7 Mindfulness Exercises for a Happier You

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One of the ways that individuals attempt to cope during stressful and difficult times is to go on autopilot. I wonder if you can relate to this experience during the coronavirus pandemic. Have you gotten in the shower and forgotten to condition your hair? Or maybe you've moved between rooms in your home without remembering what you were doing?

Mindfulness is the act of bringing awareness to your moment-to-moment experience and bringing acceptance to whatever experience you are having, including the difficult thoughts and feelings that are arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. It isn’t about changing the present reality — this is more challenging during this pandemic. There is so much outside of our control. Instead, mindfulness is about becoming more present in the moment you are in. Mindfulness looks like noticing what your mind is doing. For example, you might notice that you are thinking about your next meal, the discussion you just had with a friend or colleague, or what tips will come in this article. You might even notice tension or stress or a feeling of ease and curiosity. Mindfulness also looks like bringing acceptance to your experience, which means that you are not judging yourself (e.g., “I should be doing …” or “It’s silly to …”) and simply allowing yourself to notice what is happening.

"Mindfulness is about bringing yourself to the present moment, whether you are driving, in the shower, or simply reading an article."

Research shows that mindfulness helps to manage stress, depression, and anxiety, and improves individuals’ abilities to deal with difficult emotions and respond in a healthy way in their relationships.

One of the challenges that many report when it comes to practicing mindfulness is that they do not have time or mental space to practice it. This list of seven strategies will help you get present and mindful in five minutes or less. These strategies may help you get out of your mind and into the present moment, which is key for coping with stressful thoughts and feelings.

1Get Present in Your Daily Routine

Choose a part of your routine that you do each day. It could be brushing your teeth, showering, or driving to work. The intention of this exercise is to use all five of your senses to bring attention and awareness to your environment and to your body in its physical space. Notice different things with your sense of sight, touch, sound, smell, and taste, if possible. For example, while taking a shower, notice the sound of the water hitting the tiles or how it changes when you stand under it. Notice the different pressure points the water touches on your body. Notice the smell of the soap or the feel of it on your skin.

2Look Up

When walking from the house to the car, or when you're out for a stroll, or while you're taking that 15-minute break in your workday, pause and look up. Notice the trees and the buds or leaves; notice the color of the sky; notice the texture of the clouds. Take five-to-10 slow deep breaths as you keep looking up, noticing the things you see, hear, and smell.

3Push Your Feet into the Ground

In whatever position you are in, plant your feet firmly on the ground. Notice what parts of your foot touch what is underneath it (e.g., the ground, floor, couch, bed, or a shoe). Continue to push your feet down, noticing any sensations that come up in your feet or legs. Take five-to-10 slow deep breaths as you keep pushing your feet into the ground.

4Take 10 Slow Deep Breaths

Your breath is always with you and it is always changing. When you're feeling anxious or overwhelmed, or in a moment of peace, shift your focus to your breath. Notice how the breath feels cool coming in through your nose and warm going out through your nose. Notice the rise and the fall of your chest. If your mind wanders, simply notice that it has done so and bring your focus back to your breath. In ... and out. You might choose to place a hand over your heart to connect to the rise and fall of your chest.

5Eat Mindfully

This can be done with a snack or meal. You can also practice this skill with chocolate-covered raisins. Before eating your food, simply notice what it looks like in front of you or in your hand. Notice the textures, shapes, and colors. Slowly bring your food to your mouth. Before putting it in, notice the smell and the change in your mouth. When you place the food in your mouth, let it sit on your tongue for a few seconds. Notice the flavors and the taste. After a moment, slowly chew and notice the sensations as you chew. Repeat several times.

6Push Your Lips Together and Feel the Pressure Between Them

Close your mouth gently, placing your lips against each other. Make sure you can breathe effortlessly in and out of your nose. Press your lips together and notice the pressure in this area of your body. Notice if you can bring relaxation to other parts of your body, like your shoulders. Instead of your lips, you might also try pushing your hands together and feel the pressure between them.

7Be Mindful in Your Work

Notice your body in the space that you are sitting in. Notice where your body touches the chair or desk around you. Pay attention to different points where you may feel pressure or weight. As you bring your attention to your body, you may also notice the urge to move. Listen to this message and move. Notice the space between your shoulders and ears. Notice the tension in the small muscles in your face. Is your jaw clenched? Are your brows furrowed?

Mindfulness is a powerful tool that can help you in small intentional ways throughout the day. Try one exercise each day as a way to practice getting into the present moment.

Tags: Self Care, Mental Health, Navigating the Pandemic, Overcoming Adversity, Mindfulness

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Written By

Dr. Tracy Dalgleish

Dr. Tracy Dalgleish helps individuals and couples navigate the challenges we all face in our relationships and within ourselves to create a more meaningful life. See Full Bio

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