Mindfulness is present awareness, being in the moment to moment experience of our life. It is a technique that allows us to recognize, know and our emotions. One of Its purposes is to transform and integrate emotional states such as anxiety, worry and frustration in our daily life. Do you find this interesting? If so, below you will find 13 exercises which will assist you to become familiar with this practice.
What is the difference between formal and informal mindfulness practices?
A formal practice is a discipline that is carried out in total stillness, sitting or laying down on the ground. This practice encourages us to stop any body movements for a specific amount of time. The aim is to calm our mind and body through the breath.
Throughout this practice, people in general learn how to recognize the thoughts and emotions that constitute their life. Some examples of these practices which are popular in the west such as Vipassana or Brahma Kumaris, come from places like India, Tibet, Nepal and Burma.
On the other hand, informal mindfulness practices are those actions that are present in our daily life. Some of these activities are eating, walking, greeting someone and many more. You may want to make a list of your daily activities and routines. All of them can be transformed into mindfulness practices.
A MINDFUL DAY
13 Exercises in 24 hours
🌅 IN THE MORNING
Waking up in the morning
While still in bed,make sure you spend a few moments in stillness. Ask yourself; How was my sleep? How am I feeling? Do I remember any dreams? This is a practice that will help you integrate the evening rest and prepare you for daily tasks and duties.
From the moment you enter into the shower bring your attention to your feet and feel the temperature of your body. Observe how water runs along every part of your body. Feel any changes in temperature and perceive the scent of your soap and shampoo. In this way you will engage fully your senses into the present experience.
Enjoy combing your hair
When brushing or combing your hair, feel the texture of your hair. Engage your sense of touch, smell and sight. Feel and focus your attention in any sensations on your scalp.
Be attentive when brushing your teeth
When placing the toothbrush in your mouth, focus all your attention in the movements of your hand. Observe and feel the different positions of the toothbrush as it adjusts to the shape of your mouth. In the same way pay attention to the sensation in your teeth, gums, tongue and palate.
Heighten your senses by simply preparing a hot drink
Walk to the kitchen and notice if there are any sensations in your stomach. Proceed to prepare yourself your favourite or usual morning drink; either a coffee, a tea, or simply lemon water. Fill up the kettle with water while focusing your attention on the sound of the moving water. Turn the kettle on and notice the sound it makes while gradually heating up. Be attentive when preparing your ingredients, awaken your sense of smell by focusing on the aromas. Finally enjoy your drink while sipping slowly, feeling and tasting the liquid in the whole of your mouth.
Exercise to connect your body and mind
While performing physical exercise we have a great opportunity to practice mindfulness. Place your attention carefully in these three aspects: breathing, postures and transitional movements in-between postures. For example; if you are at the gym lifting weights, feel the metallic bar and its coolness in your hands, notice the pace of your breath and how it changes, feel your spine column while in different postures, etc. Do not let negative thoughts, worries or tension distract you from your activity. Allow the thoughts to simply pass and return to focusing on what you are doing in the here and now.
🕒 AT MIDDAY
Stretch your body
It is very important to take a break from work, not just for eating but also to move slowly and mindfully. This can fully change how you approach the afternoon. If possible, leave your office or work place for at least 5 to 10 minutes. Go for a walk and stretch your arms as you feel your muscles and skeleton moving. Place your attention on your breath, if possible take a few deep inhalations and exhalations. Notice if there is tension in any part of your body and with your fingertips give yourself a few gentle taps around the area where there is tension. This is a very healthy habit that can be very energising.
Remember to pause throughout the day to observe your body and mind. Something simple to do is to check your posture. Bring attention to your jaw and observe if there is any tension or clenching happening. We all have unique patterns of muscular tension in our body depending on our lifestyle – so becoming aware of yourself throughout the day will help you to learn more about how you are using your body. An easy way to remember this practice is to set a reminder on your phone and to stop for at least 5 minutes every couple of hours.
Empty your mind
Everyday spend at least 15 minutes to simply sit down comfortably in your favourite place and have with you paper and a pen/pencil. Write down anything that comes into your mind. Without selecting or judging the thoughts, simply write as you think -even if words do not coincide or have no apparent link. This will help clear your mind and will transfer those thoughts, feelings etc onto the paper, making them conscious to a degree and liberating stress and tension in your head.
🌙 IN THE EVENING
Avoid using headphones
When returning home from work or vice versa, avoid as much as possible using headphones. Instead place all your attention in your surrounding area. For example, you can listen to different sounds such as; voices, birds singing, children playing, etc. Enjoy the fresh smell of beautiful flowers and trees that you come across.
Clean the dishes with clear attention
Arriving home and perhaps having a lot of dishes to wash may not be very pleasant. However if we approach this task or any other home duty as an exercise of mindfulness – with our full attention and awareness, the “have to do list” becomes an enjoyable process of self observation and learning. Moreover this will increase our attention, focus and concentration for life.
Listening to music
Music is a great tool to exercise mindfulness in your daily life. I invite you to select a song that you have never heard before. If there is singing involved in this song, try to focus your attention on the melody only, without giving much attention to the voice and words of the singer. Let all your thoughts and ideas pass-by and simply close your eyes and focus on the melody. Observe where your imagination may take you. Feel and listen with your whole body, rather than just with your ears and enjoy a mindful sound body experience.
Take a minute of deep breathing
Focusing on the breath is the fundamental principle of all schools of meditation and spiritual practices around the world. The breath is the carrier of life. It is with us from the very first moment we are born until our very last moment of life. Nevertheless we often breath mechanically and unconsciously. This is why it is very beneficial to spend some time in the evening taking some deep breaths. This will strengthen the connection between your body, mind and heart. For this, find a comfortable position where your back is straight. Inhale the air slowly through your nose and deeply into your body. Exhale the air gently and softly from your abdomen instead of the chest and remember to count 5 seconds in between the inhale and exhale. Retaining the air will calm your whole circulatory and nervous system.
Put these exercises into practice and you will begin experiencing your day differently. You may start with a couple of practices a day and slowly increase the number of exercises. Enjoy!