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:
Mindfulness Bell Exercise
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 Exercise
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:
The Five Senses Exercise
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.
Buddhist thought and philosophy share many overlapping points with present-day western psychology. These include a descriptive phenomenology of mental states, emotions and behaviours as well as theories of perception and unconscious mental factors.
Buddhism incorporates an analysis of human psyche, feelings, cognition, conduct and motivation along with therapeutic practices, everything embed within the greater Buddhist ethical thought and philosophical system, thus colouring its psychological terminology in moral overtones.
Psychotherapists such as Erich Fromm and Marsha Linehan have seen in Buddhist enlightenment experiences the potential for transformation, healing and finding existential meaning.
Since the 1970s, clinical psychology and psychiatry have developed a number of therapeutic applications based on mindfulness for helping people experiencing a variety of psychological conditions. These ailments of the psyche range from depression and anxiety to addiction and full-blown personality disorders, such as narcissistic or borderline. Mindfulness is derived from the concept of Sati, am important element in Buddhism, merged with influences from Zen, Vipassana and Tibetan practices.
Although the numerous benefits of practicing Mindfulness have been researched and demonstrated, we can still observe a veil of mystery and prejudice surrounding the practice. Almost every one of them is rooted in cultural and religious prejudices associated with elements of Asian lifestyle and thought. The truth is, the practice can be stripped of its religious and cultural origin and can be seen as a secular practice that has the potential of improving your psychological well-being and overall productivity. Let’s personify the most common preconceptions in four different characters and look frankly at what they signify for each one of us. Our goal is to see for ourselves what mindfulness really is and is not.
Mandala is a graphical representation of the center (the Self at Jung). It can appear in dreams and visions or it can be spontaneously created as a work of art. It is present in the cultural and religious representations.
Examples of mandala can be found in all the ancient cultures. We find it in Christianity under the form of frescos with animal images representing apostles and under the form of the zodiac. The astrologic zodiac and its versions are an excellent example of mandala. Also, in the Indian spiritual practices we find fascinating representative cases of mandala, with symbols of the local pantheon.
In the analytical psychotherapy, which includes the recognition and the conscious integration of the contents of the collective unconscious, the spontaneous drawing of mandala is required. While a finished mandala bears importance as a focus for meditative practice, the creation process remains equally important. You can analyze your finished mandala using a map that shows the areas corresponding to important symbols of the psyche and Jungian Archetypes, such as the Persona, Animus & Anima and the Shadow.
Inspired by the sociocognitive approaches to learning, Rolland Viau proposes an innovative motivation model in the context of acquiring information and completing goals.
Although the model has been initially designed for the learning student, its structures can be just as easily and successfully applied to any situation where an individual is faced with a challenge and a need to be completing a goal.
Albert Bandura’s concept of Self-efficacy, or confidence as it is commonly known, is one of the most enabling psychology models to have been adopted into positive psychology.
Self-efficacy is an individual’s optimistic belief in their innate ability, competence or chances of succesfully accomplishing a task and producing a favorable outcome.