4 Exercises for Mindfulness for Increased Peace and Happiness
We live in a world that is full of distractions. The instant gratification we receive from watching TikTok, checking Snapchat, or binging an entire season of Euphoria is plenty to pull us away from productivity and into the downward spiral of distraction. Not to mention, our brains are constantly thinking about the projects we need to get done, the errands we need to run, or the dentist appointment we’ve been meaning to make for 2 months. That's why in addition to exercising our bodies, exercises for mindfulness can help us stay healthy and actually get more done.
In a world that is nonstop, it is easy to get caught up in the future and forget to focus on the present moment, often leading to unwanted stress and anxieties. Implementing exercises for mindfulness into your daily ritual can set your day up for success, allow you to kickstart your day with feelings of optimism, energy, and gratitude, and keep you more focused throughout the day. Don’t know where to start? Here are 4 exercises for mindfulness that you can practice all year long.
- Being mindful comes from paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment without judging or overreacting.
- Practicing regular mindfulness reaps tremendous benefits for your body, mind, and relationships including decreasing stress and increasing relationship satisfaction.
- Four exercises to improve mindfulness include meditating, mindful breathing, setting daily intentions, and journaling.
What is mindfulness?
Being “mindful” is a phrase that is often thrown around and seems pretty self-explanatory, but what does it actually mean? Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present of where we are, what we’re doing, and to not get distracted or overwhelmed by what is going on around us. In other words, our mind is fully aware of what is happening at the moment.
This could seem like an easy, insignificant task, except our brains wander more often than you’d think. Our mind strays for one second and next thing you know, we are distracted and thinking about that awkward exchange we had with the cashier at Target 3 weeks ago, submerged in obsessive, anxious thoughts that can offset our entire mood for the rest of the day. Being mindful can help to appease these anxious thoughts.
The idea of being mindful can often be a hard concept to grasp, and if you struggle, you are not alone. Practicing and perfecting this task can prove to be such a challenge because it is often substantially different from the way we normally go about our days. Personally, I am guilty of getting stuck in auto-pilot, mindlessly moving through the day, and often missing out on things I could appreciate more, such as the sunshine, hot showers, and nourishing meals. Fortunately, practicing your awareness isn’t something you have to learn how to do. It’s an ability we are all capable of; it just takes a little bit of learning and practice, just as with everything else!
Benefits of mindfulness
Have you ever been so anxious, that you get more anxious thinking about how anxious you are? Getting trapped in the never-ending cycle can be exhausting and can have a detrimental effect on your body, mind, and relationships.
A plethora of recent studies have shown that there is a general consensus on the benefits of practicing mindfulness; specifically, those benefits include appeasing feelings of depression, stress, and anxiety, alleviating the psychological aspect of pain, improving overall feelings of wellbeing and health, and enhancing performance in daily activities.
Furthermore, when we are present in every moment, we gain more control over our reactions and those nagging repetitive thoughts. When we pause, step back, and get a clear understanding of the situation, we have the opportunity to respond more intentionally and appropriately to the situations at hand; it instills a sense of self-control in us and allows us to better regulate our emotions. There is evidence to show that 8 weeks of regular mindful meditation alters the way in which emotions are processed in the brain.
When it comes to how being mindful impacts your relationships, additional evidence reveals a correlation between mindfulness and relationship satisfaction, intentional communication with others, emotional intelligence, and conflicts in relationships. Taking time each day doesn’t only have the potential to positively impact your relationship with yourself, but with the people around you. Take this as a sign to invest more into yourself and thus, the people who invest in you!
4 Exercises for mindfulness
When was the last time you took 10 minutes to just do nothing at all? I mean nothing: no phone, email, TV, eating, reading, or even thinking about the past or the future. I’ll answer that question for myself– I can’t remember. It can be so challenging in such a busy world to accept that doing nothing is sometimes the most productive thing for yourself and your mind. Here are 4 ways to get started on your quest for mindfulness!
Meditation sometimes has a weird rep, but there’s no need for lighting candles and sitting in funky yoga positions. Fortunately (and unfortunately) meditation is much easier (and more challenging) than many think. Here’s how to approach it:
- Sit or lay down on the floor, on your bed, in a chair, or against the wall. Really, just find a position that is most comfortable for you.
- Make sure you have 5-10 minutes set aside to truly do nothing.
- Become aware of your body; ensure that you are comfortable and stable.
- Start to become aware of your breath; feel your chest rising and falling with each breath; if your mind wanders, just become aware of it, and reel your thoughts back in.
- Notice the sounds in the environment around you and pay attention to how you feel.
That’s it! The better and more comfortable you get with meditating, the longer you’ll be able to sit there. The key is to commit to meditating every day for at least five minutes. If you’re still unsure about getting started, try following along with a guided meditation on YouTube, Headspace, or Peloton. People often assume meditating is about stopping your mind completely, but it’s actually the opposite; it’s about stepping back and focusing on the moment.
When practicing mindful breathing, you can sit, stand, or lay down (but don’t fall asleep); whatever is most comfortable for you. Similar to meditation, focus on your breathing and let go of your thoughts and worries. Inhale through for a solid 3-4 seconds and exhale out of your mouth for 3-4 more seconds.
Focusing on your breath and letting go of your thoughts is the hardest part of stepping out of our default, auto-pilot mode. Try your best for 5-10 minutes to stop thinking about what you have to do later. It’s still going to be there for you!
Setting daily intentions is a great way to connect with yourself and your goals on a regular basis. The more we tend to ignore and avoid our own needs, the more overwhelmed and disconnected we become.
An intention is essentially making (and prioritizing) a commitment to yourself. It is not a harsh rule or a “task;” it is simply a feeling or a ~vibe ~ if you will, that you want to implement and check-in with yourself throughout the day. Setting intentions each morning means taking moments to reflect before your day begins and pondering on what you hope to get out of it. You can stay more mindful throughout the day and focus on the energy you want to put into the world, bringing presence into your thoughts and actions.
A gentle reminder that these are just commitments to yourself. Setting intentions takes five minutes or less. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you get started:
- What kind of person do you want to be today?
- What attitude do you want to have toward others?
- What do you need to focus on to meet your goals?
An inexpensive, portable, and helpful way of shifting your awareness to the present, journaling is a great way to decrease your stress, enhance your gratitude, and boost your optimism. It only takes 10-15 minutes to sit down and let’s be honest, with all the time we spend on TikTok and watching Instagram stories, we can all afford 10 minutes of our days. Some ideas to journal:
- What you notice, what you feel, what triggers certain emotions
- What are five things you’re grateful for?
- What are three things you want to feel today? What can you do to support these feelings?
- Describe what you want to hear right now that would make you feel at peace.
- Who or what makes you happy? Write about it.
Keep in mind that some of these exercises for mindfulness may overlap. You can mindfully breathe while you meditate, and you can set intentions while journaling. Take 10 minutes a day to figure out what works best for you.
Our minds are the vessel through which we experience every memory, conjure every thought, and feel every emotion, yet we don’t take care of them nearly as much as we should. Mindfulness expert Andy Puddicome says it best in his TED Talk from 2012, “You don’t have to burn any incense, and you definitely don’t have to sit on the floor. All you need to do is ten minutes a day to step back and familiarize yourself with the present moment so that you can experience a greater sense of focus, calm, and clarity in your life.”
Written by Morgan Taylor