Mindfulness is a way of paying attention. It is a skill you gain with practice. Just as exercise improves your strength and flexibility, being mindful changes the way you experience life. You become more flexible, balanced, and aware in the present moment.
Here are three simple mindfulness exercises I like to use to clear my head and increase my energy any time of the day:
1. Mindful Breathing (1 minute)
Breathing is second nature, but mindful breathing requires more attention. When you are aware of your body, you may notice tension has been accumulating for a long time and our bodies suffer.
For example, you may be driving to a meeting. You’re eager to arrive and you’re not enjoying the time spent driving. When you come to a red light, you are impatient for this red light to turn green.
Instead of letting more tension build up, take the 1 minute that the light is red to practice mindful breathing and release the tension in your body.
Follow this exercise: Sitting with your feet on the floor, place one hand on your chest and the other on your belly. Then inhale for four counts, exhale for four counts, and repeat.
As you breathe out, imagine that you breathe out anything that’s troubling you. You could consider saying “Breathing in, I’m aware of my body.” Breathing out, “ I release the tension in my body.”
Mindful breathing can be practiced many times a day—in the workplace, while you are driving, while you are cooking, or while you are doing the dishes. It is always possible to practice mindful breathing and release the tension in your body.
2. Mindful Observation (5 minutes)
Do you ever stress out because you are stuck on a problem and your mind is churning and churning trying to figure this problem out?
If we take your thoughts too seriously (I know I do), we give our mind undue attention.
This tends to feed the mind and encourages us to think more and more. The brain uses a massive 20% of all our energy – if we give thoughts too much attention, they spiral out of control, zapping our energy.
Instead, develop your “attention” muscle by taking at least a 5 minute break from your thoughts and connect to the natural environment around you.
This exercise is simple but incredibly powerful. To do this exercise, if you are in your house or office you may need to take a moment to go outside. Then, pick a natural object such as a tree, flower, the clouds, or an insect within your immediate environment and focus on watching it for a minute or two.
Don’t do anything except notice the object you are looking at. Really notice it. Look at it as if you are seeing it for the first time.
Allow yourself to be consumed by it’s presence. Allow yourself just to notice and ‘be’.
This mindful moment gives us a short break from the churning mind and reduces fatigue.
After taking this short time you may find that you feel more energized and ready to conquer the problems at hand.
3. Mindful Eating (20 minutes)
Eating is something routine we do every day. Often rushed and hurried between activities.
Take lunch for example – How often have we all scarfed down a sandwich in front of our computer while preparing for the next meeting – often barely registering what we are taking into our body.
If you are having a particularly stressful day, it might appear that multi-tasking by eating and working is the way to go. However, exactly the opposite – focusing on one action – is the best way to bring calm and focus into our day.
Start small. Like all new habits, it’s best to set realistic expectations. Choose one meal or snack each day and commit to focusing on mindful eating for about 20 minutes.
Set this time aside to eat without other digital distractions and take a short digital detox.
You can start by appreciating the appearance of the food you are consuming. Sometimes we forget about the beauty of the food we are about to eat. Take the time to notice it’s appearance, the colors and textures.
Remember to chew. Make sure you chew your food enough so that it is well broken down before you swallow.
Then, focus on each mouthful. Think about the flavor, and even the sound of the food in your mouth.
Taking this time to focus on this one activity only, without digital distractions, can increase your energy for the rest of the day.
Holistic health expert, Gabrielle Pelicci, encourages frequent digital detoxes for increased productivity: “Twenty minutes is the ideal amount of time to restore the brain functions to make room for innovation,” she says.
Try out one of these three mindful moment exercises today. The present moment is the only moment we can actually experience and influence. The past is over and the future has not yet arrived.
Let the present moment be a place to come home to, and help you clear your head, release tension and increase your energy moment by moment.