Mindfulness is about paying attention to the present moment in a particular way, with acceptance and without judgment. It can be practised any time you like, even as you go about your daily activities, and can be a very effective way of reducing stress and anxiety.
The five mindfulness exercises below can be practised in less than five minutes. Try really tuning in to your senses for these exercises – it will give your mind a break from its usual analysing and busy-ness.
1. As if for the first time
Choose an object, any object. Then, for one minute, really notice it, as if it’s the first time you’ve ever seen it. Notice its shape, colour, texture, odour. Does it make a sound? How does it feel against your skin?
2. Do something differently
We do so many things automatically that we often don’t notice what we’re doing, such as when we tie our shoelaces or brush our teeth. Intentionally changing the way we do things makes us more aware and brings us naturally into the present moment. For this activity, try swapping your knife and fork around to eat your dinner (perhaps for the first few mouthfuls only, if you don’t want your food to be cold by the end!) or try tying your laces the opposite way round.
3. Three things, three senses
• Three things you can see
• three things you can hear
• three things you can feel
Do this activity slowly and with full awareness. Take the time to notice each thing as if for the first time (see number 1 above).
4. Become computer aware
There’s no getting away from it, many of us have a daily relationship with our computer. To turn this into a more mindful relationship, start to notice what you see, as though it’s the first time you’ve seen it, or notice how it feels to open the lid or push the ‘on’ button. What sensations do you notice on your finger pads (for example, warmth, coldness, hardness, softness, something else)? What can you smell? What sounds can you hear?
5. 1 minute listening
This can be done anywhere, indoors or outdoors. Simply listen to the sounds around you. Listen to the tone, the texture, the quiet, the noisy, the light, the heavy, the gentle, the booming. You are not listening to identify what or where the sound is coming from. Rather, the intention is to experience the sound for its own sake, purely as sound.
© Michelle Drapeau, 2018
I run private, 1:1 programmes specifically for people struggling with stress and anxiety: Shine for Wellbeing, a 6 week programme of mindfulness-based therapeutic coaching, and Better Living, a 5 week introduction to mindfulness. I also run group courses, workshops and seminars. I am based in Buckinghamshire, just 15 minutes from Milton Keynes, Buckingham and Aylesbury.