“Do you mind?”
It’s interesting that people say that when annoyed or frustrated by someone else’s action, right? And, how it’s tied into how mindfulness exercises work. Don’t quite believe it yet? Let’s explore that further.
See, mindfulness is about paying attention to your own thoughts. It requires concentration and awareness of your body and your surroundings, even your own breathing. Sometimes, it involves meditation because you need to be truly in tune with yourself and be fully present where you are.
When something (or someone) ticks you off, you blurt out, “Do you mind?” This response is a demonstration of your natural instinct where you might feel you have to protect your space. Yet, ironically, mindfulness should teach you not to be overly reactive to the things going on around you.
Mindfulness exercises may help in having a better understanding of how to center yourself. You can regain control of how you respond to how you feel regardless of what comes your way.
In this article, Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute lists down mindfulness exercises you can practice whether you’re a teen, a student, or an adult. Because, let’s face it, everybody feels anxious and pressured every once in a while. It’s part of life. So, you have to learn how to relax and keep calm.
Mindfulness exercises for adults
Did you know that mindfulness promotes higher work engagement for adults? There’s a study that correlates mindfulness and lower stress levels that support this. Here are some general tips you can try when you’re getting too stressed in life.
1. Wake up mindfully
It’s important to have a good head start, as early as getting up from your bed in the morning. Don’t even think about picking your phone up or checking that email as soon as you open your eyes. From a lying position, stretch for a bit, sit up (on your bed or a chair) and relax your body. Keep your posture straight without straining your back or spine and then take long and deep breaths.
This exercise alone can help you connect with your inner self first thing in the morning. Feel your own heart beating and the sound of wind brushing your hair. Or if you have windows in your bedroom, open them wide and listen to the birds or the rustling of leaves. That’s so refreshing.
After soaking all that in, start with a simple thought: What is your intention for today? Your answer can be as simple as being grateful you’re alive, ready to face the new day. Or, show a random act of kindness today. Remember that, without putting too much pressure on yourself, for the rest of the day. And, just live in the moment.
2. Take a breather. Pause.
When you’re deep within whatever tasks you have to accomplish for the day, take a few minutes to pause and check in with yourself. It could be as simple as getting up from prolonged sitting or closing your eyes for a moment. Feel your chest moving up as you inhale and relax your shoulders upon exhaling.
Get some water. Hydrate. When you take a breather, take that time to energize your body with water. Don’t be tempted to get carbonated beverages or alcohol. Go for healthy drinks. It’s good to have healthy drinks in your pantry to have your fill whenever you need them.
One of the best mindful exercises you can do is to breathe and pause even for a moment. Do this regularly at different times of day, especially when you’re particularly overwhelmed. Difficult situations can suddenly become easier when you redirect your mind from your to-do lists to taking a pause mindfully.
3. Feel your body
Doing mindful exercises can be done in various ways and can be unique to different people. Similar to mindfully waking up and taking a breather, you can still center yourself even in the midst of activity. Sometimes, this is called active rest. It could be in the form of walking or while cooking or while driving.
Feeling your body means being aware of your extremities and your senses, while not allowing any pressure outside to dictate how you feel. For example, while cooking, you are mindful of your movement as you chop those onions and carefully take them to the pan over high heat. While driving, you are present and alert about the traffic signs and pedestrians as you approach the crossing while listening to soft music.
You don’t let your senses go on overdrive (or hyperdrive!) when doing these activities. You are multitasking, in a sense, but you are fully conscious of every movement that you make. If multitasking isn’t your cup of tea, try doing single-tasking. Do one thing at a time.
In cooking, for instance, prepare all your ingredients first before heating the pan. When driving, turn the music off completely so your eyes and ears are on the road at all times. Some people actually really do go out for a drive to clear their heads. Just be very careful and make sure you don’t drink and drive.
Walking is one of the best mindful exercises that you can do. This actually applies to all ages. This physical activity can generally improve your health and overall wellness. Walking strengthens your muscles, keeps your weight steady, and improves your balance and coordination, too.
A great way to concentrate and calm your mind is through working out. Doing this (literal) exercise helps activate your muscles, limbs, and, more importantly, your mind. As adults, you might feel you have so many responsibilities to take care of. And, oftentimes, you tend to forget to care for your physical body. Worse, you tend to use that time to do other things (or add more on your plate) thinking it makes you unproductive otherwise.
As the saying goes, “An idle mind is the devil’s playground.” Being physically active, however, can transform your brain tremendously. When you regularly work out, you’re more connected with your body and mind. Consequently, you can easily turn from any distractions externally and tap your energy internally instead.
If you’re that busy, there are online workout classes you can follow. However, if you can spare time, you don’t have to be limited to running on a treadmill. Better yet, go outside and feel the air on your face. Mindfulness exercises can be incorporated in your fitness journey. Pay attention to your thoughts when you’re exercising.
Take the time to enjoy the moment of building strength and resiliency both physically and mentally. These things form a solid foundation for when you experience emotional turmoils down the road. You’ll be stronger, calmer, and more confident to face any challenges you encounter.
5. Find your flow
For adults, particularly, whatever it is that you do, allow yourself to get lost in the process. This is different from zoning out, which could be bad, if your mind wanders off and takes you to distracting directions.
There are flow state activities mentioned in this study that impressively deduces how individuals perform better and fully engage in activities when in the flow. This study also presented how “being in the flow” can effectively give someone a sense of control, balance, and awareness.
Mindful exercises, therefore, can improve cognition so you can experience optimal enjoyment and creativity. Another research even suggests this “flow” can be measured through electroencephalogram (EEG) showing good neurological activity in the brain. Away with chronic stress and in with the good kind for motivation!
Mindfulness exercises for anxiety
Anxiety attacks can happen to teens or seniors and anyone in between. Sadly, these may also happen unexpectedly. The first thing to do is know what triggers you. That way, you can prepare yourself beforehand on what to do when they happen. But, when you’re in the situation already, what can you do?
6. Count your breathing
Mindfulness exercises all have to do with breathing. Your emotions follow how your body feels and what your mind tells you. Therefore, you can train your mind and body how to counteract your feelings of anxiousness.
Counting your breaths slowly helps you focus your attention away from what makes you feel anxious. Say, you’re in a hospital starting to feel anxious not hearing from your doctor, do inhale-exhale exercises while you wait.
You can try box breathing, sometimes called square breathing, by taking slow and deep breaths. This exercise can help reduce your stress and enhance your concentration. This is why you would often see actors and performers taking deep breaths before going onstage. Athletes do the same. This technique can heighten sports performance and help with pain management.
Tracking is one of the mindfulness exercises therapists do for patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It’s a somatic experiencing technique where the therapist guides the patient in uncovering body responses linked to feelings of trauma. Tracking examines the patient’s memories and associated emotions in the event(s) or experience that is traumatic for that person.
Don’t do this alone as it is a highly technical and scientific procedure which needs guidance of health professionals. This is highly recommended, however, when your anxiety levels are through the roof. Seek medical help to be assisted in how tracking can help you learn more about your trauma response(s).
Stress, as a result of trauma, can manifest in different ways to different people. Getting help through therapy is one way to remove confusion about the way you respond to traumatic situations. It can be a long process or more tedious for some. But, the end-result should be an increasing awareness of the sensations in your body and other physical symptoms.
Mindfulness needs you to be fully in it, otherwise, you won’t get the full benefits it offers. One of the key things in doing mindfulness exercises is acceptance. Whenever you have a strong emotion, especially if it’s adversely impacting your life, it’s not enough that you turn your face away from it. You have to acknowledge what you feel openly to yourself without judgment. You don’t even have to label it yet whether it is positive or negative.
Accept what and how you feel and then watch how your body responds to that emotion. Take your time experiencing it but don’t dwell too much on it. Acknowledgement and acceptance comes hand in hand. So though, in the beginning, you’ll have to feel the bodily sensations, if any, you won’t have to break apart. You take control so you don’t subside and give in to anxiety anymore.
Mindfulness exercises for students
Did you know that mindfulness promotes higher work engagement such as in massive open online courses (MOOC)? There’s a study that correlates mindfulness and lower stress levels for the participants. There’s another research project that showed the effects of mindfulness and meditation to students from elementary schools.
All these said, here are mindful exercises that you can try if you are a student:
9. Art therapy
There are mental health benefits creating art can bring. Students facing stress with the demands of course work, exams, and other requirements can find an emotional release through art. You don’t have to be Picasso or Van Gogh. Just pick up a pencil, a crayon, or a brush, and a piece of paper and draw your stress away.
Art brings out man’s creativity based on this study and many others. The ability to create can widen your imagination and inspire you to innovate. If you’re on a roadblock, for example, figuring out a calculus question, take some time to color a book.
Sometimes, even merely looking at some art pieces for a while can rewire your brain by appreciating them. This activity stimulates the release of happy hormones – dopamine. You can also include art in your habits so you can tap into them whenever stress gets in the way.
Patients, including students, with depression are often recommended to try art therapy. It helps boost self-esteem and provide an outlet to express your emotions safely. It’s like a journey to getting to know yourself better and discover parts of you that are still untapped. The process of creating art may relieve you from stress and relax your mind when the demands in school get overwhelming.
Compassion can be both inward and outward. You need self-compassion to get through the pressures in school. You have to be kind to yourself in order to get through each day. Meditation can be a good start when you’re in the middle of a difficulty. That way, you can stop criticizing yourself and allowing destructive thoughts to overly judge how you feel.
On the other hand, showing compassion to others can demonstrate mindfulness of both yourself and the people around you. You’ll have better relationships in school or at home by appreciating what and who you have in your life. Moreover, emotional intelligence is a big factor in having a healthy body and mind.
When you help your classmates with your assignments, for instance, you’re empathizing with their needs apart from just your own. Empathy needs connection. If you are not fully in tune with yourself, you will not be able to connect with others at all.
Doing what’s best to people you love and care for can make you feel good in the moment. Therefore, showing loving kindness to others can help relieve stress.
If you need more help, there are also stress management techniques you can check so you can enjoy your academic life.
Benefits of mindfulness
As briefly mentioned in the list of mindfulness exercises above, there are a wide range of benefits to being fully present in the moment. When you are habitually training your mind to focus, you will not be easily distracted or affected by any kind of stress.
Calming your mind can help you face your day-to-day life with more confidence. The physiological, mental, and emotional health benefits that you can get should be a good reason for you to try these exercises.
- Enhance focus, mood and attention
- Improve sleep
- Reduce age-related memory loss
- Lessen risk of gut inflammation and other diseases
- Better connection with self and others
- Decrease aggression
- Lower stress levels
- Encourage positive coping
- Help fight vices, bad habits, and addiction
- Alleviate and manage pain
These are only some of the many benefits in doing mindfulness exercises. And, some of these exercises may seem too basic or simple. But, every technique serves its purpose. Don’t be ashamed of how you feel, even if, and especially when, it makes you feel vulnerable. That’s usually a good place to start.
Cognitive Health and Wellness Institute encourages you to be intentional in everything you do. Don’t lose your mind (😉) and remember to sprinkle mindful moments everyday!