3 easy mindfulness exercises to reduce stress, slow down and feel more positive
How often do you get somewhere, and wonder ‘how on earth did I get here?’. Do you remember anything at all about the journey? Were you distracted by what you had to do later, or something that happened earlier? Are you going through life in this way, and wondering how you got to where you are today?
When we stop our minds from wondering off to the past or future, even just for a moment, we create a little bit of space and stillness.
Things appear to slow down a little, and we have successfully created a moment of mindfulness. We have become aware of what's going on in that very moment. It’s my belief that with this awareness we create a little more control over our situations and can therefore change the outcome. We show up in our own lives, fully engaged.
Here are a few easy exercises that I regularly practice in order to slow things down for just a few minutes. A few minutes are all you need to start with.
1. Deep breathing.
How deeply do you breathe? My guess is not very deeply at all. Mostly we breathe using only the top part of our lungs, which means that we rarely exchange the air in the bottom parts of our lungs. Taking deeper breaths improves our health, it reduces stress and ensures that all our organs (including the skin) can function optimally.
We can do this in moments where we are waiting in a queue, for someone to answer the phone, for the kettle to boil or perhaps washing our hands.
This really is a simple way to feel better very quickly!
- Focus on your breathing for one minute.
- Take 10 breaths in and 10 breaths out with forcing it.
- As you inhale repeat the word 'inhale' to yourself.
- As you exhale repeat the word 'exhale' to yourself.
You will find that your breathing naturally starts to slow down and you begin to breathe a little more deeply. You will feel a calmer and more relaxed.
2. Mindful walking.
On your next walk become aware of what you are doing, how you are feeling and what your surroundings look like. As you spend more time right in the moment, your mind can let go of anything that you might have to do in the future, or things that you are still holding on to from the past.
As you walk to your next destination, start to notice a few different things. What do you see? What have you walked passed daily and failed to notice? Who do see around you? Notice how your body is feeling?
3. Gratitude lists.
What are you grateful for? Often it’s the really small things we are most grateful for – a kind word, the smell of coffee, birds singing. In becoming aware of the small things we realise how many great things that happen every single day.
At the end of each day, write down three things that you are grateful for today. What brought a smile to your face? Perhaps it was the sunshine, the smell of summer rain or spending an evening with a friend who really listened. Perhaps someone said a kind word? Mostly it’s the really simple things we are most grateful for. Can you perhaps find five, 10 or 20 things you are grateful for each day?
It’s amazing what we can take for granted.
Starting with just a few minutes for each exercise will bring your awareness back to this very moment. As you practice these exercises you will find the one that works best for you and you become less stressed, less anxious and less tired. Instead you find yourself calmer, quieter, directing your life where you choose it to go and become more alert with more energy.