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What is mindfulness? It’s a multifaceted practice with a simple premise: removing your head from an uncertain future or immutable past and placing it squarely in the present. Its mental health benefits are so profound that many doctors consider it an effective complementary therapy for everything from cancer to addiction.
However, you don’t need a physical or mental health disorder diagnosis to reap the benefits. How can you practice daily mindfulness? Here are five exercises to add to your practice.
1. Morning Stretch Intention Setting
The initial moments of your day set the tone for the rest. You know how you feel flustered all day if you wake up late after accidentally silencing your alarm instead of snoozing it. Why not harness that power for the positive, establishing an upbeat, positive vibe before leaving your sheets?
You can. Begin your day with a few yoga stretches instead of grumbling to the coffee pot. Before you start your series of gentle movements, draw your attention to a quality you’d like to embody throughout your day. You might select a certain word, like productivity or serenity or say something more specific like, “I intend to see the best in myself and others today.”
Keep your mind focused on your attention as you perform gentle stretches right on your mattress. You can start with a few bridges and supine leg stretches while lying flat, working your way up to some seated twists before emerging and finishing with a standing sun salutation or two. Smile to complete your practice and you’re ready to rock your day.
2. Sensory Walk
Why take your work break on the smoker’s bench? Sure, the camaraderie is nice, but all that tobacco doesn’t do your lungs any favors.
Instead, take ten minutes to go for a sensory walk. As you stroll, practice the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 anxiety-calming technique. Start by naming five things you can see, followed by four you can touch. Then, list three you hear, two you smell and one you taste.
Pay mindful attention to how your body feels when each foot strikes the pavement. Which muscles can you feel working? Can you feel your heart rate increase as you pick up the pace? How fast can you go before your breath comes more quickly? How does the breeze feel against your skin?
3. Mindful Mealtime
Are you familiar with the mindfulness technique that involves mindfully eating a square of chocolate, observing, sniffing and nibbling it before slowly letting it dissolve on your tongue? This exercise expands the practice to your entire meal.
It all begins with the prep work. Observe your food as you mince and chop. How do the colors of the various ingredients blend and change as you add new ones to the pot? Savor the aroma, letting the steam waft into your face — as long as it’s not too hot.
Set the table like you invited the Queen of England for a visit. Pull out the best china and place some fresh flowers in a vase as a centerpiece. Do you have cloth napkins? Recreate the exclusive restaurant experience.
Then, indulge, but do so slowly. Savor each bite and put your fork down between mouthfuls, enjoying conversation with those you love.
4. Deep Listening
Here’s a mindfulness activity that you can do with your partner to deepen your bond. It’s also fabulous to use with anyone from your kids to people you supervise at work. It’s called deep listening, and it requires you to pay full attention to what the other person is trying to express.
To begin, establish the ground rules. Everyone gets five uninterrupted minutes to speak and they must stick to the agreed-upon topic, such as dividing household chores or best practices for managing a client account. Your job is to actively listen and reflect while they talk.
Ask yourself the following questions. What do you hear beyond their words? What are their deeper emotions and needs and how can you offer empathy/ What is their body language telling you — are they defensive or nervous? How can you put them at ease?
5. Journal Your Feelings
Keeping a journal is a fabulous way to practice mindfulness. Putting your pencil to paper demands that you remain in the present moment.
Treat yourself to a private journal that’s for your eyes only. You can find leatherbound versions complete with lock and key to keep curious onlookers at bay.
Get in the habit of writing daily, perhaps giving yourself five to ten minutes before bed. You don’t have to pen winning prose — freewriting will do. So will making a simple list, such as reflecting on all the things that made you smile that day. Ending your day with gratitude programs your subconscious for sweet dreams.
Daily Mindfulness Exercises
Mindfulness offers various mental and even physical health benefits. However, you don’t have to be sick to reap the perks.
Practice the five exercises above to incorporate daily mindfulness into your life. You’ll feel better and improve your relationships.
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