We hear and read about mindfulness and its benefits everywhere. Maybe you have already tried to practice mindfulness it but gave up because you found it difficult to fit into your already tight schedule. Or maybe, you threw in the towel out of frustration because you didn’t manage to quiet your mind on the first attempts. In either case, I have good news for you! Mindfulness can take as little as a few minutes and can be practiced almost everywhere. Plus, being mindful is just like any other skill: it’s a question of practice.
In this post, I’m presenting you easy ways to practice mindfulness on your own or with your children.
Breathing exercises can be practiced almost everywhere, at any time and in every position. All you need to do is start to focus on your breathing. You slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t worry if thoughts start to arise. Try to just acknowledge them, let them go and concentrate on your breathing again.
Try to fit this practice into your daily routine: Stuck in a traffic jam? Breathe. Waiting for your coffee? Breathe. Have to reboot your computer? Breathe…
Nowadays, we are usually focused on what we want to achieve or obtain, often forgetting the things we have and enjoy on a day-to-day basis. Practicing gratitude is a way to stop, be mindful, and appreciate what we have.
Introducing conscious gratefulness to your life also allows you to change perspective shifting from a mindset of lack to one of abundance. Appreciating what you have will let you welcome more things you enjoy into your life.
There are many ways to practice gratitude alone or with your children. I like to review the day before going to bed and consciously remind myself of all the things I appreciated. You could also journal or create a gratitude box or jar (which you could combine with a fun crafting activity for the children).
The body scan is a popular mindfulness practice. This exercise of body awareness is pretty similar to a meditation in which you focus on the different parts of your body usually beginning with the toes and working yourself up to the head or the other way around.
The body scan is the perfect exercise to get in touch with your body, relax and take a break from your thoughts. You can easily do it alone – there are many guided narratives available on the internet. Else, it can be practiced with your children, e.g., during quiet time.
Also, I particularly appreciate the fact that it needs no equipment and can be done for almost any duration (5, 15, 30 minutes) depending on how much time you have.
Another interesting mindfulness practice is to concentrate exclusively on what you are eating. The first step is to observe what you are about to eat: take the time to notice the colors, shapes, etc.. After that, take the first bite and pay attention to the different tastes, textures, smells, sounds, and anything you might notice. You can do the same when you drink: consciously feel the temperature, sensations, and taste while slowly sipping your drink.
Not only will this activity help you relax and find yourself, but it will also allow you to listen to your body signals and stop eating when you are full, avoiding you to unconsciously overeat.
Even if you don’t have the time to do it for a whole meal, you could start by eating the first few bites mindfully.
This mindfulness technique encourages you to look carefully at an object of your choice. E.g., you could choose a piece of wood and notice its shape, color, patterns, and other details; or a burning candle observing the moving flame and dripping wax; or a glass of sparkly water watching the bubbles move to the surface. You could also focus on a natural object such as a flower, an insect, or a tree. Just be in the present moment and observe the object as if you were seeing it for the first time.
Again, this can be easily practiced with the kids. Why not lie down in the grass and watch the clouds go by.
This exercise can be a fantastic way to shut yourself away from your thoughts and the rest of the world – especially when you do it using headphones. All you need to do is find a comfortable position and listen to any piece of music. Let yourself immerse into the track and try to notice every detail in the music.
I particularly enjoy doing this with classical music: noticing the individual instruments and voices, savoring the crescendos and fully experiencing the emotions that arise.
As another way to practice mindful listening with your children, you could go outside and encourage them to try to identify the different sounds they are hearing: the birds, the cars passing by, a barking dog, etc..
If you think about it, being mindful is nothing more than accepting what is in the present moment: accepting your feelings, impressions, and thoughts, and acknowledge them without judging. Indeed, practicing mindfulness means not only to focus on a single activity but also to accept your inner experience. It means accepting that thoughts might come and distract you, or that you might have difficult emotions. Once again, the key is to show self-compassion and avoid self-criticism and judgment.
You might wonder why I haven’t mentioned meditation, the mother of all mindful activities. To me, most of the exercises listed above can be compared to meditation: concentrating on your breathing, admiring an object or enjoying every single bite of your meal. The major difference is that they can be more easily fitted into our daily routine with and without our kids. If you want to know more about meditation, though, feel free to check my Beginners’ guide to meditation for parents.
I hope these exercises will be helpful to you. I particularly enjoy them because they allow you to take a break from your hectic schedule and constant thinking, and can be practiced almost everywhere with very little to no equipment. Just pick the techniques that resonate with you and try making a habit out of it. As you will quickly realize, mindfulness is very beneficial. Among other things, it will help you appreciate the little things in life, reduce stress, be more focused, and achieve greater well-being.