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30 Mindfulness Exercises that will help you focus and be present

30 Mindfulness Exercises that will help you focus and be present

“The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” ~Thích Nhất Hạnh, Peace is Every Step: The Path to Mindfulness in Everyday Live

Do you ever feel like you’re too busy for meditation?

You understand the benefits, and you’d really like to commit to it. But you’re a busy person. You have deadlines to meet, food to prepare, bills to pay, kids to raise, family members to call—and even that’s barely scratching the surface.

We’ve all been there. I know that I have.

Prior to finding mindfulness, I had struggled for years with concentration. It got worse when I left home to travel the world and make a living writing freelance.

I suddenly found myself on the other end of the world, with no family and often few friends.

I should have been looking forward and enjoying every moment of the day, whether it was going out to eat with interesting people or simply taking in the sights and sounds that surround me. Instead of enjoying the structure I had grown to expect at home, I found myself stuck in an endless state of anxiety about work.

As stress built, I began to feel like I was losing the chance of my lifetime. I was never fully committed to either work or play, and as I result I wasn’t able to appreciate either.

I knew I had a job to do.

I tried to meditate, but it was too difficult. It was impossible to keep up the pace. I’d do two or three days in a row, then I’d skip one, then two, then a week, and suddenly I’d give up.

I then read about mindfulness. I found that I didn’t need to take a big chunk out of my time out to practice it.

I was able to be mindful at all times and it fit easily into my daily life. It started as a simple habit, but it quickly became a routine. I was more calm, focused, and my mental well-being was improving.

What happened next was shocking.

A few months later, I decided to meditate one morning. I set my alarm for twenty-minutes, focused on my breathing, and continued to meditate until my alarm chirped. It was different. It was much easier than I thought.

It felt normal—natural even. So I did the same the next day, and the next, till I’d gone a month meditating every single day. I found that small daily mindfulness practices were a great stepping stone to more intensive meditation sessions.

A few months later, a friend of mine was having the same struggles with his work as I was. I wanted to know how I could help so I sent an email to him listing every way I had tried mindfulness in my life. These ideas are an extension to our conversation.

I hope they can make as much a difference in your life as mine.

These are the best practices to cultivate laser-sharp focused.

Each situation can be viewed as a trigger that brings you back to the moment. You definitely don’t have to start with all of them; in fact, I’d start by choosing three or four to practice. You can then add one each week until you have all of them in your life.

1. Get up.

Take three deep, slow breaths as soon as you wake up. This will double the benefit of calming your mind and providing oxygen to your brain to get you out from bed.

2. Get out of bed

Yoga is not something everyone can do. We all have the time to stretch. As you stand up, take a deep, exhaling in, and then stretch your fingers straight up towards the ceiling. Relax, then let your breath out and lean forward. Next, touch your toes with your fingers. Focus on your breathing and the sensations during the stretch.

3. Make your bed

A great opportunity to practice mindfulness is making your bed at the beginning of each morning. Be fully present in the activity and focus your attention on the folding of sheets.

4. Showering.

Take a few minutes to feel the water on your skin while you are taking a shower. Pay attention to the temperature, pressure and sounds it makes as it falls.

5. Getting dressed.

We rush to put on our clothes, but when we do, pay attention to how they feel on our skin, their texture, and the warmth they offer.

6. Boil the kettle.

Instead of running around trying to finish everything before the kettle boils and breaking the bank, just sit still and listen intently for the water to bubble and the kettle to whistle.

7. You can drink tea or coffee.

Take your time when you are drinking tea or coffee. Be mindful of its taste, temperature, and subtle effects on your body.

8. Brushing your teeth.

All of us (hopefully) can do this. So it’s a great place to start focusing on the present moment.

9. Listen to music.

It is a great way of focusing and calming down before you go out in the morning. Listen to the song and immerse your self in it. You should pay attention to volume, cadence, pace, and the uniqueness of the sounds.

10. Write a to-do listing by hand.

It doesn’t matter if you do it first thing in the morning, or last thing at the night, having a to-do listing can help you calm your nerves and keep you focused on what you need to accomplish throughout the day. You’ll be more mindful using a pen and paper than you will by typing it on your computer or phone.

11. Running.

Listen to the music and pay attention to what’s around you while running. Focus on the rhythm of the feet as they strike the ground.

12. Do you want to touch your hair?

When you find yourself running your fingers through your hair, take a moment to notice how it feels in your hands. Do you feel it is soft, stiff, curly or wavy?

13. You should stop at a red light.

Many people get anxious, nervous, or angry when they drive. Take a deep breath every time you stop at the red light and relax any tension in your jaw, neck, or shoulders.

14. While waiting.

Whenever you find yourself waiting, whether it be for a meeting, at a bus stop, or an appointment, try to relax all the muscles in your face—your jaw, your brows, your eyelids.

15. Walking.

As you’re walking down the street, pay attention to how your legs and feet feel against the ground. Pay attention to your breathing. It’s common to breathe shallow when you’re in public, so make sure you’re still breathing through your diaphragm.

16. Hugging and handshakes

A cold hug is not something anyone likes. Do not let the cold hug get you down.

17. Exercising.

Focus on the exercise at the gym. You can let your mind wander when you’re taking a break, but throughout the exercise itself, be focused entirely on the practice.

18. Lunch.

Take a bite of your lunch and chew slowly. Pay attention to the texture of your food. Is it hard or soft? What is the taste? Is it sweet, bitter, sweet or sour. Temperature. Is it hot or cold?

19. Talking to someone.

Try to be completely present in conversation, making eye contact and listening to what they say without thinking about what you want to add next or where you’re going to be later.

20. At your desk.

Take a deep breath and relax your shoulders and neck if you find yourself sitting at a desk.

21. Set up a mobile alarm.

A lot of people see technology as a hindrance to mindfulness, and that’s true to an extent. We can still use technology like phone alarms to remind ourselves to bring our attention back to our breath throughout our day.

22. Follow an insect.

Yep. You may feel like a child, but that’s a good thing—children live in the present. Take a moment to notice an insect. Be aware that it’s a living being just like you.

23. Returning home at night.

As you approach your home or apartment door, stop and reflect on how thankful you are. Whether it’s cold outside, and you’ve just walked into warmth, or you’re returning home to someone you love – there’s always something to appreciate.

24. Remove your shoes.

After a long day, we all love to take off our shoes. Take note of how your feet feel on a flat surface. Move your toes around to feel each one.

25. Cooking.

There are many ways that you can be mindful while cooking. Focusing on the movements of your hands, the sounds of the kitchen and the smells of the spices can help you to be more mindful.

26. T.V.

Many of us work too anxiously and end up being too distracted when we have some free time. If you’re watching T.V try to be fully present to what you’re watching, as opposed to half-heartedly talking to a loved one or browsing through your phone.

27. Vacuuming.

Counter-intuitive, I know—this isn’t for everyone. But, focusing on the vacuum’s noise can be quite effective as it often drowns out other sensory distractions.

28. At dinner.

Think about the ingredients that have gone into your meal—where have they come from? If it’s fish, for example, imagine the fisherman catching it at sea, bringing it to the docks, and selling it to local farmers markets.

29. Do Nothing Time (DNT) should be at least five minutes long

No checking your phone. No reading a newspaper. Don’t even try to meditate. Just sit there, and if any feelings come up—discomfort, restlessness, or even guilt that you’re not doing anything—just embrace them. Most of the time we’re so wrapped up in doing something ‘productive’ that it’s difficult to just sit still and do nothing.

30. Lying down on a bed.

Before you go to bed, take a moment and think about one thing that you are grateful for in the past day. It doesn’t matter how hard or small. This will make your mind more positive and will help you sleep better.

As you start to see the benefits of these daily practices, you’ll feel more focused, energized, and you can move on to longer focused meditation sessions. Start taking a few moments out of your day to practice mindfulness now, and you’ll enjoy the rewards for years to come.

Have you tried any of these methods? Please share your experiences with us in the comments section!

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About Benjamin Fishel

Ben Fishel, a transpersonal psychotherapist. He has a background as a psychotherapist, counselor and neuroscientist. His mission is to help people with their mental health using cognitive science and spirituality. Ben offers online therapy worldwide (with the exception of Canada & the U.S.). You can book a FREE 15-minute call to see if you’d like to work with him—and don’t forget to follow him on Facebook for more of his essays.

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