Best Mindfulness Exercises
by Janette Grant 3rd January 2018
There are many to choose, but it is possible that the best mindfulness exercises are those that are simple and accessible to all and that can still really help us to live in the moment. Mindfulness does not just happen though – just as with most things that are worth doing, Mindfulness has to be worked at, and practised regularly, to be of most benefit to us.
One of the best mindfulness exercises is the Mindful Pause. This is so simple, but very effective and only has two steps:
- Firstly we pause and feel our in-breath and out-breath for 10-15 seconds
- Then we finish with asking ourself: ‘Which of my character strengths should I bring forward right now?’
This exercise is so effective because it is very short, doesn’t take much time out of our daily schedule and easily integrates into whatever we are doing – whether just waking up, eating lunch, sending an email or driving home from work etc. It brings us into the moment and makes us think about our best strengths, preparing us to be our best self and allows us to bring our strengths to the moment. This then enables us to be ready for those challenging moments, helps us to more easily handle stress and to give our strengths more freely.
The 24 character strengths are defined as:
- Creativity – originality, ingenuity and adaptability
- Curiosity – interest, novelty-seeking, exploration, openness
- Judgment – critical thinking, thinking things through, open-mindedness
- Love of Learning – mastering new skills & topics, systematically adding to knowledge
- Perspective – wisdom, providing wise counsel, taking the big picture view
- Bravery – valour, not shrinking from fear, speaking up for what’s right
- Perseverance – persistance, industry, finishing what we’ve started
- Honesty – authenticity, integrity
- Zest – vitality, enthusiasm, vigour, energy, feeling alive
- Love – both loving and being loved, valuing close relations with others
- Kindness – generosity, nurturance, care & compassion, altruism, ‘niceness’
- Social Intelligence – aware of the motives/feelings of self/others, knowing what makes others tick
- Teamwork – citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty
- Fairness – just, not letting feelings bias decisions about others
- Leadership – organising group activities, encouraging a group to get things done
- Forgiveness – mercy, accepting others’ shortcomings, giving people a second chance
- Humility – modesty, letting our accomplishments speak for themselves
- Prudence – careful, cautious, not taking undue risks
- Self-regulation – self-control, disciplined, managing impulses & emotions
- Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence – awe, wonder, elevation
- Gratitude – thankful for the good, expressing thanks, feeling blessed
- Hope – optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation
- Humour – playfulness, bringing smiles to others, light-hearted
- Spirituality – religiousness, faith, purpose, meaning
These strengths can be turned to anytime when we pause, refocus and gain clarity on what is important in that moment. The Mindful Pause can be very useful in the transitional period between work and the start of home-time. For example, when the character strength Love emerges after a pause, we will then immediately bring our full presence in a warm and interactive way with our family. When Gratitude emerges it can remind us to be aware of how much we have to be thankful for in that moment and feel blessed and driven to share those blessings with everyone around us. When our strength Kindness emerges after a pause it will remind us to be patient with the people around us and to listen to and support them intentionally and when we’re alone, it reminds us to take care of ourself. The Mindful Pause can help us when we are dealing with frustrating behaviours from our children. If we pause and allow Self-regulation and Perspective to emerge, we can then practise perspective and realise that they still love us despite their behaviour and self-regulation can prevent us from saying something we’d regret later.
Other simple, but Best Mindfulness Exercises are:
- Candle Meditation – this is great when we need some peace and quiet and only needs a quiet, darkened room and a candle. Sit in a comfortable position and focus on the flame – not pondering on the chemical reactions as the candle burns – but instead simply focus on the candle in a pure way.
- Eating Meditation – instead of simply gobbling down our food we can take a minute to savour it. Look at the meal, smell it, feel the textures as we chew it and notice how it tastes. This exercise can
make an enormous difference and it doesn’t have to be used through the whole meal – just occasionally.
- Take a Mindful break – instead of checking emails etc in our break, we should take some time to notice the sensations in our body and mind – listen to the sounds we can hear, feel our heart beating and be present in our body for a few moments, letting go of everything we are thinking about.
- Take a Mindful shower – instead of simply showering we can pay closer attention to how hot the water feels, how the shampoo smells, how it lathers on our hair, and how the different parts of
our body feel. This exercise can be extended to other habits such as brushing our teeth etc. and we should completely immerse ourselves in the process.
- Mindful walking – we can take at least 15 minutes a day to walk in a quiet, peaceful environment, listening to all the sounds around us and focusing on the present – not letting other thoughts distract us as much as possible. Instead, we should focus on the thud of our feet on the ground and the rhythm of our breath. When we’re walking in the wood, we should listen to the birds chirping, the trees rustling and the leaves crackling under our feet. It is easier to focus on these simple sounds first when we have problems concentrating. Our thoughts will often wander,
but when they do we should just gently bring ourselves back to the present moment.
These mindfulness meditation exercises are all extremely easy to practise and simple to incorporate into our daily habitual activities and can help us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in our everyday lives. They can help us gain the ability to root our mind in the present moment and deal with all life’s challenges in a clear-minded, calm and assertive way, thus enabling us to be fully present. Let’s all give them a try!