5 Easy mindfulness exercises that you can do anywhere
By Shatavisa Majumder, Clinical Psychologist
Human beings are by nature preoccupied with anxious thoughts most of the time- be it regarding the past or future. We hardly stay in the present.
Imagine you are finally able to manage a holiday out of your busy schedule and you are finally sitting on a beach looking at the sunset. But your mind has too many tabs open. You are preoccupied with deadlines, the post-vacation to-do list, or maybe the correct angle of the selfie which would give you the most likes on social media.
Are you fully present at the seashore at that moment? Can you feel the sensation as the waves touch your feet? Can you see how the color of the sea turned into crimson as the sun gradually disappeared beyond the horizon? Can you hear the chirping of the birds returning to their nests?
If the answers to all the questions are ‘NO’ then was the long-awaited vacation worth all the hard work you did to manage to get the holidays? This interplay of that time and space and the experiences you could have earned will never come back again. Before the present becomes past and turns into regret for the future we need to learn to be fully in the present.
Mindfulness is the answer.
Basics of Mindfulness practice: How to be here and now
Mindfulness is the skill of being fully present, and aware of where we are and what we are doing.
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress and increase physical and mental well-being among many other benefits. It can be practiced anywhere, anytime, making it a very useful resource for your health regime.
Just like any other skill, mindfulness needs regular practice. We know that going to the gym only once will not help you build your muscle. Equally, practicing mindfulness once in a while would not give you the skill to be fully present.
Here are five easy mindfulness practice exercises that you can practice regularly, anywhere.
1. Mindful Breathing
This exercise can be done in a standing or sitting position.
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.
- Notice the sensation of air as it enters and passes through your nose, follow the path as the air is reaching your belly gradually.
- Notice the rise and fall of your belly, and the feeling of air being exhaled through your mouth.
- Notice the sounds that accompany each inhalation and exhalation.
- When your mind wanders return your attention to breathing.
2. Mindful Listening
You can spend as little as one minute on this exercise.
- Sit comfortably and close your eyes.
- Pay attention to the sounds you can hear around you.
- Notice what you hear.
- Can you hear voices? Sounds of machines? Chirping of birds?
- Are the sounds loud or soft? Continuous or intermittent?
- Are the sounds coming from the outside world or inside your body?
- Let the sounds pass through without judging.
- The moment you realize your thoughts taking you away from the present moment, bring your attention back to the sounds.
3. Mindful Bodyscan
Sit comfortably on a chair or lie down.
- Start by taking a few slow breaths.
- Pay close attention to the physical sensations throughout your body.
- Start with your feet and gradually move up through your calves, thighs, groin, abdomen, back, chest, shoulder, arms, palms, fingers, neck, face, jaw, eyes, ears, and finally, head.
- Simply notice what you feel as you scan through the body without any judgment.
- Notice any sensation in muscles, bones, joints, and connective tissues such as pressure, pain, strain, warmth or coldness.
- As you finish moving up your body, begin to move gradually down again until you reach your feet.
4. Mindful Walking
Find a place where you can walk without obstruction. Try walking barefoot.
- As you start walking bring your awareness down to your feet.
- How does the ground feel beneath your feet?
- Is it damp or dusty? Cold or hot?
- Is the surface hard or soft? Is it smooth or bumpy?
- Notice the sensations as you shift your body weight from left to right leg.
- As the weight shifts forward, notice how the heel of your left leg begins to lift.
- Notice how it feels to be in motion.
- Notice the movement of your hands as you walk.
- Throughout the walk notice your breath.
- Whenever you find your mind wandering, shift your attention to your breath.
5. Mindful Coffee/Tea Drinking
Make a nice cup of your favorite hot beverage.
- Feel the warmth as you hold the cup in your hand.
- Notice the color of the coffee or tea.
- As you add sugar or milk, observe how they mix into the coffee/tea and dissolve into a new color blend.
- Feel the rising steam as you bring the cup closer to your lips.
- Inhale the aroma, then slowly breathe it back.
- As you take the first sip, focus on the flavor. How does it taste?
- Pay attention to the moment as you swallow and feel the sensations of coffee/tea going down your throat.
- Notice what the aftertaste feels like.
- Relish the experience without judging.
Improve your wellbeing in just a few minutes
Mindfulness is a relatively easy practice that can enhance the quality of life. Pause to practice mindfulness even for a few minutes during the day. Many of these exercises can be done at home while traveling or even at work.
Try to do some practice every day, perhaps on waking or during your lunch break – it doesn’t matter when. You can even use the exercises when you need a little help to deal with stress or other difficult feelings. Over time you can build your skills and find mindfulness exercises to be effortless.
Above, I shared are just a few mindful exercises you can easily incorporate into your day. There are many more ways to add mindfulness into your routine. Try downloading a mindfulness app that includes varied practice and daily reminders to help you build the habit.