Mindfulness as the word itself states is the condition of the mind being fully in the present moment, instead of being taken away by thoughts of past incidents, or worries of future potentials. Mindfulness is a quality possessed by all human beings but the level of mindfulness or the capacity to maintain a state of mindful awareness is considerably lower in most people. In order to access the countless benefits of mindfulness, one would need to develop their level of awareness.
This is not a simple fringe idea, as it may have been many years ago. Countless researchers have shown that mindfulness is extremely powerful in helping one to cope with countless modern difficulties, such as: anxiety, stress, depression, etc.
Now, if you have completed one of my courses, or have worked with me one on one, you will be in a great position to truly understand this, but for those un-initiated into the world of mindfulness. Allow me to delve a little deeper into the benefits of, and various exercises associated with this calming practice.
Major Benefits of Mindfulness
The benefits of mindfulness are many, and the issues they help to relieve are a vital part of ensuring we can live a more balanced and joyful life. So, here we go with the list:
- Decreased Stress: Incorporating a mindfulness practice into one’s life, can play a key part to help one better manage their stress. This happens, because through your improved mindfulness or self-awareness you also, in turn, improve your ability to regulate your emotions, which will ultimately lead you to a better mood and greater ability to handle stress. Some side effects of poor stress management might include constantly feeling anxious, restless sleeping, low energy, argumentative behaviour, etc. But through effective mindfulness in your life, you will help to reduce these conditions and inversely work towards developing higher brain functioning, lower anxiety levels, feeling calmer, and peaceful.
- Decreased depressive symptoms: Mindfulness practice has also been identified as a practice to treat depressive symptoms. Mindfulness treats depression by enhancing the practitioner's ability to regulate their emotions. This is how mindful thinkers can better regulate their emotions which lead to a better management of ones depression.
- Improved general health: While the above points demonstrate the obvious psychological benefits of a mindfulness practice, mindfulness can also assist in improving one’s general health. This was found in a study where they discovered that mindfulness supports increases in ones desire to engage in healthy behaviours, such as physical activity, healthy eating behaviour, health check-ups, etc which ultimately enhances ones general health. Brain imaging reveals that mindfulness practice leads to alterations in the brain’s structure, which means the concept of mindfulness “rewiring” the brain isn’t just metaphorical.
- Improved focus and concentration: Mindfulness exercises have been shown to assist with increasing focus and concentration. Those who have developed an improved level of mindfulness, showed an improved capacity to stick to goals. All studies appear to demonstrate those engaging in mindful practices, improve in overall performance and indulge in negative thoughts a great deal less.
- Enhanced ability to deal with illness: Mindfulness has been shown to ease symptoms of chronic illness. Being more mindful ensures one stays present, focused on deepening their awareness of who they are as human beings and, ultimately, to experience more fulfilment and well-being. Meditation has been shown to reduce chronic pain by 57 percent, with accomplished meditators achieving pain-reduction rates of more than 90 percent.
8 Mindfulness Exercises
Now, the section of the blog you have been waiting for, I’m guessing you really just want to get stuck in, and begin practicing some mindfulness. Well, then I will hold it back from you no longer. Below are 8 various examples of mindfulness exercises to help support you in your continued mindfulness growth.
- Mindfulness Bell Exercise for five minutes: This is an effective exercise to ground you in the present moment. All you have to do is close your eyes and listen to the cue. Your goal is to concentrate on the sound of the bell, until it fades away completely.
- Stare at centre: This is a widely used concentrating technique. Simply choose a visual reference point, and maintain your focus there. Recognise how your mind may wander, but always return your awareness to the chosen visual point within your point of view. Focus on it for the duration of the exercise, and keep bringing your awareness back to this point, when you find your concentration being taken away by any uninvited thoughts.
- Mindful Eating: This is quite an interesting and enjoyable exercise. All you have to do is whenever you have a meal, take your time, and focus on the magic that taste provides us, when we simply take a moment to engage in all our senses associated with eating. Observe its appearance, feel it, smell it, and then bring it to your mouth and bring all your focus and attention on the taste and the various flavours that burst over your tongue. Take a moment to actually taste your food, to engage in actually eating not simply stuffing food in your mouth. This is a great way to ensure you not only mindfully eat, but also eat less.
- Observe a leaf for five minutes: This, like almost all mindful exercises, is simple, requires little more than your commitment to go outside. Find a tree, and you should find a leaf, take a moment to truly appreciate the numerous details you will find on a single leaf. You’re not studying it, or trying to understand it, you are simply observing, and appreciating. Hold the leaf and carefully observe everything about it, its colour, texture, pattern, and shape. This will allow you to bring your awareness to the present moment and experience, but also to appreciate the majesty and beauty that is present everywhere in our world, when we simply choose to Stop and Look!
- Five Senses Exercise: Just as it says on the box, with this exercise you are challenged to engage with using all 5 of your senses. Simply, go outside or choose a single item in your room. And then, engage all your senses, to fully and mindfully observe and explore. If you’re outside, become aware to all the things you can see, hear, feel and or taste / smell. If you have chosen to explore an object, do much the same, and place the item in your hands, exploring all aspects of the item as if you have never seen anything like it before.This is an exercise I have done with my hands, where I take 5 minutes, to fully study my hands. The more I look and pay attention, the more lines, calluses or scars I notice which I never noticed before. The more I feel my hands, with my opposing hands and fingers the more I can zone in on the tiny bumps and scars, even the prints on my finger tips. Doing this, even if just for 5 minutes, is an enjoyable way to develop your mindful awareness.
- The Observer Meditation: This mindfulness exercise, is a wonderful practice to allow you to shift your perspective and observe things, experiences or people as if you were outside yourself. All you have to do is to sit in a chair, finding a comfortable position in which you can sit for a few minutes. Bring yourself into a calm and grounded state, by bringing your awareness to your breath, place and keep your awareness on your breathing for a few moments. Watching your belly or chest rise and fall as you breath in and out. After a few moments of performing this practice, and when you feel a greater sense of present moment awareness. Then move your awareness outside of your body, as if you were standing in another area of your room, imagine yourself feeling the counter top, picking up an item on your desk. Fully engage with your senses, not only imagining you are actually there experiencing your room, but feel it. If you fully engage, and try and you will manage to feel all the sensations as if you were actually engaged in the physical activity. Play around, and explore with every and all areas or things in your room (as you real them being in your mind), house or even any other location you may be familiar with.
- The Self-Compassion pause: This is an exercise designed to allow you to kind and compassionate to yourself. To accept that you are not perfect, and the knowledge, that that is ok. That you are good enough, but always getting better, better than you were before. This exercise includes sitting calmly in a comfortable position on the floor or a couch, bringing your awareness to your breath, as a way to calm the mind, as you choose your awareness, as you choose your breath. Once you feel a greater sense of calm and balance then begin by hugging yourself. Place your hands around your upper torso, as if you are embracing yourself. Hold yourself, hug yourself, giving comfort to yourself, and take a few deep breaths. This can be a way to give yourself permission to feel the hurt, the pain and to acknowledge it. This can be a way to simply accept who you are in that moment, lovingly and compassionately. While holding yourself, to repeat the phrases - “I am enough, I am more than enough”.
- Mindful Seeing: To perform this exercise all you need is a room with a view. That doesn’t mean it needs to be a picture postcard view. Just a view of something, anything. And take a few moments, to simply observe, to watch, without trying to understand, or explain or rationalise. Just try to focus on the different colours, textures, shapes, and the movement of the various things you see. The clouds, the grass, the people in the street. Whatever it is, all yo are doing is watching and noticing, watching as if seeing for 1st time.
If it hasn’t been made abundantly clear, mindfulness is a state of being in the present, instead of being lost in the past, or overly focused on the future. I believe it was Master Oogway, in the widely popular animation, Kung Fu Panda, who said - “The Past is history, and the future is a mystery, but today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.”The more you develop your mindfulness, the more you begin to appreciate the only time that exists, the time and moment of NOW. Now is the only moment where we can engage in the world, with ourselves and with everything that exists. Therefore, a regular mindfulness practice allows you to engage in the world as it is, as you are and thereby recognising the power that you hold by being fully present to the moment that you are aware to.
This is what some would claim is the secret to a more balanced, peaceful and joyful life. With practices as simple and cheap as those described above, why wouldn’t you try it?
I am Yuri Nunes, Certified Mindfulness and Life Coach, Qualified Sport Scientist educating and coaching those who desire to explore and develop the new, peaceful and more balanced version of themselves.
If my article resonated with you consider exploring these and other concepts, by joining me on my online course Mind Mastery. Or consider contacting me for 1-on-1 coaching. Click the image below for more information: