Guided Mindfulness Exercises You Can Practice DailyGuided Mindfulness Exercises You Can Practice Daily

Last week, we explored how to Practice Gratitude in Your Everyday Life. Today, we're going to look at guided mindfulness exercises you can do even if you have a busy life. These exercises help to reduce stress by bringing you into the moment. While we often imagine the mindful person sitting with crossed legs or eyes closed in a deep state of contemplation, the truth is mindfulness practices can be done anywhere--at home, at work, and even while you're eating.  

Types of mindfulness meditations and practices covered in this article:

  • Mindful eating
  • Mindful breathing
  • Mindful cooking
  • Mindful walking
  • Mindful body scan

Before we dive into the exercises, there are a few commonalities among any mindfulness practice, including the attention you pay to the present moment. By slowing the mind down and focusing on what is happening right now, we begin to see things clearer. Mindful practices also naturally support us by allowing us to adopt a more accepting perspective on what is happening. To be consciously mindful is not to be reactive but rather to be the observer. 

So with our observer caps on, let's look at a few examples of mindful exercises we can do in five minutes or fewer at almost any time in our day.

Mindful Eating

Not only is mindful eating a way to optimize digestion by allowing proper time to consume food, it can be a deep and meaningful meditative practice. According to Susan Albers Psy.D. at Psychology Today, this practice can lead to weight loss and the reduction of overconsumption. It can even support a person who has an eating disorder. Often practiced with a single raisin or something equally small that you can hold, mindful eating can be broken down into the following steps.

  1. Set the intention to focus on eating this raisin without distraction.
  2. Take the raisin or other small food item in your hand. Notice its texture and feel against your fingertips or weight in your hand.
  3. Examine the item thoroughly, noticing its color and shape.
  4. Place the raisin on your tongue and notice its weight and sweetness.
  5. Notice how your body reacts to the raisin on your tongue—how your mouth begins to water and you feel the urge to consume it quickly or savor it.
  6. As you begin to chew the raisin, do so slowly and take note of all the sensory responses.

A beautiful way to close a mindful eating session is to send gratitude to the food and its nutritional value.

Mindful Breathing

There are many mindful breathing exercises that you can try. A few of my personal favorites are:

  1. Box breathing: This is where you breathe in, hold, out, and hold for an equal amount of time. The count of four is often a good place to begin. Inhale to the count of four, hold for four, exhale for four, and hold out for four. Repeat. A few repetitions of this mindful breathing exercise can do wonders to calm us when we are feeling stressed.
  2. Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth with attention to the way the breath comes in—the temperature of the breath, its quality, and the way it exits the body. Often, you will notice a cooling sensation when repeating a deep and mindful inhalation through the nose and extended exhales through the mouth.
  3. Segmented breath can bring you into a mindful space by focusing the mind. In this exercise, we will inhale in four equal strokes, and then exhale in eight equal strokes. This mindful breathing exercise is ideal right before you go to bed to bring the mind and body calm and a sense of well-being. You can use this recording at Aura to accompany you in this practice.

Mindful Cooking

I have a friend and spiritual teacher who shared the practice of mindful cooking with me years ago. She begins by thinking about all the individual ingredients and the many people who were involved in the cultivation, growth, and distribution of each ingredient and all the care that had to go into the process. While reflecting and stirring her soup, she mindfully gives gratitude to everyone who had a hand in delivering these ingredients to her kitchen. In this way, cooking becomes a meditative practice as everything she consumes is imbued with thankfulness.

Mindful Walking

What's beautiful about the practice of walking mindfully is that you can find a deep meditative state without going far at all. Mindful walking can be done by simply taking a few steps with pure attention to the nuance of your foot hitting the ground, gently peeling up, the subtle shift of weight, and all the myriad sensations you feel while walking but ordinarily don't pay much attention to.

Mindful Listening

The next time you have a conversation with a friend or family member, this is a wonderful exercise to try out. Mindful listening is a skill that is especially important in our world of distractions. If you are out to dinner with someone or having a conversation with them, the way to begin is to remove potential distractions. If your cell phone is nearby,  turn off notifications or even place it face-down.

Normally, when we engage in a conversation, our mind wanders. We can be easily distracted. As you have a conversation with mindful intention, you can engage in mindful listening by breathing deeply and listening deeply to the words being said. Repeating them and focusing on the meaning behind the words, you might find yourself able to remember more than you ordinarily would. You will also give the other person a great gift—the gift of pure and focused attention. This exercise might even help strengthen your relationships.

Mindful Body Scan

One of the best ways to get present is to do a body scan meditation. This practice can be done anywhere. To begin, you close your eyes or settle your gaze on the floor in front of you and begin by focusing all your attention on the very top of your head. Slowly moving down the face and neck, notice how the body feels. Notice all the sensations with meditative attention. Continue to scan down the shoulders and chest, the back and belly, and breathe with focus. Bring your attention to the legs and trace down to the bottoms of your feet. This type of meditation is one you can do in a few breaths or take time to expand to five or ten minutes. This body scan meditation will help to get you into the present moment and provide a mind-body connection that provides a soothing and supportive mindset. 

What’s beautiful about mindfulness practices is that you are not limited to the exercises above. You can read this article mindfully with the right intention, focus, and acceptance. Pick an ordinary occurrence in your life and experiment by adding mindfulness to it by simply paying a little closer attention. Once you learn to bring mindfulness to daily tasks, you begin to train yourself to notice what you might not have seen, heard, or experienced before. Allow your mind to slow and feel the presence that arrives.

As you can see, living with mindfulness is not just about meditating. You can bring mindfulness into many aspects of your life. The benefits of incorporating these techniques are staggering. Experiment with the mindfulness exercise that resonates for you now and see how it goes. Practicing mindfulness with a friend can support your success.  

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June 24, 2024
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