Raise your hand if you've ever spent the day juggling multiple tasks while feeling you haven’t accomplished anything – are you making your kids lunch while thinking about what summer camp to register for in between loads of laundry? Or, are you scheduling meetings, responding to emails while editing a presentation?
As soon as you wake up in the morning, you're hit with to-do lists, appointments to make, activities to coordinate, cutting any calm and peacefulness you may have felt. It's daunting enough to tackle the long list of tasks to be done in a day – never mind fielding multiple thoughts, feelings and ideas that enter your mind every few seconds.
What if I told you there was a simple, quick, and practical way to reduce the clutter of thoughts racing through your mind and that in turn will improve your physical and mental health? By practicing mindfulness you can tune out distractions and improve your ability to focus.
We will walk through three different mindfulness exercises that will help you slow down, breath and be present in the moment. Essentially this is what mindfulness is: paying attention, on purpose to the present moment.
1. The Three Part Breath:
Close your eyes or find a soft gaze. As you inhale, fill your body with breath beginning at your lower belly (1), then expanding through your ribs (2), and finally your chest (3). Pause at the top of your inhale. Exhale slowly, emptying in reverse (3, 2, 1.) Pause at the bottom of your exhale. Repeat for 10 breaths
2. The Five Senses Exercise
This is a quick and simple exercise to bring you to a state of mindfulness in a short amount of time. All that is needed is to notice something you are experiencing with each of the five senses.
Notice five things that you can see.
Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a insect crawling on the sidewalk.
Notice four things that you can feel.
Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your shirt, or the feeling of the breeze in your hair.
Notice three things you can hear.
Take a moment to listen, and note three things that you hear in the background. This can be the bark of a dog in the distance, or the hum of the refrigerator.
Notice two things you can smell.
Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. If you are outside this can be the scent of wet leaves, or the odor of smoke from a wood burning fire.
Notice one thing you can taste.
Focus on one thing that you can taste right now, in this moment. You can take a sip of a drink, eat something, or just notice the current taste in your mouth.
Think of these answers to yourself slowly, one sense at a time. It’s impossible to do this exercise and not be present and mindful!
3. The Mini-Mindfulness Exercise
This is another great exercise to try if you are strapped for time.
Take a comfortable and aligned posture. Turn off your “auto- pilot” and bring awareness to what you doing, thinking, and sensing in this moment. Notice the thoughts and feelings that come up, acknowledge them and let them pass.
Bring awareness to the breathing for six breaths. (You can use the 3 part breath here or a longer count)
The goal is to focus your attention on one thing: your breath.
Be aware of the movement of your body with each breath, of how your chest rises and falls, how your belly pushes in and out, and how your lungs expand and contract. Feel the pattern of your breath and follow the inhales and exhales.
Expand your awareness outward to the body.
Scanning from your head down to your toes, notice the sensations; tightness, aches, or perhaps lightness in your face or hands.
When you are ready to finish the exercise, allow your eyes to open slowly and try to carry that mindfulness with you as you go about your day.
By slowing down, turning off the automatic pilot – where we spend most of our time, and trying one of these exercises once a day can vastly improve our health. Practicing mindfulness or meditation can relieve stress, lower blood pressure and improve sleep - just some of the many benefits.
When you are feeling stressed, distracted or overwhelmed what are some of the ways you stay centred and calm?