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Mindfulness Exercises

Being mindful means being fully present in what you’re doing at any moment. It helps people do better in just about every part of life. Practicing mindfulness a little bit every day helps you to build this valuable skill.

These exercises can help you learn how to bring mindfulness into 5 everyday activities you already do:

  • eating 
  • breathing
  • walking
  • thinking
  • driving (if you drive)

As you do each exercise, you will probably find that your mind wanders after a minute or two. That's normal — minds do that. Gently bring your attention back to the thing you are focused on. As with any other skill, the more you practice, the better you will get.

1. Mindful Eating

With mindful eating, your goal is to be fully present while you eat and eat slowly, without rushing. By paying more attention to what you’re doing and avoiding distractions, you can enjoy your food more.

Practice mindful eating with anything you eat during the day. Let's say you decide to practice with an orange. Do this exercise with your eyes open or closed.

  1. Start by holding your orange. Roll it in your hand. Notice how it feels.
  2. Hold the orange near your nose. What does it smell like? Take a whiff of the bittersweet smell of the orange peel.
  3. If you have your eyes open, notice how the orange looks. Pay attention to whether the skin is smooth or bumpy. If you hold it firmly, is it squishy?
  4. Peel the orange, and then go ahead and taste it. Notice how it feels on your tongue, and against your teeth. Notice the flavor, the texture, and the juiciness as you chew each piece slowly.
  5. Take your time as you chew, taste, smell, and feel each bite of your orange.

2. Mindful Breathing

There are many ways to practice mindful breathing. You’re always breathing, so you can always bring mindfulness into this experience, whether you’re breathing quickly or slowly.

Your goal is to pay attention to your breath in an easy way — on purpose, but not forced. The following exercise helps you practice mindful breathing while sitting still and relaxing.

  1. Sit up in a comfortable way. Close your eyes.
  2. Notice your breathing as you inhale and exhale normally. Just pay attention to your breath as it goes in and out. Can you feel the place where the air tickles your nostrils? 
  3. Pay attention to how the breath gently moves your body. Can you notice your belly or your chest moving as you breathe?
  4. Sit for a few minutes, just paying attention to your gentle breathing. See how relaxed you can feel just sitting, breathing in and out. 
  5. When your mind starts to wander and think about something else, gently guide your attention back to your breathing.

3. Mindful Walking

If you’re someone who has trouble sitting still and meditating, mindful walking is a good idea to try. Here are some ways you can practice it.

  1. Slow motion walk: Pick up one foot and take a step forward, as slowly as you can. Notice which muscles are helping you keep your balance while standing on one leg. Repeat this pattern with your other leg. See how slowly you can walk while paying full attention to every sensation in your body, and breathe in and out with each step.
  2. Walking body scan: While walking, bring your awareness first into your feet and toes. Notice every sensation in these parts of your body, and how they feel while walking. Then slowly guide your attention to your ankles, your calves, your knees, etc., until you’ve reached your head. Notice how every part of your body feels while in motion.
  3. Walking meditation: Choose a type of meditation, such as a mantra meditation (see below) or a simple mindfulness meditation. Practice this while walking instead of sitting still. Of course, you won’t want to close your eyes while practicing this type of meditation, since you need to see where you’re walking.

4. Mindful Word (or Mantra) Meditation

This exercise can be an alternative to mindful breathing, or used during that practice. 

  1. Think of a word that seems calm or soothing. This could be a word like "peace," "love," "sunlight," "hum," or "calm." It also doesn’t have to be a word — it could just be a soothing noise.
  2. Think the word silently and slowly in your mind. Say your word to yourself with each breath you take, in and out. Keep your attention gently focused on your word.
  3. When your mind wanders, guide your attention back to your word, and keep saying it gently and slowly while you relax and breathe.
  4. Try timing yourself to see if you can do this for 1 minute. When that becomes easy, try doing it for 5 minutes.

5. Mindful Driving

Safe driving requires paying attention. It's easy for drivers to get distracted — and that can lead to accidents. If you drive, practice this mindfulness skill when you get in the car. It helps your mind focus better as you drive.

  1. Before you start the car, bring your attention to how your body feels in the driver's seat. Is the seat comfortable? Does it feel soft, firm, cool, or warm?
  2. Take a slow breath as you settle into the seat. Shift your attention to notice if your feet reach the pedals easily. Adjust the seat if needed.
  3. Fasten your seat belt. Say to yourself, "I plan to pay attention while I'm driving. I plan to drive safely and well."
  4. Now shift your attention to the mirrors. Check the mirrors and adjust them if you need to.
  5. Take a slow breath and start the car. Now shift your attention to notice the area around your car. Are there people or cars around you? Guide your attention as you begin to drive.
  6. As you drive, keep your attention on the road and your surroundings. Notice any situations that call for you to slow down or speed up.
  7. If you feel distracted while you're driving, remind yourself, "I'm driving." If you’re not able to refocus your attention, or if you feel sleepy, pull over until you can focus better.

What Else Should I Know?

When you practice mindfulness, remember that it may not come naturally right away. Mindfulness skills can be challenging at first, so give yourself time to get used to them before you expect to see results. Notice as the exercises become easier, and celebrate small wins.

If you keep practicing, it may become easier to focus your attention on things like schoolwork or listening. You may begin to feel calmer and more patient in your everyday life. You may even find that when little things go wrong, you can handle them better.

Reviewed by: Katherine S. Salamon, PhD
Date Reviewed: May 10, 2023

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