Mindfulness and mindfulness activities have been trending a lot lately. Health officials and mental health advocates discuss the benefits of mindfulness. Fitness influencers and enthusiasts mention mindfulness activities as part of their daily routines. Maybe you’ve overheard coworkers or neighbors talk about this trend. But the concept is still unclear – so what is mindfulness exactly?
According to the dictionary, mindfulness is “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.” It is also considered to be “a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
And while that may seem a little broad in nature, don’t fret. Continue reading to learn a few mindfulness activities you can try at home!
Mindfulness Activity #1: The Food Exercise
This first mindfulness activity is a great one for beginners. It can be attempted by anyone with any kind of food. Although we do suggest using food with an interesting texture, smell, or taste, like a raisin.
During this exercise, act as you have never encountered your specific food before. Pay careful attention to the following:
- The way the food looks
- How it feels
- The way the skin responds to manipulating the food
- How it smells
- The way it tastes
While this may seem odd, the idea of this practice isn’t actually the food. But rather by focusing on the food at hand, your mind focuses on the present. This can help you shed current stress and anxiety floating around in your mind.
#2 The Five Senses Exercise
Similar to the first mindfulness activity, this exercise also focuses on the senses. This time, instead of a specific object, this exercise focuses on your surroundings.
Follow this order during the five senses exercise:
Notice five things that you can see
Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. What are the things you don’t normally notice? Consider something less muted or dark like a shadow. Maybe you see a small crack in the concrete. It’s slowly becoming spring, so take notice of the color of the budding flowers. Or ironically enough, the snow flurries still on the ground.
Notice four things that you can feel tactilely
Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your clothes. Or the feeling of the wind on your face. You may also notice the smooth surface of the desk you are resting your hands on.
Notice three things you can hear
Take a moment and listen. Take note of three things that you hear around you. This can be the chirp of a bird or the hum of your computer. You may hear the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road. All you have to do is take a listen.
Notice two things you can smell
Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out. Unfortunately, notice both unpleasant and pleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of flora if you’re outside. Maybe you notice the smell of a co-worker’s lunch.
Notice one thing you can taste
Focus on what you can taste. You can take a sip of a drink. You can chew a piece of gum or pop in a mint. Try eating something and notice all the flavors. Or just notice the current taste in your mouth.
#3 Mindful Listening
This activity is extracted from the Positive Psychology Toolkit and introduces mindful listening. This exercise can be done individually or as a group.
In general, people tend to thrive when they feel fully “heard” and “seen.” In other words, mindful listening involves a form of self-regulation in which the focus on the self is set aside. Mindful listening can create an inner “stillness” as the speaker may feel free from judgment.
- Think of one thing they are stressed about and one thing they are looking forward to.
- Once you (and others if applicable) are finished, share your story out loud. If alone, you may journal your story if that helps you.
- Pay attention to how it feels to speak (or write). Notice how it feels to talk about something stressful. Contrast that to how it feels to share something positive.
- Observe your own thoughts, feelings and body sensations both when sharing. If with a group, also notice the sensations that occur while listening.
By the end of the exercise, notice how you now feel about the stressful thought. Are you able to identify any other factors regarding your stress? Do you feel like it is more manageable now? This exercise takes time and practice, so don’t get discouraged after the first go around!
#4 The Body Scan
Body scans are another popular mindfulness exercise. It doesn’t require much and is a great tool for beginners.
- Start lying on your back with your palms facing up. Your feet should be falling slightly apart. This exercise can also be done while sitting in a chair comfortably with feet resting on the floor.
*Note that you should be lying very still for the duration of the exercise. When you adjust your position, make sure to do so with awareness.
- Bring awareness to your breath. Notice its rhythm. Feel the oxygen fill you as you breathe in and it leaves you as you expel it out. Don’t try to change or force the way you are breathing. Rather just hold gentle awareness of your breath.
- Now start guiding your attention to the body. How does it feel today? How do your clothes feel on your skin? What does the surface you are lying or sitting on feel like? How is the temperature of your body? What do your surroundings feel like?
- Now guide awareness to the parts of the body that are tingling, sore, or feeling particularly heavy or light. Note any areas of their body where there aren’t any sensations. Also, note the areas that more sensitive than others.
- Allow yourself to feel what you are feeling. Let any thoughts that arise be present. Let them float and then cast them away. Do not place any judgment on the things you are feeling. Just be – as difficult as that can be.
This is another exercise that takes some practice. Click here for a 10-minute guided body scan!
#5 Progressive Muscle Relaxation
In this activity, whole muscle groups are simultaneously tensed and then relaxed. Repeat each step at least once, tensing each muscle group from five to seven seconds and then relaxing from fifteen to thirty seconds. Remember to notice the contrast between the sensations of tension and relaxation.
- Curl both fists, tightening biceps and forearms.
- Roll your head around on your neck clockwise in a complete circle, then reverse.
- Wrinkle up the muscles of your face like a walnut: forehead wrinkled, eyes squinted, mouth opened, and shoulders hunched.
- Arch your shoulders back as you take a deep breath into your chest. Take a deep breath, pushing out your stomach.
- Straighten your legs and point your toes back toward your face, tightening your shins.
- Straighten your legs and curl your toes, simultaneously tightening your calves, thighs, and buttocks.
Why Do These Mindfulness Activities?
Mindfulness gives the mind a rest from our fixation on discursive thinking. As humans, we are always thinking. We think of the positive and negative things we have done in the past. We jump forward and think of all the things that can happen in the future. And most of the time, we tend to be worrying about those future experiences. The mind tends to dwell on stressful thoughts. It’s exhausting and rarely productive. Bringing our minds out of our stories and into the present moment brings with it a welcome relief from these stressful and habitual thought patterns.
How Mindfulness Relates to Chiropractic Care
One of the goals of mindfulness is to stop focusing on stress and anxiety. Stress affects our bodies in so many ways. It unbalances hormones and creates tension throughout the body. To start seeing the benefits, try adding a few of these mindfulness activities into your wellness routine. My personal favorite is trying the body scan before bed! For further consultation and an adjustment, contact us today to schedule an introductory chiropractic session. We can discuss your wellness routine and questions on mindfulness as part of my initial chiropractic workup for you as a new patient to our practice.
* This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact a medical professional for advice.