Mindfulness: more quick and easy exercises for every day
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
The first two articles in this series focussed on easy mindfulness for beginners. Now let’s look at a range of more everyday mindfulness exercises to extend your practice anywhere, any time. Build on these examples to practise with more quick and easy mindfulness exercises for every day.
Even chores that you normally find tedious can be turned into mindfulness exercises. Let’s look at a range of everyday examples.
1: Unloading the dishwasher
Change your mindset, and make this a calming exercise by using mindfulness at the same time.
For a few minutes:
Immerse yourself in the tiniest detail of each item you unload from the dishwasher.
Focus on the shapes and colours of every glass or dish. Notice how rough or smooth they are. Notice their weight, and how easy or difficult they are to hold. Listen to the chink or clatter of each item as you put it away.
Your thoughts will skitter off in all directions
That’s OK. Simply refocus on the item you’re holding. Study it as if you’ve never seen it before.
Now focus on the bodily sensations you feel each time you reach down and straighten up. Notice any twinges in a neutral way, with no judgments.
Rather than saying to yourself: “Oh no, there’s that pain again. I’m going to be laid up tomorrow,” say: “I notice I have that pain in my back again.”
Return your focus to the task each time your mind runs away. Gently remind yourself that right now, you’re unloading the dishwasher. Bring your attention back to what you were observing, before your mind wandered off.
Sometimes your mind will try to make you rush off and do something else. For example, you may suddenly think, “I need to get X”; or “I need to ring Y.”
Let the thoughts be there. You don’t need to act on them right now.
At this moment, you’re practising mindfulness.
You can adapt this concept of quick and easy mindfulness exercise when doing any repetitive task. Try to practice as many times as you can during the day.
2: Sitting in a boring meeting
Let’s assume you’re sitting in the audience of a boring meeting.
Remember to simply notice, without blaming or judging anyone or anything. Choose to focus your attention on each of these as long as you can:
Any impatience or annoyance you are feeling.
The facial expressions of each speaker.
The vocal intonations of each speaker.
The body posture of various members of the audience.
Background noises or noises from outside.
The feeling of your back against the chair or your feet on the floor.
The speakers’ mannerisms: e.g. repeating the same word or phrase, clearing their throat, pacing up and down, taking off and putting on their glasses.
Notice which things were easier to focus on, and which were harder.
Were you able to simply observe, without demanding that the situation be different?
And if you were restless or bored, could you accept these thoughts and feelings, and then refocus on your chosen object?
You may have found that hard to do. In that case, acknowledge that you found it hard to do.
No self-criticism. No demand that you do better. No judging yourself.
Just the acknowledgement that it’s hard to accept your thoughts and feelings, without trying to change them.
More energetic forms of mindfulness
Sometimes, physically active people it hard to practise these quiet forms of mindfulness. Their bodies crave movement.
If that’s you, try these more active forms of mindfulness.
In fact, everyone else would also benefit from these exercises. So give them a go if you can.
3: Walking mindfulness exercise
NB: make sure you keep some attention on your wider surroundings.
Choose a safe place in which you enjoy walking. It doesn’t need to be a large space. You can use a 5 -10 m long path or circular walk.
It could be in your lounge, your garden, a local park, or a walking track.
As you walk, focus for 30 seconds on:
Whether the ground is level, rocky, sandy or paved.
How you place your foot on the ground for each step.
The sound of each footstep.
The sensations you feel in your foot, legs, back or hips.
Any plants, trees or flowers along the path or track.
The clouds and shadows they cast.
Floral scents, car exhaust fumes, smoke and so on.
Birds singing, kids yelling, cars driving.
Notice the messages your mind sends:
“That’s long enough, I’m tired, time to go stop. My leg hurts.”
“Nothing’s happening, this is a waste of time. I can’t get the hang of this.”
Accept the thoughts are there
Don’t try to change them. Don’t tell yourself to stop thinking them.
Allow them to walk alongside you. Accept their presence calmly, without annoyance.
Notice you can choose how you think and feel
You could get more and more annoyed, and tell yourself this is all a waste of time.
Or you could choose to say, “I notice my mind is trying to distract me.”
And then choose to return your attention to your surroundings. Refocus on the sound and feel of your footsteps.
Notice if you want to judge how the process is working. Let yourself know that it’ll take time to learn this new skill of mindfulness.
Let the thoughts slide away, without further comment.
4: Mindfulness at the gym
Practise mindfulness at the gym with these quick and easy exercises for every day.
Notice each sensation in your body as you focus on correct technique. Only allow yourself judgments related to technique.
Phrase them in a factual rather than negative manner. For example, “Lift the weight in a straight line,” is more helpful than, “I didn’t lift that properly; that’s bad.”
Any other thoughts are irrelevant.
Allow them decay of their own accord.
Tune in to your body sensations
Notice any undue pain or discomfort. Be mindful of not overstraining your muscles or joints.
Tune in to your thoughts
Notice if you want to push beyond safe limits. What are you saying to yourself at those moments?
Notice if you want to give up at the slightest excuse. What are you saying to yourself at those moments?
Be interested in the messages your mind is sending you. These may be important clues about your fitness sessions.
Does the information hint at why you’re not getting fitter, or are often injuring yourself?
5: Mindfulness and riding a bicycle
This may be along a cycle track, or in a park where there are no cars.
As you ride, take note of:
The sensations in your feet and legs as you pedal.
How much pressure is needed on the pedals for various gradients.
The sound of the wheels on different surfaces of the route.
The textures of the different surfaces.
Any other sounds around you.
The sensations of drawing your breath into and out of your lungs.
The sensations of tiredness in your legs or body.
Any tendency to criticise your riding skills or fitness.
Notice these sensations, and the thoughts that go along with them.
Don’t try to change them at all. Just let them be there.
Be interested in your reactions, without adding any further reactions to them.
Other everyday mindfulness exercises?
Use your ingenuity to practise mindfulness using quick and easy exercises for every day.
Make use of those dead times when you’re:
waiting for an appointment.
in between lectures at college.
standing in line at the bank or supermarket.
It’s harder to focus in busy or noisy places
But don’t be discouraged if you’re in a noisy environment. You can still learn the skills.
Just be kind to yourself, as you may get distracted more easily. Progress may be a little slower, that’s all.
Practise for 30 seconds here and there, so you don’t get overwhelmed.
You’re in control
Remember, you can start and stop when you like.
You can fit a dozen 30 seconds spots of mindfulness into your day. Each one will take you a little further with your practice. Or you can do one 10 minute session.
You can practice everyday mindfulness exercises anywhere, any time. It all depends on your circumstances.
Being, not doing
As you practise, you’ll get used to just being, not doing.
Many of us are conditioned to think that we always have to be striving towards achieving something. It’s hard to simply sit and observe what’s going on in and around us.
So be patient, and allow your thoughts, feelings and sensations to be there, without reacting to them.
There is no special magic to these skills. All you need is a willingness to give it a go.
Accept your mind will wander, and will need to be brought back again and again.
And what’s even more important?
Actually do the practise for most benefit
You may know what to do. But unless you actually do the practice over and over, you’re not developing your skills.
Practice takes time, and deliberate repetition. It’s like learning a language: use it or lose it.
Perfecting mindfulness skills could take a lifetime.
But perfection isn’t possible
You already know that perfection isn’t possible. So any level of practice is good practice. Be pleased with yourself for what you have done.
Look forward to doing more, no matter how little. You’ll notice a difference in your outlook if you persist.
And it doesn’t matter if you forget now and then.
Just start again
Simple as that.
There are no entry requirements to practise mindfulness. No hurdles to jump over before you start again after a break. No special equipment or special location.
You just need open-mindedness and willingness.
Then you’ll soon be ready for the next step: practising mindfulness in social situations