We’re all busy, and we’re all trying to make the most of every day. And, sure, you know you should be trying to live in the present moment, but how present do you actually feel? Moreover, does the idea of sitting down for a formal meditation practice seem off-putting, overwhelming, or just completely unrealistic?
Luckily, there are many mindfulness exercises you can add to your daily routine that don’t require much effort. There is no need to allocate large chunks of time each day to enjoy the awesome benefits of staying present.
Chances are, you’ve had someone (or many people) tell you to take a deep breath when you’re feeling nervous or overwhelmed. Those people were onto something!
As it turns out, deep breathing is phenomenal for both your physical and mental health. It’s one of the best mindfulness exercises to integrate into your life. Deep breaths release endorphins, improve blood flow, increase energy, and can reduce inflammation. As it turns out, when we are stressed or anxious, we tend to hold our breath or breathe very shallowly. So take those big cleansing breaths! Think of them as a miniature detox- without needing any ingredients beyond your own breath.
The basics of deep breathing are relatively straightforward. Take a big inhale through your nose and hold for five counts. Pause for a moment and then exhale through your mouth slowly for 10 counts. Focus on the exhale. Repeat for as long as necessary ( you should start to feel calmer after just a minute!).
Deepen this mindful activity by focusing on the way the air feels entering and exiting your lungs. Tie your thoughts to your breath and silently recite a helpful mantra such as - "I am calm, I am at peace, I am safe."
Think about the last time you did the dishes or mopped the floor? Do you remember anything from that task? Probably not. Most of us engage in our daily routine in a semblance of auto-pilot.
However, you can practice mindfulness in your usual errands and chores. Consider taking a present approach during your next task. Allow yourself to embrace the experience. What senses do you feel? What thoughts do you notice trying to interrupt your experience?
Aim to be completely present and attuned to the action. Your mind may wander during this activity. Don’t resist the wandering - simply redirect your thoughts to the task at hand.
Are you guilty of distracted listening? You’re not alone. Most of us become cluttered with other thoughts when interacting with others.
Active listening is the art of attuning - fully and completely - to the other person. This means total concentration on what’s being said. To do this, you will need to eliminate internal or external distractions. You will also need to pay attention to subtle nuances in conversation (tone, body language, expression of emotions, eye contact).
Active listening is one of the best mindfulness exercises in helping you stay present with others. When done effectively, it deepens intimacy within your existing relationships and helps you build rapport, empathy, and compassion when interacting with new people.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
We tend to carry stress and tension in our bodies. Often, we hold onto this tightness without realizing it. Short-term, such physical constraints are associated with anxiety symptoms like panic attacks. Over the long-term, they can cause numerous health issues.
Progressive muscle relaxation refers to tensing and releasing particular muscle groups in a systematic order. The idea is that by loosening the body, you also loosen the mind, which can help you feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
There are many online tutorials you can use to get started. If you want to do it on your own, the process is simple. Begin by closing your eyes and taking several deep breaths. Move into a comfortable lying or seated position.
Starting from the top of your head and forehead, moving down your body and clench and tighten each muscle group for about 5-10 seconds. Then, release and aim to completely relax that same muscle group. You will end the exercise with the toes and bottoms of your feet.
The five-senses meditation is a simple exercise you can do anywhere and anytime you feel like you need a sense of grounding.
Like with most exercises, it’s best to start this one by taking a few deep breaths. Breathing will help center your thoughts and feelings.
Start by taking a moment to observe all the sights you see. Notice their colors, shapes, and textures. Move next to sounds. What noises do you hear around you? Are some louder than others? Move next to smells. What fragrances and scents can you pick up on? Then, move to taste. Do you notice any lingering tastes in your mouth? Finally, end with feelings and sensations? How does the air feel around you? How do your clothes feel lying on top of your body? Do you notice any tension or discomfort in your body?
Mindfulness Exercises And Your Emotional Well-Being
If you struggle with anxiety, mindfulness exercises can help you feel more controlled and balanced throughout your day. They are free, easy to learn, and can be beneficial no matter where you are.
Are you interested in learning more coping skills to manage your stress and worry? Do you feel like self-help just isn’t enough for your symptoms? Therapy provides professional support for anxiety treatment. We can work together to help you feel more present (and empowered) in your life!