If you’ve suffered from any kind of mental distress and sought help from a professional, or journeyed through the web for assistance and ideas on how to help yourself, you may have seen the terms mindfulness and meditation often. Once only considered practice for gurus and monks, meditation and mindfulness have been discovered to be powerful tools for those who need clarity and stress relief. They’re utilized even by those who aren’t going through difficult ailments like anxiety or depression; meditation and mindfulness can make everyone happier and healthier, regardless of current state of mind.
You may have tried mindfulness and meditation before. And you may have thought, “This doesn’t work!” But these take practice, and although sometimes their benefits show up right away, sometimes it takes time to see the fruit of your attempts. You may just not yet have found the right kind of exercise that works for you. There’s more than one way to be mindful, and more than one way to meditate!
If you’re seeking some direction and guidance as to how to practice mindfulness and meditation, here are some exercises you can complete on your own. All you need is a little bit of time and focus.
Exercise #1: The body scan
The body scan is one of the easiest mindfulness practices, which is why many beginners are guided to start with it. There are no tools or props needed, and it can be done anywhere and anytime.
Sit or lay down comfortably, and close your eyes.
Be aware of your breathing. Notice the rhythm of your breath, the way the air is coming in and leaving your body. Don’t change how you’re breathing; just be aware of it.
Next, pay attention to what’s on your body. Start from your feet. If you’re wearing socks, how do your socks feel against your toes? Your heels? If you’re wearing pants, notice the texture of the fabric against your skin. Are your clothes keeping you warm, or cool?
Take note of the parts of your body that seem to be in stress or in pain. What parts of your body don’t you typically notice that you’re noticing now (like your baby toe or your pinky finger)? Do you feel heavy in parts of your body? Do you feel light?
Now it’s time to scan your body. From your toes to your ankles, your calves to your knees, your thighs to your pelvic area, your stomach to your chest, your hands to your shoulders, your neck to your head, pay attention to how each part of your body feels.
Once you have finished scanning your body (you can take 20 to 30 minutes to complete this exercise), open your eyes.
Exercise #2: The five senses
This is another exercise that’s ideal for beginners. All you need to do is note something you’re experiencing using each of your five senses: what you see, touch, taste, hear and smell.
First, look around you and notice five things that you can see that you don’t usually notice, like a cobweb or some glue holding your shoe together.
Next, notice four things that you can feel, like your heartbeat, the ground beneath your feet, or scratchiness in your throat.
Next, notice three things you’re hearing, like the hum of a fan, the sound of people talking or the wind whipping against the window.
Next, take note of two things you can smell, like the food someone is microwaving, or the fresh detergent scent coming from your clothing.
Finally, notice one thing you can taste. You can sip tea, chew on a piece of candy or stick your tongue out to catch snow.
As with all the exercises discussed here, this is intended to bring you to a mindful state during which you’re noticing nothing but what’s in the present.
Exercise #3: Three steps to mindfulness
If you have no time, or you need to get into a mindful state quickly, this is a quick and easy exercise.
Step one is to be aware of only what you are doing, thinking and feeling at this exact moment. Pay attention to what thoughts you’re thinking, but don’t judge or try to change them. Just acknowledge that they’re present, and let them pass.
Step two is to be aware of your breathing. How is your chest rising and falling? Is your belly moving? What are your lungs doing? Is there a pattern or a rhythm? Do this for one minute.
The last step, step three, is to be aware of your body and then your environment. How does our body feel right now? Are you in any kind of physical pain? How do your shoulders feel? Your face? Once you scan your body, move your awareness to your environment. Where are you? What are you looking at? What colors can you see? What textures are jumping out at you?
Exercise #4: The kind-to-yourself exercise
You might be considered the kindest person in your family, in your office and in your circle of friends. But have you ever paused to think if you’re kind to yourself?
Some of us struggle to be kind to ourselves; we’re so quick to judge! We think we’re less intelligent than others, that we’re not as successful, that we’re weak. This exercise will help center us and acknowledge our suffering without giving in to the suffering.
First, stop everything you’re doing. Stop everything you’re thinking. Just be aware that at this time, you’re about to help yourself by being mindful.
Next, visualize yourself giving yourself a hug. Take a deep breath as you imagine arms wrapped around you. This act of self-love is very powerful!
Now, acknowledge your pain. Don’t judge it; don’t belittle yourself for it. Just accept that it’s there, and give yourself permission to feel it. You can say things to yourself like, “This is hurt,” or “This is pain,” and remind yourself it’s part of being human.
Finally, be kind to yourself and say, “I love and accept me for who I am, just as I am.”
Repeat this exercise often throughout the day.
For more mindfulness exercises, continue to visit us at www.hopetherapyandwellness.com. Give us a call; a compassionate therapist is ready and waiting to assist you.
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