Mindfulness exercises can be used in a variety of ways. You might use them to improve your sleep or reduce anxiety. Or, you might use them to run your business more competently. They can help with work, parenting, and even relationships with friends and family members.
Mindfulness doesn’t need to be complicated or time-consuming either. I hope these five simple mindfulness exercises for daily life will give you the motivation and skill set necessary for incorporating mindfulness into your routines on a regular basis.
Because mindfulness is like a muscle, you can strengthen it in the same way that you would build physical strength: through repetition. Make mindfulness a core part of your daily ritual by adding a few minutes of mindful meditation into your routines on a regular basis.
If you’re just getting started with mindfulness, try to complete at least ten minutes of meditation a day, and build from there. There is no set time frame for how long you should practice mindfulness. In fact, the length of your practice will depend on your own unique circumstances.
When I first switched to meditation as a daily habit, I practiced for 20-30 minutes each day. After having been practicing for seven years now, I can still sit for up to an hour at a time when it feels like the right thing to do.
The amount of time you need to dedicate to meditating varies with everyone. Your meditation practice is unique to you – not your neighbor or your co-worker. Don’t compare yourself to others.
If you’re struggling to meditate on a daily basis, start with just a few minutes a day and build from there. Your meditation practice might be like one of those puzzle games with the pieces that need to be fitted together in order.
When I first started meditating, I had no idea how or why it would be beneficial for me in the long run. In those early days, I found that I didn’t always have twenty minutes free in my schedule for daily meditation. If I had an appointment that came up at the last minute, I would pull out an old blanket and pillow at the last minute, and then call it my meditation session.
In my experience, this is just one example of how you can adapt your practice to fit your needs in a variety of ways.
You can choose the length of time you spend meditating, and there are many ways in which you can make meditation useful for yourself.
For example, if you need to work on a particular assignment or task during your daily routine, you can bring your worries — or even anger — into the present moment by focusing on what’s happening right now.
You might be stuck in traffic and not able to get home on time every single day. You can use this as an opportunity to practice mindfulness. Instead of being frustrated or anxious, you can allow yourself to be present with the feeling of being stuck in traffic. You might also notice what you’re eating at that moment, or the sounds around you.
Put simply – the more mindful you are, the easier it will be to make things work for you rather than against you when interacting with others. When I was first thinking about how I could use my meditation practice to help me through life’s challenges, I didn’t have a clue where exactly it would take me.
In those early days, it was often hard for me to find time (and the motivation) to meditate on a daily basis. But I kept coming back to my routine of meditating every day, and eventually I started noticing the benefits that my practice offered.
I believe that now is a good time to start adding more mindfulness into your own daily routines as well. When you are mindful, you will be able to notice the things that could help you achieve your goals — and those little upsets won’t throw you completely off track. You can then use these tools in order to develop yourself further as an individual while also being more competent at managing both your work and your personal life.
Exercise 1: Awareness of your breathing
To begin your practice, do the following: Sit down in a comfortable chair with both feet on the ground. Close your eyes if you prefer, but keeping them open is just fine as well. Become aware of every breath that you take. Focus on taking deep breaths in through your nose and exhaling fully through your mouth.
Place one hand on your chest and the other hand on your stomach. Notice how they rise and fall with each breath that you take. If you notice any thoughts or worries about other things, they will simply be one more thing to become mindful of without judgment or criticism – simple thoughts about what’s going on right now. Notice each breath. If you notice one that’s a little deeper or more forceful than the others, that’s fine – it’s just the way your body is working. You don’t have to try to change it, or force an inhale into a deeper breath.
You can also use this meditation exercise as a way of clearing your mind and bringing yourself back into the present moment. When you are aware of your breathing, you can notice any other thoughts or worries that come into your mind. Simply be mindful of them without judgment or criticism – simply-be-with-it-and-nothing-else.
Exercise 2: Observe your emotions
You can use this exercise to simply observe your emotions as they come and go.
Be aware of how different emotions make you feel in different situations. Are you sad when you’ve lost something that was important to you? Or is it butterflies in your stomach, or butterflies on the inside of your chest that make you feel happy about something?
What is causing the emotion? Perhaps a specific memory comes up, or else one thought arises from another. Whatever the cause, notice it and be with it with as much acceptance as possible – without judgment or criticism.
Be aware of your body as it reacts to the emotions, too. Where are you holding yourself now? What parts of your body look tense right now? Do you notice any negative thoughts that come up along with this emotion? How are these thoughts making you feel in turn?
Just observe the emotion and the feelings of your body. Your mind will feed it with another thought, or maybe even an entire sequence of thoughts. Just observe, be responsive to these thoughts and let them go. When a negative thought arises, just let it go without judging it or criticizing it – notice it, stay with it as long as possible and then move on.
You can also use this exercise to observe how you feel about yourself – to notice how you judge yourself when you make mistakes or fail in some way, or just how much your mind criticizes and compares everything that happens. This meditation exercise can be used to develop awareness and acceptance for who you are right now. Practice being mindful of your judgments and criticisms whenever they come into your mind – notice them again as they arise, and then let them go with as much compassion as possible.
By doing this exercise regularly, you can develop more awareness of what you’re feeling in the present moment – what you’re thinking about yourself, and how you’re thinking about things. You will become less critical of yourself, and those criticisms that do arise will have less power over your wellbeing.
Exercise 3: Observing your body’s resonance
If you like, you can also use this meditation exercise to observe the emotions and feelings in your body: how your mind feeds them with thoughts, and how they come and go as your mind is talking to you. You can do this by paying attention to the resonance of the physical sensations in your body. Just be aware of what is happening in your body right now – notice the physical sensations and focus on them.
The easiest way to do this is by closing your eyes and letting yourself relax – try relaxing all of your muscles starting at the top of your head down to each extremity, until every muscle in your body feels relaxed and loose. Once you have done this, you can start to notice the sensations that are happening within your body.
You may notice the air touching your skin, or how your heart is beating. You may feel tension in certain parts of your body, and that is okay because this practice is about training yourself to just be aware of whatever sensations arise in your body.
You will likely notice tension in different parts of your body – maybe in the back of your neck, or around your chest or shoulders. Don’t judge these sensations; just observe them with compassion and kindness by simply being present and consciously observing them. If you find yourself starting to get lost in thought during this process, simply return to the physical sensations in your mind.
Once you have noticed all of the physical sensations in your body, notice what thoughts or feelings arise whenever one of these physical sensations comes up. You might find that certain emotions arise, and these are okay – just observe them without judgment.
You might also find that certain thoughts seem to be related to each physical sensation – and if this happens, then be aware of them. Again, just be mindful and open yourself to whatever arises.
I hope this article will give you a sense of how mindfulness can be used to benefit your personal and professional life in many different ways. You might find it interesting to try out some of the practices that I have mentioned above during your own journey with mindfulness!