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If greater well-being isn’t enough motivation for you, scientists have discovered that mindfulness techniques improve self-control, objectivity, tolerance, enhanced flexibility, concentration, and empathy — you gain mental clarity and reduce Anxiety.

Mindfulness is the quality of being present — the experience of being open and aware in the moment, without judgment or criticism, focusing your mind on the present rather than wandering. Meditation is the practice of training your mind for everyday mindfulness. You learn to strengthen your mind as you become more familiar with yourself.

Mindfulness is a mindset; meditation is the training to achieve it. Parents can help children achieve mindfulness by doing activities together.

You can start by choosing one of the following 7 mindfulness exercises. Give them a try and see what sticks.

List of Exercises

· 8. Mindful Gratitude

1. Slow down

When you rush from one thing to another, you are doing stuff but not performing at your best. By slowing down, you can reconnect with the present moment and flow.

Taking more time to do something will help you appreciate what you are doing as well as improve your end product. Most of our mistakes are made not out of ignorance but of being sloppy. As the saying goes, there is never enough time to do it right the first time, but always enough time to do it over.

Slowing down doesn’t mean being slow. When we find balance, we become more productive and effective — we don’t need to do things over.

When you enjoy what you are doing, there’s no need to rush from one task to another. Instead of just checking things off your list, you learn to enjoy the journey too.

2. 5-minute breathing exercise

This exercise is short and easy. Breathing is a necessary process to stay alive. Sounds obvious, right? However, when we are anxious, what do we do? We stop breathing, or we don’t breathe as regularly and deep as we should.

Yogis count life not in years but in the number of breaths they take. Certain apps, such as Spire, were designed for that purpose: to help you track your breathing. However, the best way to improve your breathing is to practice paying attention — you don’t need an app for that.

Find a comfortable position. You can either be seated on a chair or the floor. Keep your back upright (but don’t force it). Notice your body and relax. Take a deep breath and focus on the experience.

Feel the natural rhythm of your breath. Notice the air temperature in and out. Let your breath flow naturally. You don’t need to do anything. Your body knows how to breathe on its own — don’t force it. Notice how your chest expands and contracts. Focus on your body — one breath at a time.

You might get distracted at some point. That’s okay. Don’t judge yourself. You can say “thinking” and let your thoughts flow naturally. Reconnect with your breath. When the five minutes are up, focus on your breath one more time. You are all set.

Practicing this exercise daily, will improve your breathing but also bring calmness and more awareness to your life. When we increase self-awareness, we become at peace with ourselves.

3. The body scan

This is a popular exercise among mindfulness practitioners. And a favourite among beginners.

Mindfulness requires us to pay attention to both our mind and body. Pain is a signal — where do you feel it and why? Your body registers everything that happens to you. When we have muscle knots is because our mind is full of tensions too.

Practice this exercise more than once a day. When you are brushing your teeth, waiting for the bus or in an elevator — every spare moment is an excellent opportunity to practice a body scan. Overcome the instinct to grab your phone — like we all do when we are in between things — and focus on your body.

Take a deep breath. Scan your head, face, neck, shoulders, chest, legs, and arms. Focus your breath on the area where you feel pain — the oxygen provides calmness and relaxation.

4. Observe with your eyes closed

Our eyes are our primary source of distraction — we jump from one thing to another and stop paying attention. Sometimes, the best way to remove a distraction is to stop seeing it.

This is ideal to practice in a public space. Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and relax. Focus on what’s going on around you. First, pay attention to the sounds that are closer to you. Little by little, start focusing on the sounds that are farther away.

Now, pay attention to what’s going on right next to you. What sounds do you hear? Can you hear voices? What are they saying?

Now repeat the same routine with the more distant noises, sounds, and voices. Remember that you are trying to understand, not to analyze, what’s happening.

Pay attention — learn to observe what’s going on without seeing.

5. The tangerine experience

This exercise is about improving our ability to focus on the details. You can practice this with a tomato, walnut or any other fruit of your choice too. I love tangerines because they have a unique shape and texture.

Take a look at the fruit. Pay attention to its shape. Touch it and notice how it feels. Play with it. See how the shape and texture react to your manipulation. Smell the fruit. Now close your eyes and smell it again. Hold your breath for a second or two and see how long the perfume stays.

By focusing on one fruit, you practice paying attention. Everything else fades away when you concentrate on one single thing. Mindfulness is about noticing what’s happening right in front of you in the present moment.

6. Mindful listening

This exercise is for a group setting and requires a moderator. Pair up all participants.

Each person shares a personal story or anecdote with her/his partner. Everyone has the same time: 3 minutes. Then they switch roles. Once everyone is done, the moderator asks participants to share with their partner the story they told them — try to be as accurate as possible and to use the same words the other person used. Switch roles again.

Now, participants have to tell the story they heard but in the first person — like if it was their story. Then their partners do the same. Everyone comments on the experience: how accurate their partners were, and how they felt to tell someone else’s story as if it was theirs.

The purpose of this exercise is to realize our ability to pay attention. But, most importantly, the effect that mind-wandering can have on others. While listening to their story being retold by others, most people realize we are not good listeners— a gentle reminder for everyday conversations.

7. Name your emotions

We are continually experiencing emotions. Sometimes, we don’t pay attention to what we feel. Others, we overreact without realizing what’s triggering our behaviour.

This exercise will help you familiarize with your feelings. Practice labeling your emotions as they happen. Close your eyes and focus on your emotions. Name them without passing judgment. Feeling upset is not the same as being angry, sad, or frustrated. Most of the times, we mix our emotions. Check this post to learn to discriminate different feelings.

Becoming more mindful about how you feel can help you uncover what affects your mood but, most importantly, to avoid overreacting because you are not fully aware of what you are feeling. The more you get to know your feelings, the less they will cloud your behaviour.

8. Mindful gratitude

One of our principal sources of frustration is that we are living in the future — we anticipate what’s going to happen instead of appreciating the here and now.

When we are consumed with our thoughts, worries, or dramas, we stop paying attention. Feeling grateful requires noticing everything that happens in our life. We are wired to focus on negative things — the ones that didn’t happen as expected or went wrong. Practicing daily gratitude boots our happiness by grounding us to the present.

Reserve some time, preferably before you go to sleep, to capture all the good stuff that you should be thankful for. Recap your day, and think of all the people you met, all the moments you enjoyed, what you achieved or learned, the small battles you won.

Keeping a gratitude journal is an excellent practice. Our brain tends to focus on adverse events — this exercise could be a little bit frustrating until you get used to it. With time and practice, it’ll become easier and easier to acknowledge all the positive stuff in your life.

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