Life is so fast sometimes! Slowing things down and being mindful is great for our mental health. But we don’t often have a lot of time for meditation, deep breathing, etc. Here is a list of short mindful practices – great for creating some mind space throughout the day!
1) Sensory noticing
First, look around you and name five things that you see, four things that you feel, three things you can hear, then two things you can smell, and finally bring focus to the taste in your mouth.
2) Form a morning practice
Try a morning practice – perhaps five minutes of yoga, noticing what tension or tightness your body is holding. Alternatively, spend five minutes reading an uplifting book to set a positive tone for the day.
If you are more of an evening person, perhaps bringing in a night-time routine might be easier. All you need is five minutes to start – try journaling or listening to an uplifting podcast.
3) Deep breathing
The quality of our breathing tells us a lot about where our headspace is at. Chances are, if you’re feeling a bit anxious, your breath may feel short, shallow, or constrained. So, one simple way to relieve stress or anxiety is to practice deep breathing through the diaphragm. Breathe in for five seconds, then breathe out for five seconds. This is a great practice to get into, for a few minutes several times a day. This activity is a good one for children too – smaller children can count to two or three in and out.
4) The wiggle and freeze game (great for children)
In this game you and your child (or friend), wiggle, bounce around, or dance until you say “freeze!” Then everyone freezes and takes a moment to notice what they can feel in their body — perhaps movement, tingling, heat, shaking, buzzing, or something else.
5) Candle study exercise
Light your favourite candle, sit comfortably, and watch the flame sway and flicker. This is a great form of meditation.
6) Tea drinking exercise
If you love drinking tea, try to drink it a little slower. Bring your attention to the sensations, smells, or sounds you observe from the moment you start brewing to the moment you finish your cup. Notice how it feels to make the tea, the colour of the tea leaves, the sound of the kettle, the shape of the mug, the smell of the tea, what the tastes is like on your tongue, or the warmth in your mouth, and how it feels in the body as you swallow it. You can do the same process for coffee or even chocolate. In fact, you can bring this sort of mindfulness to any activity.
7) The berry challenges
When it comes to mealtime, many of us quickly eat our food without thinking, sometimes while watching TV, scrolling on our phones, or doing work. Similar to the above, try to slow down eating and observe the sensations. Try to eat a strawberry as slow as possible – aim to take 30 seconds to a minute. Notice the taste, the texture, the smell of the strawberry.
8) Gratitude list
After you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed at night, write three to five things that you are grateful for. Gratitude lists are the quickest way to ground yourself in difficult times because they help you focus on what is working. The trick, though, is to get specific. So instead of just writing down ‘I am grateful for family’, try: ‘I am grateful for the Zoom call I had with my sister last night.’
9) Body scan (great for children)
Try lying down and bring your attention to every part of your body, one at a time. For example, your feet, then calves, then thighs, etc. Notice how each part feels – is it relaxed, tense, itchy? This might include our inner feelings also. We don’t need to change anything – we are simply paying attention to how we are feeling in any given moment.
10) Stillness exercise
For many, the word “meditation” can feel intimidating. But instead of thinking about mastering meditation, think about practicing stillness. This can be as simple as focusing on your breath, a mantra (if you have one you like), or an image. You can do this for five minutes, 20 minutes, or however long you choose to be still. Don’t worry if you cannot keep your focus the whole time. Every time the mind wanders off, notice that it has wandered gently redirect the attention back toward the primary object.
11) The chime game
If you have a chime or a bell, ring it once and observe the moment you can’t hear the sound anymore. If you don’t have chime, you can use another musical instrument. Or you can find a sound on the internet.
12) Introspection exercise
Take a few minutes to sit silently and observe your current mental state and all of the emotions that exist for you right now. Note which thoughts arise. Let the thoughts go.
13) Foot grounding exercise
When you are feeling a bit jittery, try placing your feet flat on the floor, whether you are sitting or standing. Breathe in for four seconds then count out for four. Repeat three to five times. You can also practice grounding yourself by paying attention to your soles as you walk – this is called mindful walking. With each step, notice how your weight shifts from the centre to the ball of your foot. Maintain steady breathing throughout this exercise. If you have the chance, try walking barefoot in grass.
Grab a pen and a piece of paper and doodle for a minute. Doodling as a brain activity that focuses your attention on the present moment. There are no rules – let yourself be spontaneous.
15) Turn your chores into meditation
Choose a chore that you want to master or one that you usually do but dislike. Notice the sensation as you are doing the activity. Notice the feelings associated with the activity. It might not help you enjoy the chore but it might make it more interesting!