You’ve likely heard of the art of living in the present moment through mindfulness. Maybe you’ve even heard of mindfulness as a healthy way to manage stress, reduce anxiety, or even to help with alleviating symptoms of depression. Beyond managing the emotional aspects of our health, research supports the effects of mindfulness on the nervous, endocrine and immune systems by contributing to improved neural function, hormonal regulation, and cellular regeneration—truly proving to be an all-encompassing and healthy habit!
The act of mindfulness is an engaging practice of becoming fully aware of the present and all events that are taking place within that given moment. This is generally considered a form of meditation, where focusing on becoming more aware of yourself, your surroundings, and your habits will inevitably help you to become more relaxed and able to manage stress. And, while most of us find it difficult to fit in another daily task, even taking a few minutes each day to cultivate the benefits of mindfulness is far more beneficial than not. Try these simple mindfulness exercises each day and notice how they affect you.
1 | Mindfulness through Breath
Find a quiet place without distractions; close your eyes and begin to focus on your breath. Notice how the air feels as it slowly enters your nostrils. Feel the warm air as it moves down your windpipe and as it begins to fill your lungs. First, notice as your chest rises away from your spine. Continue to breathe in slowly as the air continues to fill the middle portion of your lungs as your ribcage begins to expand. Now, slowly continue to fill the lowest part of your lungs where your diaphragm is located. Notice how your belly gently pushes outward. With a brief pause after the inhalation, slowly begin to exhale, first from your diaphragm. As your belly returns to a comfortable position, allow the air to slowly leave your lungs where your ribcage returns to a relaxed position, then to where your chest falls back towards your spine. Briefly pause and continue these steps again. Each time you inhale and exhale imagine the air warming your internal organs. Imagine the air moving through you as if small waves were moving over pebbles on an ocean shoreline. Take this breathing practice beyond this moment and into your daily life. Find moments to stop what you are doing and to allow for focused breathing to consume you. Spend a couple minutes each day to focus on breathing fresh, clean air.
2 | Mindfulness through Awareness
As you continue to breathe mindfully, begin now to acknowledge your thoughts. Is your mind thinking about work and deadlines or what you will make for dinner tonight or the current pandemic? Whatever thoughts are consuming you, let them go. Keep in mind that this is your moment to be at peace and in the present. Remember this is something that no thought and no one can take from you. Instead, open your eyes and focus on the sights, sounds and smells that surround you. Do you smell the freshness of newly cut grass nearby? Perhaps you hear the sound of children laughing in the distance. Do you see leaves falling from the trees outside your window? Check in with yourself to appreciate your surroundings and to celebrate the opportunity to be a part of them. Carry this awareness with you throughout your day and allow all your senses to take over any time you feel overwhelmed.
3 | Mindfulness through Newness
Part of why mindfulness is so effective is that it forces us to recognize when we’ve become caught up in mediocre patterns of life. Take this moment to gain a fresh perspective on life and an appreciation for life’s lessons. Look around you. Have you neglected that plant in the kitchen? Perhaps you find yourself always walking the same way on your daily walk. Whatever the patterns are in your life, take an opportunity to create newness in what you do each day. Observe objects around you. Notice the colors and shapes. Are there textures in the painting that hangs on your wall? Look at each object with an unobserved newness and celebrate the little things you see and do.
4 | Mindfulness through Eating
We generally eat our food out of hunger, boredom, or because we know we need it for survival. Food can be so much more than this! Find a single piece of fruit—maybe an apple or a strawberry. Sitting in a quiet place, allow yourself to become relaxed with your eyes closed. Now, take a moment to feel the fruit in your hand. Allow it to move between your fingertips and thumb. Notice its texture, its coolness, its size. Now raise it to your nose and take a moment to smell its sweet aroma. Does it smell fresh? Does it invite memories? Next, slowly chew the fruit. Notice the texture as it moves around your mouth. Notice the sweetness as it overwhelms your taste buds. Allow for memories and thoughts to flood your mind. Maybe you sat in your parent’s strawberry patch when you were young and watched as the sun set over the horizon. Maybe the crispness of the apple reminds you of going to a picnic with friends. Allow the emotions you feel for this food to reveal your overall relationship will all food. Food not only has an abundance of nutrition and flavor, but it brings with it a quality of culture and social impact. The next time you are eating with others, celebrate the togetherness it brings and the impact it makes on your life.
5 | Mindfulness through Movement
It is one thing to have the ability to move our fingers, toes, arms, and legs. It is another altogether, to appreciate the ability to do so. We often forget to appreciate the body and all that it allows us to do. Whatever your physical level, allow yourself to feel each movement you achieve in a day. Take a moment as you type on your keyboard to feel the sensation of your fingers as they touch each key. The next time you are walking through a park, focus on the sensations of the air as it moves through your fingertips. Think about the ground beneath your feet. The next time you are running think about how each part of your body is working to propel yourself forward. Whether you are writing in your journal, striving to make it up a flight of stairs without being winded, or to complete a 100-mile bike ride, appreciate all your body does for you. Appreciate that it allows you to breathe. It allows you to rest. It allows you to eat. It allows you to be healthy! Allow this gratitude to be a part of all things you do throughout your day and celebrate the ability of your mind to be present in each and every moment.