10 mindfulness exercises you can add to your daily routine

Jul 15, 2020 — Gareth Yorke
10 mindfulness exercises you can add to your daily routine

When developing a meditation practice it can be really beneficial to build moments of mindfulness into your daily routine. Mindfulness isn't just about sitting down, closing your eyes and following your breath. It is about cultivating clarity and awareness in the present moment, whatever you happen to be doing. The more you practice, the more you'll see the benefits of mindfulness in your day-to-day life.

These 'Mindful Moments' will guide you through some mindfulness exercises, whether you just have a couple minutes to spare, or you want to set 30-60 minutes aside to practice being mindful.

Unguided Open Awareness (5 mins or less)

We can develop a habit of being more mindful by incorporating a few minutes of open awareness into our routine throughout the day. You don't need to be in any particular position and you don't need to close your eyes. You could be sat on your sofa, or stood in line at the post office. Just take a few moments to notice the sights, sounds and smells around you and the sensations in your body.

Step 1: Notice your whole visual field, including your peripheral vision. Just look with a soft gaze and without focusing on anything specifically.

Step 2: While you maintain a soft gaze, also notice any sounds around you as they arise. Listen to them carefully and notice their spontaneous and impermanent nature.

Step 3: Become aware of any bodily sensations. Notice any pressure, tingling, itching, aching or temperature.

Step 4: Notice any smells - are they pleasant or unpleasant? Do they evoke any particular memories or emotions.

Step 5: Now just observe whatever arises. If thoughts arise, acknowledge them briefly and return to an open awareness of all of your senses. Don't try to cling to anything, or push anything away. Just observe.

Short Guided Meditations (5 mins or less)

It can often be difficult to find time to practice mindfulness. With such hectic modern lifestyles, it can sometimes feel impossible to squeeze in even ten minutes to meditate. The important thing is to try to develop a regular routine, even if that means just three or five minutes each day to start with. Once you get into the habit, you'll find it easier to start making more time to practice.

If you have five minutes or less to spare, and you want to have a quick meditation session, try the daily sessions in the Medito app - all of them are available in sessions as short as 3 minutes.

It can be useful to use a 'Cornerstone' habit - this is a habit that you already have, which you can use as a trigger to meditate - for example, if you make a pot of coffee each morning, then you can try meditating whenever you're waiting for the coffee to brew - switching on the coffee machine becomes your trigger to press 'play' on a Medito daily session.

Mindful tea drinking (5-10 mins)

This exercise can be done with a cup of tea, or any other type of hot beverage. It's perfect for taking a quick break from work to ground yourself in the present moment.

Step 1: Mindfully prepare your drink. As you're waiting for the kettle to boil, or the coffee to brew, think about where the tea leaves or coffee beans came from - maybe from the other side of the world. Think about all of the people involved in growing and harvesting the crop, transforming it into a usable product, transporting it across an enormous transport infrastructure, and eventually stocking it on the shelves of your local supermarket.

Step 2: As you pour your drink, notice its aroma, and any memories or emotions that the smell evokes. Notice the sounds of the glugging or splashing into your cup.

Step 3: Pick up your cup and sit somewhere you can feel comfortable for the next few minutes. Cradle the cup in your hands for a moment - notice the warmth against your skin.

Step 4: Before you take a sip, blow on the surface and as you observe the ripples, be aware of the scent emanating from the cup.

Step 5: Now take a sip. Notice the warmth on your lips and the sensations of the liquid entering your mouth. Savour the taste for a moment before you swallow.

Step 6: Now widen your awareness to all sensations and feelings as you relax with your drink. Mindfully sip your drink every now and then, and enjoy this moment.

Mindful Commute (5-10 mins)

Our commute to work can often be the most stressful time of the day. Cancelled trains, packed buses and traffic jams do not make for a good start to our mornings. A stressful commute can lead to anxiety and decreased productivity later in the day. The good news is we can learn to incorporate mindfulness into our daily commute, and this can greatly reduce the impact and the longevity of stress and anxiety. Try spending 5-10 minutes of your commute being fully aware of your thoughts, your emotions and your environment.

Step 1: Notice any negative feelings caused by your commute. Whether it's impatience, frustration or anger, take a moment to just observe the emotion without judgment.

Step 2: You might feel stressed or frustrated if there are delays to your journey or if you're running late, but try to accept the situation and realize that we don't have to be controlled by our emotions.

Step 3: Take some slow, deep breaths. As you exhale, imagine any negativity or stress leaving your body.

Step 4: Become aware of any bodily sensations. Whether you're sitting or standing, notice your center of gravity, and the feeling of the ground beneath your feet. Bring awareness to your posture, and any physical feelings throughout your body.

Step 5: Now expand your awareness to your whole environment. Take in the sights, sounds and smells, noticing every detail clearly. If you find your self lost in thought, gently acknowledge the thought, and return to a clear and open awareness.

Mindfulness at your desk (5-10 mins)

Sometimes during a busy work day it can be beneficial to take a step back, and ground yourself in the present moment for a few minutes. This can help you to de-stress, re-focus, and to combat procrastination. This is a quick exercise you can do while still sitting at your desk.

Step 1: Start by taking a moment to relax into your seat. Notice your back against the chair and feel it support you.

Step 2: Notice your feet on the floor. Really feel the ground beneath your feet and the solid base and stability it provides.

Step 3: Notice the feeling of your hands resting on the desk in front of you.

Step 4: Now take a few deep breaths. Feel your body relax with each breath as you ease in to the chair.

Step 5: Start a breathing exercise of 10 deep breaths - breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4, and slowly breathe out for 6/8.

Step 6: Feel the stress melt away, as you become noticeably less tense.

Step 7: Take a moment to stretch your neck , a big arm stretch above your head. Notice how you feel.

Know that you are always in control and in any moment of stress you can always rely on the ground beneath you to stabilise you physically, and your breath to centre you emotionally.

Mindful cleaning (15-30 mins)

Cleaning is often a task that we don't look forward to - a chore that we have to get out of the way. But we can look at it another way - as a way to practice mindfulness.

Try setting aside some undistracted time for cleaning and commit to giving 100% of your attention to the task at hand. Pay close attention to all of the sounds, smells and sensations. Let go of any resentment or negativity towards the task, and allow yourself to appreciate the feeling of empowerment and accomplishment of freshening your home and your mind.

For example, if you are washing the dishes:

Step 1: While you wait for the the bowl to fill with hot water, notice the weight of your body, and your center of gravity as you stand in front of the sink.

Step 2: Place your hands into the clean, soapy water. Pay close attention to the warmth of the water on your hands, and notice the scent of the soap.

Step 3: Pick up the first item that needs to be cleaned, noticing the weight in your hands. Start cleaning, listening to the sounds of splashing water and the squeaking as you scrub.

Step 4: Pay attention to the repetitive, rhythmic motion that you use to clean, and as you do, also notice the natural rhythm of your breathing.

Step 5: If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thought and bring your attention back to your experience in the present moment.

Guided & unguided walking meditation (15-30 mins)

Walking meditation is a great way to check in with your mind and body. It allows us to practice being mindful while getting some fresh air and being closer to nature. Set aside some undistracted time to take a walk and commit to being completely present. The aim is to be fully aware of your surroundings and the sensations throughout your body.

You can walk at a pace that feels comfortable to you.

Step 1: Start by using the 'Walking outside' session on the Medito app, which will guide you through the first 15 minutes of the meditation.

Step 2: When the session on the app has finished, there's no need to stop there. Keep walking for as long as you want, continuing with the meditation without the guidance of the app. This will help you use what you've learned from the guided meditation, and to practice being mindful in your day-to-day life, without the assistance of the app."

Mindful coloring (15-30 mins)

If you want to practice a 15-30 minute mindfulness exercise that will keep you engaged and allow you to express your creativity, then mindful coloring or doodling can be a great option. This activity grounds us in the present moment, and takes us back to a childhood simplicity, reminding us of the world before mass-media and social networks.

Step 1: Find some scrap paper or a coloring book, or print off some coloring templates from the internet - you can find some beautifully intricate drawings online designed especially for grown-up mindful coloring.

Step 2: Gather your preferred tools. Coloring pencils, felt-tip pens, chalks, paint - whatever takes your fancy!

Step 3: Find a quiet, comfortable place where you won't be disturbed. Start coloring!

Step 4: Start by becoming aware of your breathing as you color. Then notice any bodily sensations - the feeling of gravity pulling you into your seat, the feeling of the pencil in your fingers and the sensation of the nib moving across the paper. Also try to maintain an awareness of the sounds and smells around you.

Step 5: If you find yourself distracted by thoughts, acknowledge the thought and bring your focus back to any feelings and sensations as you color.

Tip: For added ambiance, use the 'Sounds' section of the Medito app. This can introduce another element to your mindfulness practice - try to maintain a clear awareness of the music as you color.

Exercises for Body & Mind (30-40 mins)

If you want to practice being more mindful and you have 30-45 minutes to spare, it can be useful to try a combination of mindfulness exercises. Why not try some mindful stretching, followed by a body scan meditation, and then an indoor slow-walking meditation.

1. Mindful stretching (10-15 mins)

Doing some slow, mindful stretches is a great way to de-stress and to give you an energy boost that will prepare you for the rest of the day. Try two or three repetitions of the following stretches, holding each stretch for 15-30 seconds. As you stretch, take some deep breaths, observing the physical sensations throughout your body.

Stretch 1: Start with a classic 'child's pose' yoga position. Kneel with your feet under your hips and your big toes touching. Place your hands flat on the floor in front of you and then lean forward, stretching your arms out ahead of you until your forehead is touching the ground with your chin tucked to your chest. Feel your spine stretch and rest here in this position, breathing deeply for 30 seconds.

Stretch 2: Now try a cobra stretch - lie on your stomach with your hands flat on the floor under your shoulders. Keeping your hips on the ground, gently push your head and shoulders up toward the sky. Hold this stretch for 15-30 seconds, before gently lowering back down to the ground.

Stretch 3: Now stand up for a side stretch. Stand tall, with your feet hip-width apart and your hands together above your head. Lean your upper body to the right feeling the stretch down the left side of your body. You can gently pull your left arm with your right hand to deepen the stretch. Hold this position for 15-30 seconds, taking some deep breaths, before returning to a vertical position, and then repeating on the other side.

Stretch 4: Now some shoulder stretches - reach your left arm across your body, using your right hand to push your left arm against your chest, deepening the stretch. Breathe deeply, and observe the sensations throughout your body. Hold for 15-30 seconds, and then repeat for the other arm.

Stretch 5: Next, a hamstring stretch - while you're still standing, bend your left knee slightly and place your right leg outright with your heel on the floor and your toes pointing towards the ceiling. Bend your upper body forward to feel the hamstring stretch. Breathe deeply into the stretch, again holding for 15-30 seconds

Stretch 6: Now a quad stretch - from a standing position, hold your left foot behind you with your left hand to feel the stretch in your thigh. Take some deep breaths, and hold for 15-30 seconds.

Stretch 7: Return to a child's pose once again, breathing deeply for 30 seconds to a minute. Maintain a clear awareness of the sensations throughout your body.

To conclude the stretching part of today's mindfulness exercise, take a seat on a chair, or cross-legged on the floor. Sit in an upright position, relaxed, but alert. With eyes open or closed, just observe the sensations throughout your body for a minute. Notice if you feel refreshed and energised following the stretches. This will lead us nicely into the next part of the exercise - a body scan meditation.

2. Body scan meditation (10 mins)

Body scan meditation involves focusing your attention on bodily sensations. Let's try this now, using one of the body scan sessions in the app. We'll sequentially move our awareness through the different parts of the body, from the tops of our head down to our toes. It is a great way to relax, de-stress and release any tension, while becoming more mindful of mental and physical feelings.

Still sitting in a comfortable but alert position, select one of the sessions from the Body scan section in the app. Once you're finished, come back here to read about the third and final part of today's mindfulness exercises.

3. Slow-walking meditation (12 mins)

To finish off our mindfulness exercises for today, let's try an indoor, slow-walking meditation. For this type of meditation, we'll walk at a very slow pace, taking us away from our normal automatic way of moving. We'll pay very close attention to the movement of our muscles and the sensations throughout our body, helping us to cultivate a sense of clarity and awareness in our body and mind.

Go to the 'Walking outside' session in the app to get started.

Mindful eating (30-60 mins)

Mindful eating is a great way to develop your mindfulness practice further. It will help you to really savor and enjoy your meals, while also developing a healthier relationship with food. Make sure you set aside 30-60 minutes to eat your meal in a place that you're unlikely to be distracted.

Step 1: As you dish up your meal onto a plate or into a bowl, think about the countless different people and processes that were involved in making this meal. From the farmers who cultivated their crops, to the delivery drivers who transported the raw materials, to the supermarket workers who sold you the food. If there is any meat in your meal, think about the animal who once stood under the same sun as you, or who perhaps never saw the light of day in the case of some factory-farmed animals. Allow this meal to remind you of the interconnectedness of all living things for a moment.

Step 2: Sit comfortably. Notice all of the textures and colours. Take-in the delicious smells and savor them before you start eating.

Step 3: Pick up some food on your fork, and slowly put it in your mouth. Notice the sensation of it touching your tongue, the tastes, temperature and texture.

Step 4: Chew slowly and deliberately, maintaining a clear awareness of the sensations of eating.

Step 5: Notice any feelings of hunger or fullness, and how these feelings change over the duration of the meal. If you feel full, make the conscious decision to stop eating.

Step 6: If you find yourself distracted or lost in thought, gently bring your attention back to the sensations of eating. Continue to eat slowly and mindfully, and savor every mouthful.

Gareth Yorke

Gareth Yorke

Gareth is one of Medito’s co-founders and board members. He has a passion for meditation, mindfulness and community-based organizations. Gareth is currently studying for a master's degree in Mindfulness Studies at Aberdeen University. Twitter: @garethyorke

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