I like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s definition of mindfulness.
“Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way;
in the present moment, and
Everyday Mindfulness Exercises For Stress Relief
Pick Your Favorite Mindfulness Exercises
By Elizabeth Scott, M.S., About.com Guide
Updated June 30, 2012
Photo from iStockPhoto.com
Mindfulness Exercise #1: Meditation
Meditation brings many benefits in its own right, and has been one of the most popular and traditional ways to achieve mindfulness for centuries, so it tops the list of mindfulness exercises. Meditation becomes easier with practice, but it need not be difficult for beginners. Simply find a comfortable place, free of distractions, and quiet your mind. (See this article for more meditation techniques, or this one for a basic meditation for beginners.)
Mindfulness Exercise #2: Deep Breathing
That’s right: mindfulness can be as simple as breathing! Seriously, though, one of the most simple ways to experience mindfulness, which can be done as you go about your daily activities (convenient for those who feel they don’t have time to meditate), is to focus on your breathing. Breathe from your belly rather than from your chest, and try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Focusing on the sound and rhythm of your breath, especially when you’re upset, can have a calming effect and help you stay grounded in the present moment. (See this article for more on breathing exercises.)
Mindfulness Exercise #3: Listening to Music
Listening to music has many benefits — so many, in fact, that music is being used therapeutically in a new branch of complimentary medicine known as music therapy. That’s part of why listening to music makes a great mindfulness exercise. You can play soothing new-age music, classical music, or another type of slow-tempo music to feel calming effects, and make it an exercise in mindfulness by really focusing on the sound and vibration of each note, the feelings that the music brings up within you, and other sensations that are happening “right now” as you listen. If other thoughts creep into your head, congratulate yourself for noticing, and gently bring your attention back to the current moment and the music you are hearing.
Mindfulness Exercise #4: Cleaning House
The term “cleaning house” has a literal meaning (cleaning up your actual house) as well as a figurative one (getting rid of “emotional baggage,” letting go of things that non longer serve you), and both can be great stress relievers! Because clutter has several hidden costs and can be a subtle but significant stressor, cleaning house and de-cluttering as a mindfulness exercise can bring lasting benefits. To bring mindfulness to cleaning, you first need to view it as a positive event, an exercise in self-understanding and stress relief, rather than simply as a chore. Then, as you clean, focus on what you are doing as you are doing it — and nothing else. Feel the warm, soapy water on your hands as you wash dishes; experience the vibrations of the vacuum cleaner as you cover the area of the floor; enjoy the warmth of the laundry as you fold it; feel the freedom of letting go of unneeded objects as you put them in the donations bag. It may sound a little silly as you read it here, but if you approach cleaning as an exercise in mindfulness, it can become one. (I also recommend adding music to the equation.)
Mindfulness Exercise #5: Observing Your Thoughts
Many stressed and busy people find it difficult to stop focusing on the rapid stream of thoughts running through their mind, and the idea of sitting in meditation and holding off the onslaught of thought can actually cause more stress! If this sounds like you, the mindfulness exercise of observing your thoughts might be for you. Rather than working against the voice in your head, you sit back and “observe” your thoughts, rather than becoming involved in them. As you observe them, you might find your mind quieting, and the thoughts becoming less stressful. (If not, you may benefit from journaling as a way of processing all those thoughts so you can decrease their intensity and try again.)
Mindfulness Exercise #6: Create Your Own!
You are probably now getting the idea that virtually any activity can be a mindfulness exercise, and in a way, you’re right. It helps to practice meditation or another exercise that really focuses on mindfulness, but you can bring mindfulness to anything you do, and find yourself less stressed and more grounded in the process.