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6 mindfulness activities you can try right now
In our fast-paced modern world, it can be difficult to slow down and be present in the moment. But being mindful has proven health benefits, such as lowering stress, improving concentration, and alleviating symptoms of anxiety and depression. It can even improve your physical health.
You don’t need any special equipment – or a lot of time – to start a mindful practice. Here are six easy mindfulness techniques you can try right now. Why not get yourself comfortable and take just a few minutes to refocus and regain some calm and clarity? Your mind and body will thank you for it!
When we’re stressed, our breathing tends to become shallow and quick. This is because our body is trying to get oxygen to our tissues as fast as possible to help protect us from danger. And this is super-helpful when we’re trying to escape from something, like a car hurtling towards us as we cross the road. But when our body’s stress response is continually activated, it can take a heavy toll on our physical and mental wellbeing, contributing to health problems like high blood pressure, anxiety, and depression.
“Deep breathing can quieten down the nervous system’s fight or flight response.”
Belly (diaphragmatic) breathing techniques can be a powerful way to let the body know we are ‘safe’. They can quieten down the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight) response and allow the para-sympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) response to take over.
Try this mindful breathing activity now.
- Bring one hand to your belly and one hand to your chest.
- Observe the movement (if any) of your hands as you breathe naturally.
- Begin to breathe deep into your belly, observing the gentle rise and fall of your hands with each breath.
- See if you can breathe down into your belly first and then allow your chest to expand.
This mindfulness technique helps to ground us in the present moment by engaging each of our senses. You can do it anywhere at any time. You don’t even need to close your eyes. It is particularly useful if you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed or are struggling to focus.
“The five senses mindfulness technique is especially helpful if you’re feeling overwhelmed.”
Start by taking three deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to help you settle into the present moment. Then follow the five steps below.
1. Find five things you can see right now. These may be obvious things like your computer, a window, or your coffee mug. Or it could be things you haven’t noticed before, like how the light reflects off a surface, a pattern on the ceiling, or the wind moving leaves in the trees.
2. Focus on four things you can hear. These sounds could be close by or coming from further away. They could be sounds your mind had previously blurred out, such as a ticking clock or the sound of traffic.
3. Focus on three things you can feel. This may be the sensation of clothing on your body, the sun on your skin, the feeling of the chair you’re sitting on, or you may even like to pick up an object and observe how it feels.
4. Focus on two things you can smell. This could be the smell of an air freshener, freshly brewed coffee or even the smell of your own deodorant or perfume.
5. Focus on one thing you can taste. This might be a bit challenging. Maybe it is the taste of toothpaste, coffee or a mint. If you can’t identify any tastes, think about your favourite food instead.
Now bring your awareness back to your breath. Take a deep breath in through the nose and out through the mouth. Your mind and body are now in the present moment, and you have given yourself a chance to reset.
Think you’re great at multitasking? Try this activity to see how much harder it can be to do two things at once.
Open the stopwatch app on your device or watch. Time how long it takes you to say the alphabet to yourself (in your head) as fast as you can.
Now time how long it takes you to count from 1 to 26 to yourself (in your head) as fast as you can.
Next, combine these two tasks by saying the letter A and then the number 1, and then B and 2, C and 3, and so on up to the number 26. Do this as fast as you can and time how long it takes you.
How did you go? What did you notice?
“Single tasking is more efficient and less stressful than multi-tasking.”
Are there areas in your life that could benefit from the practise of single tasking versus multitasking? Common examples include:
- checking social media while you’re doing other tasks
- emails/calls/teams at work
- working on one task instead of trying to do multiple things at once
- being present when you’re eating or talking to others.
Let it R.A.I.N
The R.A.I.N. technique created by Tara Brach (a meditation and mindfulness teacher) is a mindfulness and compassion practice that involves allowing space to experience our emotions fully, without judgement.
It aims to help you better understand your emotions and work out how to process them, as opposed to blocking emotions and letting them build up over time.
Take a few minutes to try the four-step R.A.I.N. process.
R. Recognise what is happening
Think about which thoughts, feelings or behaviours are affecting you right now.
A. Allow yourself to feel
Sit with your feelings. There is no need to fix or avoid them.
I. Investigate with curiosity and kindness
Why do you think you are experiencing these emotions? What was the trigger?
N. Nurture with self-care and compassion.
Think about what you need in this moment for self-care? A message of reassurance? Self-love or forgiveness? Positive affirmation?
This is another activity to help bring you into the present moment. The idea is to observe how the patterns change and flow. Your mind can wander freely and thoughts are welcome, but don’t let them stay with you. Think of your wandering thoughts as a river, flowing on past you.
As humans, we have a hardwired negativity bias, which means we tend to focus more on negative information than positive information. An intentional gratitude practice can help us seek out the positives in our days.
This short meditation involves thinking of things you are grateful for. Start by relaxing into your chair and taking a few slow, deep breaths. Notice your belly rise with each inhalation and fall with each exhalation.
Let your face and jaw relax. Drop your shoulders away from your ears and relax your neck, back, arms, belly, legs and feet. You are relaxed and where you need to be right now.
Start to appreciate what it means to be alive in this moment. With each breath, reflect on what you’re grateful for. This could be:
- your family, friends, colleagues, neighbours or children
- the roof over your head or the food on your table
- your eyes that let you see sunrises and sunsets; or your ears that let you hear music or laughter; or your nose that lets you smell flowers in the spring.
“Practicing gratitude can help us become more aware of the positive things in our lives.”
Now bring your attention to how this gratitude feels in the area around your heart. With each inhale, let this feeling grow outwards. Expanding to fill your chest, your arms and hands, your legs and feet. With each inhale see how this feeling grows, filling you up.
When you’re ready, slowly return your attention back to your breath. Take the time to slightly curl the corners of your mouth into a smile and sit for a moment, noticing how that feels in your body. When you’re ready, let your body remember the sensations of gratitude as you continue with your day.
Other gratitude activities you can try include:
Write daily or weekly reflections about what you’re grateful for in a journal or notebook.
Household gratitude jar
Write one thing you’re grateful for each day. Take a note from the jar when you need a morale boost.
Rename your alarm with a nice message to make you smile each morning.
Gratitude at the dinner table
Have each person in your household name one thing they were grateful for in the day. It’s a good conversation starter and kids love this one.
All information contained in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The information provided should not be relied upon as medical advice and does not supersede or replace a consultation with a suitably qualified healthcare professional.
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