Mindfulness is noticing the present without comment.
Most of us have a tendency to allow our minds to constantly wander into the past, or to worry about the future. However, as spiritual teachers have said throughout the ages, all we really have is the present.
One of the best ways to train our minds to stay in the present moment is through mindfulness exercises. In this post you’ll discover 13 mindfulness exercises, or ways to bring more mindfulness into your life.
1. Bring Your Awareness to Your Breath. The simplest way to bring your mind back into the present moment is by focusing on your breath. Each time that you’re about to start a new activity, bring yourself fully into the present moment by doing the following:
- Bring your attention to the breath sensation.
- Allow yourself to feel the breath as it goes in.
- Then, allow yourself to feel the breath as it goes out.
For one, two, or three breaths, focus as much attention as you can on the sensation of breathing.
2. Mindfulness Cues. Choose something in your environment that you will use as a trigger to remind you to bring your mind back to the present. For example, each time that the phone rings, stop the mental chatter that keeps you stuck in the past or that fills you with apprehension about the future, and allow yourself to come back to the present moment.
3. The Room In Your Head. This is a technique that’s recommended by Karla McLaren for bringing all of your attention to the same place. Karla indicates that you should mentally create a room in your head. Decorate the room however you like. Your eyes are the windows. Make sure that there’s a comfortable chair in the room.
Whenever you feel your mind leaving the present moment and wandering off, visualize yourself coming back into the room in your head and sitting in the chair. At the moment in which your consciousness is “sitting in the chair”, your mind and body become one, and you’re fully in the present.
4. Do One Action Mindfully. Alice Boyes, Ph.D., indicates that you should pick one short action which you do every day and perform that action mindfully. For example, if every day you walk to the door, open it, and bend down to pick up the newspaper, start doing that action mindfully.
5. Mindful Listening. Every now and then stop for a minute and just listen. You can pick a piece of music that you like, and put it on. Don’t think about the music, just listen. In the alternative, you can simply listen to the noise in your environment. Once again, don’t think about the noises that you hear. Just allow yourself to effortlessly absorb the experience.
6. Notice Three Things. I love “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. I have all the DVDs and I like re-watching them. Every time that I watch one of these films, I give myself the task of noticing three things that I had never noticed before. This forces me to really pay attention.
You can use this same strategy in order to bring more mindfulness to your everyday routines. For example, if you walk from the subway stop to your office every weekday, tell yourself that each day you have to notice three things about the scenery that you had never noticed before.
This will keep you focused on the walk, instead of thinking about something that happened the day before, or worrying about the day that’s just beginning.
7. Rest Your Awareness On What Is Going On Inwardly. Every now and then, ask yourself: “How am I doing?” Notice any emotions that you may be feeling, and simply give them a name. For example:
- I’m a bit sad.
- I feel some stress.
- I feel peeved.
Don’t hold on to the emotion. Simply allow it to float across your field of awareness.
8. Break Your Patterns or Routines. There are lots of things that we do the same way over and over again, day after day. These activities present a great opportunity for the mind to wander. After all, you don’t have to think about these things: you can do them on automatic pilot.
You can bring more mindfulness to your day by breaking your patterns and routines. Here are some examples:
- If you normally brush your teeth with your right hand, try brushing with your left hand.
- If you jog along the same route every day, try a different route.
- If you add sugar to your coffee, try drinking coffee without sugar.
- Reverse the order in which you do things. For example, reverse the order in which you towel yourself off.
When you break your patterns or routines, the novelty of the situation will force your mind to pay attention. That is, it will bring your mind into the present moment.
9. Play the A to Z Game. Another way to bring your focus into the present moment is to give yourself the task of looking around and picking out items that start with each letter of the alphabet. For example, during your morning jog you might identify the following:
- A – Apartment Building
- B – Baby in stroller
- C- Cat running by
10. Do a Body Scan. Your mind may travel through time continuously, but your body is always firmly rooted in the present moment. Use that to your advantage. When you need to bring your mind back to the present, conduct a mental scan of your body. Start at the top of your head and work your way down.
- Are your eyes tired? Close them for a couple of minutes.
- Is your neck tight? Try rubbing it.
- Does your back ache a little? Breath into the ache.
- Are your feet sore? Move your toes around, and rub the sore spot.
Stay with each body part for a few moments and notice what you’re feeling.
11. Inhale a Scent. All of your senses can help bring your attention back to the present moment. Keep a smell that you enjoy nearby as you work, and once every hour stop and take a moment to enjoy the scent.
For example, I love the smell of Crabtree & Evelyn Rosewater, and I have their hand lotion. Every so often I stop what I’m doing and I rub some of the lotion on my hands. When I do so, I take a moment to inhale the scent deeply and to savor this simple pleasure.
12. Candy Meditation. Get a mint, a chocolate, a jelly bean, or some other candy that you like. Take a piece, and put it in your mouth. Don’t bite it. Just let it sit on your tongue for a minute or so, allowing the taste to form. Focus all of your attention on the taste.
13. Complete a Puzzle. When your mind is fully engaged, it can’t go anywhere. It has to stay in the moment in order to be able to work on the task before it. A great way to engage your mind is with puzzles. This can be Sudokus, crossword puzzles, and so on.
Coloring complicated mandalas is another great way to force the mind to focus on the task at hand.
In order to live your best life, you have to be present for it. To be present, you have to bring your awareness to each moment. That is, you have to be mindful. Try the 13 mindfulness exercises above and begin a love affair with the present moment.
1. What A 16th Century Priest Can Teach You About Self-Improvement
2. 12 Lessons For Creating Inner Peace (Lessons 1 – 6)
3. The Art of Mindful Living
4. 37 Tidbits of Higher Consciousness
5. Srikumar Rao On Happiness – Four Exercises That Will Make You Happier
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Such a helpful post. Thanks! 🙂
These are all great tips, thank you so much. I’ll be referring back to this post often.
Glad you enjoyed it!
Hi Sandra: Always glad to be of help. 🙂
I have to say I really enjoyed this one Marelisa. Almost all of them I read my mind said “yes, you need to do that”. Of course, the problem is in trying to remember to do them all, even just once a week. How would you personally do these?
Hi Mitch: I do them all the time. I walk to a club that I belong to every day in order to work from there (next to the pool, overlooking the ocean), and as I walk I try to notice my surroundings and pay attention to the sounds and smells.
If I notice that I’m reliving something negative from the past, or worrying about the future, I bring my mind back to the present by visualizing a tiny version of myself sitting in a chair inside my head.
Also, I walk or jog 6 days a week, and, once again, I make it a point to stay in the present by really looking at and focusing all of my senses on what’s going on around me.
1 & 4 are the ones I use most, but will have to try some of the others. A weighty list!
So, LOTR fan – Cool. Now, are you watching the cinema versions or the extended versions? 😉
I have read a few posts like this, but yours is one of the best!
BTW, we also have similar tastes in choice of site domain, hahaha
Keep up the good work with your blog!