings you have around you and in your life.

Mindfulness Exercise #8 - Stop

Set an alarm clock for every hour or two hours. When the alarm goes off, drop whatever you are doing and take a couple minutes to come back to the present moment.

You can choose however you want to bring your attention back. I recommend that you focus on your breath, as it is the easiest way to come back to the present.

But you may want to focus on the body, on thoughts, emotions, or an external object. Do whatever helps you come back to the present.

Practicing this regularly also helps improve your meditation. Meditation requires deep concentration and awareness, so when we practice throughout the day, we find our meditation becomes deeper.

Summary: Regularly stop what you are doing and take a few moments of stillness.

 

Mindfulness Exercise #9 - Wake

Start the day with a mindful morning routine.

Begin by smiling and taking a couple of deep breaths. Remain in an inward, joyful state as you brush your teeth, get dressed, and have your breakfast.

Morning is the best time to do this because the mind is most still right after waking up. Even if it is only for the first 10 minutes of the day, that is great, but do longer if you prefer.

Listen to sounds around you, feel your body moving, and pay attention to your thoughts.

Practice a calm, witnessing, non-judgmental presence as you go about your morning.

Summary: Wake up to a mindful morning routine to set you up for the day.

Mindfulness Exercise #10 - Wait

Next time you are in a situation where you have to wait, see it as an opportunity, rather than a burden. We often have to wait in line or in traffic, and these are excellent opportunities to practice mindfulness.

Usually we get restless, impatient, or even anxious while waiting, but next time, bring your attention to the present moment via the breath or the body. Smile, enjoy watching your surroundings, and take it all in. Listen carefully and enjoy the beauty of the present moment.

Practice patience in this way because, as you have heard a million times, “patience is a virtue.” 

Patience has the power to completely transform your inner world. If you can wait with joy when you feel stressed or rushed, that is true power over your emotions.

So enjoy these moments. Avoid feeling that everything is so important that you have to rush angrily though life.

It doesn’t last long – you might as well enjoy the ride.

Summary: Use waiting as an opportunity to practice mindfulness and bring yourself into the present moment.

The Enemy of Mindfulness

I wanted to take a brief moment to discuss the arch-nemesis of mindfulness in our time: the smart phone. 

These devices have improved life in so many ways, but there is a dark side. Research shows that our phones are affecting our concentration, memory, sleep, social-emotional skills and problem solving skills.

Checking our emails in the middle of the night, playing online chess on the toilet, getting so sucked into social media that everything else in our life gets neglected. 

We become lost in the external world and the world of thought and ego – this is the antithesis of mindfulness.

So, consider carefully how you approach your device. This is a huge topic that requires its own blog post, but for now, just be aware of the amount of time you spend interacting with technology. Set goals and rules to take control.

If we can practice these mindfulness exercises throughout the day, we will find ourselves much better able to cope with the challenges life throws at us. Our meditation practice will improve, our mindset will become more relaxed and positive, and our anxiety and stress will begin to wane.

Download the printable mindfulness exercises checklist below if you want to practice these in daily life.

RELATED POST: YAMAS AND NIYAMAS: TOP 10 TIPS FOR LIVING A SPIRITUAL LIFE

Mindfulness Exercises Checklist

Most people will read this post then forget to take any action. Download this checklist to practice these exercises in daily life and check them off as you go. See if you can complete them all in 10 days for greater happiness, peace, and wellbeing. 

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