If you’re like most people, you regularly struggle to avoid ruminating on the past or planning for the future. Cultivating an increased awareness of the present can promote peaceful acceptance and facilitate a deeper connection with your own feelings. Here are ten straightforward mindfulness exercises that you can try today.
1. Focus On The Sensation Of Breathing
The most basic mindfulness exercise involves trying to calm your mind and focus solely on your breathing for at least five minutes. Find a comfortable space, close your eyes, and slowly deepen your breathing. Don’t panic if you start thinking about your shopping list or what you want to watch on TV later, but do try to let these fleeting thoughts drift past and refocus your attention on your inhalations and exhalations.
2. Appreciate The Natural World
Another simple but powerful mindfulness exercise is based around visiting a beautiful place and simply taking in the beautiful scenery. For example, you might sit on a bench by the water, climb a hill and enjoy the view, or go somewhere to watch the sunrise. Appreciate the stillness and enjoy each passing moment, taking in as much detail as possible.
3. Choose An Object To Connect You To The Present
Find an object that you can easily touch every day and mentally associate that item with focusing on the present. A smooth, rounded stone is a popular choice, but you can pick anything that draws you. Every time you touch the item, think about how your body feels, what emotions you are experiencing, what you are thinking and what you can see around you.
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4. Create Your Happy Place
If you can conjure up a vivid, safe space in which you feel perfectly happy and at peace, you can return to it any time you feel stressed or need to refocus your energy on the present. After focusing on your breathing for a few minutes, start to create this space in your mind. Some people choose vacation spots in which happy memories were made, others conjure up images from books, and some people create something from scratch. The only rule is that the place must evoke purely positive feelings.
5. Tune Into Your Favorite Music
Instead of just letting music provide pleasant background noise, put on one of your favorite songs and pick up every beautiful nuance. This type of mindfulness exercise works well with any genre, from classical to pop. The trick is just to choose something that genuinely moves you and captures every bit of your attention.
6. Imagine You Are A Mountain
Close your eyes and gradually build up an image of a mountain. It might be a mountain you’ve seen in real life, an image from a photograph or something from your imagination, but try to picture every little detail of its surface and surroundings. Once you know exactly what it looks like, try to imagine that you are that mountain. Feel your strength and constancy, and watch the seasons pass around you.
7. Paint Or Draw Your Present State
Even if you don’t think of yourself as an artist, you might be surprised by how cathartic and centering it is to express your current experience with paints or pencils. Find a way to represent your present feelings, thoughts and surroundings, and remember that your picture can be as abstract as you like. Regularly creating these images can give you an interesting picture of how your state changes over time.
8. Keep A Gratitude Journal
One form of mindfulness that doesn’t require any type of meditative journey involves keeping a notebook full of the things that make you glad to be alive each day. Commit to writing down five to ten things that you notice and appreciate each day, and remember that they don’t need to be complex. In fact, focusing on life’s simple pleasures is often much more helpful at keeping you focused on the present.
9. Listen To Sounds From Nature
Find a recording of the sea, rain or any other relaxing sound from nature, and listen to it on headphones. As when you are focusing on your breathing, try to let go of any passing thoughts before they are fully formed, and really devote all of your attention to absorbing the calming sounds you hear.
10. Connect With Your Body
Finally, try spending at least ten minutes working your way through every part of your body, noticing the sensations in each area. Start with your feet, feeling your connection to the ground, and then slowly work your way up to the top of your head. Make a conscious effort to unclench tight muscles, feeling your limbs become loose and relaxed.