Let's face it: A lot of us have packed schedules and mile-long to-do lists, forcing us to rush through our days. When you're operating at this whirlwind pace, it's easy to get stuck with tunnel vision and miss a lot of what's happening around you — and even inside you!
If your mind is moving 100 miles an hour, you could probably benefit from a little mindfulness practice. Heck, we all could sometimes.
Here's your introduction to finding your inner calm with fun mindfulness exercises.
What Is Mindfulness?
At its core, mindfulness is simple: It's learning how to become more aware of your body, emotions and surroundings. Another key aspect is acceptance — it's not about judging or fixing your state of being, but rather, observing it. Once the little things you usually overlook are on your radar, it becomes easier to notice them more regularly.
Why does this matter? Well, it's a little reminder to slow down — something everyone needs once in a while! The American Psychological Association explains mindfulness can reduce stress, help you focus, improve your relationships and even boost your memory.
3 Easy, Fun Mindfulness Exercises
Have we piqued your interest? Give mindfulness a go and reap the benefits of better self-awareness with these three easy exercises.
1. Yawn It Out
This one-minute exercise might sound kind of silly, but it's perfect for long days at work. At least once a day, force yourself to yawn — a big, full yawn — even if you have to fake it. Then, let all the air out with an audible sigh. Sighing like this can relax your muscles and reduce stress; and no, doing this won't earn you weird looks from your coworkers! Pair this exercise with a few seconds of light stretching for really rewarding results.
Taking a few moments to intentionally focus on your body will interrupt your thoughts and help bring you back to the present moment. As you do it, take stock of how you're feeling emotionally and physically. Then, carry on with your day!
2. Take a Walk and Explore Your Senses
If you have a little more time to spare, walking is a fantastic way to practice mindfulness and get some light exercise. There's one catch, though — you should leave your phone in your pocket.
When you follow a route you've walked a thousand times before, it's easy to run on autopilot. And if it's super familiar, you might be tempted to multitask as you walk. Try to resist the urge! Experts say our brains are bombarded with a whopping 11 million pieces of information every second, yet we process only 40 to 60 of them. Take advantage of this moment alone to pause and really experience your surroundings.
During your outing, tap into each individual sense and explore what's around you. Observe — but don't judge — how your body feels when you step on a soft patch of grass or a perfectly crunchy leaf. Can you hear birds calling to each other? Do you smell the pine trees? Are any flowers blooming?
We usually rush by these little sensations, and it can feel wonderful to take them all in. Plus, when you return from your walk, chances are you'll feel more focused and clear-minded!
3. Practice Mindful Eating
Have you ever opened a bag of chips and started snacking, only to realize a few minutes later you ate way more than you meant to? It happens to the best of us, and this practice of mindless eating is typically unsatisfying and unnecessary.
To eat more mindfully, try to eat when you first notice you're hungry — don't wait until you're starving. Dish out a small portion, then take a minute to observe what you're about to eat. Look at the colors and textures of the food, and think about all the people involved in making this dish — the plants or animals, farmers, factory workers, grocers and yourself!
When you begin to eat, take small bites and chew each mouthful until you experience all the flavors. These little steps might seem silly, but the results won't. Forcing yourself to slow down and enjoy your food can help make the meal more satisfying, and you're also less likely to overeat. It all comes down to improving your relationship with food, and a little dose of mindfulness is the best side dish out there.