Eight mindfulness exercises you should try right now

Got a lot on your mind? Give mindfulness a try…

If you feel like your mental health is starting to suffer, whether it’s due to lockdown restrictions or anything else, you might benefit from incorporating mindfulness exercises into your day-to-day. 


What is mindfulness? 

Mindfulness is the act of being completely present and aware of your thoughts, feelings, and the things around you. 

By focusing on objects, feelings, and surroundings, mindfulness helps bring your mind into the present moment, and discourages wandering thoughts and worries. It also helps you to become more alert, focused, and relaxed. 

Here are just eight quick and easy mindfulness exercises you should try right now: 


The raisin exercise

This exercise can be done with any food or drink – but it works best with something that has an unusual texture, taste, or feeling; making it an activity that’s often coined ‘the raisin exercise’. 

Whether it’s feeling cold water on your tongue, watching the steam from a cup of a coffee, or something to do with gummy bears – it works to ensure your mind is focused only on what’s in front of you (and not elsewhere). 

How to do it: 

  • Pay attention to the food or drink’s visual characteristics. 
  • Focus on its smell, the sound it makes, and how it feels to touch. 
  • Put the piece of food in your mouth, but don’t chew it just yet. Can you taste anything? What does it feel like? Is it dissolving or melting on your tongue?   
  • Start chewing the food slowly. How do the tastes and textures change?  
  • Swallow, and pay attention to how the food feels inside your body.  


The movement exercise 

Mindful moving can be practiced with any type of movement – big or small. 

Simply focus on the way your body moves, and pay attention to each individual feeling it creates. For example, the breeze against your skin when you run, or the way surfaces and fabrics feel against your hands. 

How to do it: 

  • Move your arms in front of you while breathing in.
  • Move your arms down while you breathe out. 
  • Do this ten times. 
  • Move your arms up while breathing in. 
  • Move your arms outwards while breathing out. 
  • Bring your arms together while breathing in 
  • Bring your arms back to your side while breathing out. 
  • Do this ten times. 


Body scan 

The body scan is a mindfulness exercise that focuses on you. It involves moving your attention slowly through different parts of your body, in order to reduce fatigue, inflammation, and insomnia. 

You can also use this exercise to focus on your mental state, making a note of every emotion you feel in that moment. By focusing on the ‘what’ instead of the ‘why’, you’ll be better equipped to understand yourself, and less likely to overthink. 

How to do it: 

  • Make sure you’re sitting comfortably, ideally lying down. 
  • Take a few deep breaths. 
  • Pay attention to the top of your head. Focus on what you feel, whether it’s warmth, tension, tingling, or relaxation.  
  • Do this with every part of your body.


Mindful colouring and drawing 

We’re not saying you have to be the next Picasso. Heck, it doesn’t even matter what you draw. Instead, focus on the colours you use and the sensation of the pencil against the paper. 

And if drawing isn’t your thing, there are a number of mindfulness colouring books and images available. All you need to do is stay within the lines (or don’t, we can’t tell you what to do).  

How to do it: 

  • Find a colouring book or an image you want to draw or colour in. 
  • Focus on colours and how the pencil or pen feels against the paper. 
  • Experiment with different mediums (e.g. crayon, paint, pencil, chalk).
  • If you feel yourself drifting off, bring your mind back to what you’re doing.


The listening exercise 

So everyone’s listened to music. But have you really listened to it? 

Mindful listening is designed to help you listen to music from a neutral perspective, training your mind to be less influenced by past experiences and preconceptions that may be associated with certain songs or sounds. 

How to do it: 

  • Start by choosing a song you’ve never heard before, ignoring the genre, title, and artist name. If you’re in need of some inspiration, there are a number of mindfulness playlists available. 
  • Put your headphones on and close your eyes. 
  • Listen to the dynamics of each instrument.  
  • Listen how the lyrics sound, rather than what they mean. 


The breathing exercise

This exercise involves focusing on your breathing, thoughts, feelings, and the things you hear around you. 

If you’re feeling anxious, your breathing is probably short, shallow or constrained. Deep breathing through your diaphragm is a great way to relieve stress and put you back in check. Essentially, ‘take a deep breath’ is popular advice for a very good reason. 

How to do it:

  • The four-count method is a great place to start if you’re a beginner.
  • Breathe in for four seconds
  • Breathe out for four seconds
  • Repeat this five times. 


The name game 

Think ‘Eye Spy’, but with added feelings, and fewer family feuds. 

It’s designed to ground you, whilst curbing spiralling thoughts. By simply focusing on what’s around you, you’ll feel more aware of your body and your surroundings – and less wrapped up in negative thoughts. 

How it works: 

  • Look around you. 
  • Name three things you can hear. 
  • Name two things you can see. 
  • Name one thing you can feel. 


The appreciation exercise 

This exercise is designed to help you appreciate seemingly insignificant things that you may overlook on a daily basis.

And don’t be afraid to get specific. Instead of simply saying you’re grateful for someone close to you, double down on something they’ve said or done recently. For example, ‘I am grateful for my cat cuddling on my bed this morning, and not scratching the carpet’. 

How to do it:

  • When you get up in the morning or before you go to bed at night, write down ten things that you’re grateful for. 
  • Reference anything from the electricity that powers your kettle to the radiator that keeps warm.
  • Focus on the specifics instead of the big, overarching things. 

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