Mindfulness Techniques and Exercises
Psychologist Jack Kornfield recently said in an interview, “The cultivation of mindfulness… really allows us to become present for our own body, for the person in front of us, for the life we’ve been given. Out of that grows, quite naturally, the spirit of gratitude.”
In the previous Mindful Article, we spoke about the Benefits of Mindfulness. In this piece we are looking at some different ways you can practice mindfulness, through mindfulness exercises.
How to do it
The most basic way to do mindful breathing is simply to focus your attention on your breath, the inhale and exhale.
First, pause and focus on your body. Notice what you see and hear. Also, check what you smell, taste, and feel. Don’t label these sensations as good or bad. Just let them go.
Then narrow your focus. What do feel in your body? Notice subtle sensations like an itch or tingling. Give each part of your body a moment of your full attention. Start with your head and move to your toes.
Next, be more intent on your breath. Where in your body do you feel it most? Rest your attention there.
Ask yourself, “How am I in this moment?” Acknowledge your thoughts and emotions. Spend a few moments with them, being with things as they are. Allow your feelings to be present without judgment.
When your mind wanders (AND IT WILL), simply return to your breath. There’s no need to beat yourself up for losing focus.
Dr. Amit Sood, the chair of the Mayo Mind Body Initiative, provides the following mindfulness schedule as a template:
- Monday: Gratitude – Find things to be thankful for throughout your day, and include them in your loving kindness meditation or a gratitude journal.
- Tuesday: Compassion – Set an intention to decrease any pain or suffering in others that you encounter throughout your day.
- Wednesday: Acceptance – Accept yourself as you are and others as they are; appreciate yourself and other people without trying to change them.
- Thursday: Meaning and Purpose – Think about your ultimate purpose in life, and where and how you find meaning.
- Friday: Forgiveness – Forgive yourself first, then extend your forgiveness to others for any past transgressions.
- Saturday: Celebration – Make sure to take a day to celebrate all the joy in your life and the lives of others.
- Sunday: Reflection – Reflect on your week, your month, your year, or whatever period of time makes sense to you in the moment; this can be accomplished through meditation, prayer, or simple awareness.
There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
Basic mindfulness meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra.
Body sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
Urge surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving enters. Replace the wish for the craving to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.