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People who meditate are happier, healthier, and more successful than those who don’t.
The amazing benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness are available to everyone who has the time to practice these skills. We dedicate this article to presenting the most effective and easy-to-practice mindfulness exercises. We strongly encourage you to try them out for at least several weeks for optimal benefits.
For information on the prejudices you may have before and even after starting to practice mindfulness and how to deal with them, read Contemporary Mindfulness Preconceptions.
A typical Body Scan runs through each part of the body, paying special attention to the way each area feels. The scan usually moves systematically through the body, e.g. starting at the feet and moving upwards as follows:
- Toes of both feet;
- The rest of the feet (top, bottom, ankle);
- Lower legs;
- Pelvic region (buttocks, tailbone, pelvic bone, genitals);
- Lower back;
- Upper back (back ribs & shoulder blades);
- Hands (fingers, palms, backs, wrists);
- Arms (lower, elbows, upper);
- Face and head (jaw, mouth, nose, cheeks, ears, eyes, forehead, scalp, back&top of the head);
- The “blowhole” (Fleming & Kocovski, 2007).
After the Body Scan is complete and the participants feel ready to come back to the room, they can slowly open their eyes and move naturally to a comfortable sitting position.
Would you like to follow a Body Scan right now? Try this 30 minute guided narrative by expert and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Jon Kabat Zinn:
The Five Senses
This exercise is called “five senses,” and provides guidelines on practicing mindfulness quickly in nearly any situation. All that is needed is to notice something you are experiencing with each of the five senses.
Follow this order to practice 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. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.
- Notice four things that you can feel.
Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
- Notice three things you can hear.
Take a moment to listen, and note three things that you hear in the background. This can be the chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.
- Notice two things you can smell.
Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of a fast food restaurant across the street.
- Notice one thing you can taste.
Focus on one thing that you can taste right now, at this moment. You can take a sip of a drink, chew a piece of gum, eat something, notice the current taste in your mouth, or even open your mouth to search the air for a taste.
This is a quick and relatively easy exercise to bring you to a mindful state quickly. If you only have a minute or two, or don’t have the time or tools to try a body scan or fill out a worksheet, the five senses exercise can help you or your clients bring awareness to the current moment in a short amount of time.
In this exercise, you begin by closing your eyes and listening for the cue. When you hear it, your aim is to focus your attention on the sound and continue your concentration until it fades completely. This exercise helps you to keep yourself firmly grounded in the present. You can use the audio below:
Stare at the Center
The goal is simple: to focus your attention on the center of the shifting pattern of color. You can let your mind wander freely, noticing whatever thoughts come into your head but staying in the present.
This experience is similar to the well-known phenomenon of the quiet fixation that results from staring at a candle flame or a campfire.
The same focus and deep thought can be brought on by this exercise, but be careful not to lose yourself in thought, and instead stay present with the moment and let your thoughts pass by.
This exercise requires a video to practice, you can use the one below: