6 Mindfulness Exercises
Now that we know what is mindfulness, (See the article on mindfulness here), let’s try and define the aspects of this incredibly popular and healthy way of living. Practicing it the right away can do wonders to your mind, body and soul.
#1. Slowing down
A big part of mindfulness is deliberately slowing our pace. We focus more on the present moment, conscious of everything around us and what we are feeling. In fact if you want to read more about this, you can look at the “Slow movement”, a term coined by Carl Honore.
As you walk around whether it is in your street, suburb, City Street or in the countryside or by beach, look around you. Observe everything. If you are at the beach focus your attention to each wave as it breaks on the sand, look at the different colours of the wave, is it aqua colour or is deep blue?
Observe the fish in the shallows if you can see any. Simply observe and immerse yourself in the visual images as you walk, blocking out all chattering in your brain. Slow your thoughts down to do this and eventually focus more and more on your surroundings.
As the birds fly by see them as part of a larger universe, one that you are integrally part of, not separate from. See yourself as that bird flying high, you may even make “eye contact” when it flies towards you low on eye level.
Do watch out since birds are not selective about when it is time to shit or even fly right at you, as some dangerous pigeons lunge towards you lopsidedly.
Be aware of your breathing, especially in the country and at the beach. Breathe that salt or country air in deeply. So often in our busy city lives we take shallow breaths which cheat us of the benefits of breathing right and mindfully. Do this next time you are on a lunch break or on the way to or from work.
Alternatively set appointments with yourself to go for a half an hour walk or forty minutes at first. Then over time you can extend it. The key is just like with exercise of tuning out from the crazy hustle and bustle that we have all unhealthily grown accustomed to. It is almost like you are re-learning how to breathe!
#4. Sensory Perception
Mindfulness extends to being more aware and slowing your movement and thinking to pick up on sound, colours, textures, different scents, all those sensory signals that we are less aware of or miss altogether when we are rushing around mindlessly! How often have you been trying to get a lot done, perhaps driving to do several errands and you have not even enjoyed the music playing in your car.
You have been so caught up in your mind thinking about the deadline, the bumper to bumper traffic. Taking a more mindful approach when you are still busy but allowing yourself to look around you at the traffic, the cityscape, breathe deeply, acknowledging that is the same for everyone, the traffic snarl that you are locked into.
Why not just put on that radio or iPod play list and enjoy, relish the down time? This allows you to de-stress temporarily, recharging your batteries while still keeping an eye out for traffic movement. Having a car go into your rear is not exactly peaceful mindfulness so stay alert. But take the stress level down a notch by mindfully accepting your situation.
Change how you react to it by breathing, by music, by slowing the thoughts going over in your brain about future tasks. You will find when the traffic re-starts you will feel better and the waiting time will have been used to re-charge, refresh, re-switch your thinking and even refreshing your mood.
When you are doing exercise like running, jogging or swimming think mindfully of what you are doing. Give thought singularly to each foot hitting the pavement; notice the stretch in your leg or the movement of each arm. It will feel a bit out of body at first since we so often exercise without thinking.
Swimming is especially open to mindfulness. When I swim I look at the bottom of the pool and focus my vision on the deep blue of the tiles, even the defects like chips in tiles or the lines that mark swimming lanes. This way I am fully mindful of the wonderful rejuvenating experience of gliding through the water. When I swim this way my mind slows, I enjoy the activity of swimming so much more and I am not bothered by how fast or how slow I am going compared to other frantic swimmers.
To me, swimming represents a sole mindful activity where I am at peace with the water which when you think about it makes sense. We as humans are composed of seventy-five per cent water so in a sense we are in our natural habitat.
Another aspect of mindfulness is that you focus on the now, on what you are doing. This allows you to go into “the zone”, a term used by artists and sports athletes but increasingly used in business motivation and organizational behavior theory. When someone goes into the “zone” they are said to be in the flow.
The world famous Positive Psychologist, Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi is an expert on the concept of Flow which links into the concept of “the secret of happiness”, a science unto itself.
This energy you feel flows to others and you find people spontaneously will appreciate your mindfulness state. It is this sense of harmony in world so out of harmony that makes mindfulness so attractive, even to people who are not into meditation.
I am one of those where meditation has either resulted in me falling asleep in the class or thinking to myself the long thought string “What I will have for dinner, what I have to do for work tomorrow, oh these chants are silly!”
When I practice mindfulness I get none of this critique or chatter. I relish being in the moment in a way I have not done even in my childhood. I was always one of these jumping beans children on the go from morning to night, almost forgetting to breathe!
Why not try it next time you go a walk or a swim or even at work, focusing on one or two tasks at a time. You will be amazed at the difference in your well-being and productivity and how much less negative stress you feel in your daily life.