Now that you know what it is and have a basic guideline for how to do it, it’s time to actually practice some mindfulness. These are some quick and easy exercises that you can do anytime and anywhere to start working your mindfulness muscle. Enjoy!
Get mindful using your five senses. Our basic senses send information to our brains that help us understand and make sense of the world around us. They inform our experience on every level, so what better place to begin practicing mindfulness.
Sight/Vision: Quick! Close your eyes and try to describe in as much detail as possible everything that is in front of you from memory. Now open your eyes and contemplate your surroundings. Can you observe something you’ve never noticed before? What emotions do you notice while observing with your eyes? What colors jump out at you? What shapes seem to be repeated? What are your favorite things to gaze upon? Do you have a cherished painting or piece of art? These have been used since the beginning of humanity to tell stories and evoke emotion. Take a moment to notice how what you see impacts you and appreciate that – learn from it or just observe it.
Sound/Hearing: Even in silence there is sound. Have you ever noticed when it’s super quiet it seems then that you can hear your blood pumping? Try putting on your favorite song and listen to it without doing anything else. Immerse yourself in the music, the sound, the lyrics and let go of everything else. Ask yourself how the music makes you feel, how it impacts you. Are there elements that strike you in a particular way? How hard is it to sit through an entire song one-mindfully? Did you struggle with this exercise? If so, you may want to practice it until it becomes easy. Remember to be gentle with yourself. We are trained to multitask, so unlearning that generally unhelpful habit will take time and practice.
Smell: Why do you suppose we have such an industry in candles, perfumes and colognes, aromatherapy, etc? Smells are compelling. They are one of the most powerful triggers for memory and can evoke strong emotions for better or for worse. So again, take a mindful moment to appreciate an aroma fully and one-mindfully. You can light a candle, enjoy the fragrance of your shampoo, notice the dish soap while cleaning up. Go outside and breathe deeply. What can you perceive? Is the air fresh or stale? Are there any flowers or trees in bloom? Car fumes, mold, barbecue, animals? Notice what is there, but remember to be nonjudgmental in your observations. Describe what is, but leave your personal opinion out of the equation as to whether it’s good or bad.
Taste: This is one of my favorites. We have at least five different types of taste receptors in our mouths which makes food a very potent mindfulness activity. You can do this activity with just about anything edible. I often use raisins when I do this exercise in group. Place the food in your mouth and simply notice it. Notice the weight and texture as it sits on your tongue. Notice any initial flavors. Now roll it around your mouth a bit – does the consistency change? How do the flavors change as it comes into contact with different areas of your mouth? Give it a chew now, slowly, and notice any sounds or resistance. Is it crunchy or gooey? You get the idea. Try it sometime with a Hershey’s kiss – can you let the kiss melt completely in your mouth while you one-mindfully observe the experience? It can be harder than you might think, but the payoff is worth the effort.
Touch/Feeling: Last but not least is our ability to feel sensations with our bodies and skin. Pause and notice what you can feel right now. Are you sitting or standing? Is your seat firm or soft? Can you perceive the ground or floor through the soles of your feet? Feel that connection. Are your clothes restrictive or loose? Soft, silken, cottony, scratchy? Are you feeling warm, chilled, or just right? Is the air humid, dry? You get the point. What all can you sense that is in contact with your body right at this moment? Practice observing it and describing it without using judgmental (good/bad) terminology. That itch on your back?… Observe without reacting (just kidding, you can scratch that itch!).
Once you have a good handle on using the five senses for mindfulness, you can integrate these skills into every moment of every day. Here are some ideas:
- Take a shower or bath…mindfully
- Wash the dishes…mindfully
- Weed the garden…mindfully
- Drive to work…mindfully
- Listen to the news…mindfully
- Read a poem or chapter…mindfully
The options are endless. Keep working your mindfulness muscle and you will begin to notice positive effects throughout your being.
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