Studies show that mindfulness training can increase activity in the part of the brain that’s linked to positive emotions. Meditating regularly for at least 5 years may also improve how well you regulate your emotions.
If you want to feel calmer but doubt that you’ll have enough time to meditate every day, don’t worry. To practise this type of mindfulness, you’ll need just 10 to 15 minutes per session.
Try the mindfulness exercises below to move a step closer to a calmer you.
Have a mindful body scan
Body scan meditation involves moving your focus from one part of your body to another. Start with your head and make your way down to your toes or move from your toes and up to your head.
This type of mindfulness meditation works well when you’re lying down, so try it at bedtime. Keep your legs straight, your arms at your sides and your palms facing up.
Sit and think
Find a comfortable place to sit. Keep your back straight with your feet flat on the ground and your hands in your lap. Concentrate on your breathing, thoughts and bodily sensations. Listen to the sounds around you. If your mind starts to wander and you feel like you’re losing focus, bring your attention back to your breathing.
Take a mindful walk
It doesn’t matter if you practise mindful walking inside or outside, but take care to choose somewhere that is quiet and spacious. As you walk, think about how the ground feels beneath your feet, the way your body moves and the sounds and smells around you. If you run out of space, turn, walk the other way, and repeat.
Get active by going for a longer walk, jogging or even running. Remember to pay attention to your thoughts and senses. You can even walk mindfully on your way to work.
Try mindful eating
If you tend to only take breaks at mealtimes, mindful eating is an ideal exercise for you. All you need to do is pay attention to the experience of eating. From the sweet scent of an orange to the crispiness of a cracker, think about the texture, smell, sight and taste of your food. Lose yourself in these sensations.
Practise mindful yoga
There are different forms of yoga, some more energetic than others. Look for relaxation or meditation yoga instead of aerobic yoga. These types of yoga sessions involve mindfulness techniques like slow, focused breathing and increased awareness of your thoughts and surroundings.
Paint a picture
In mindful colouring, what matters is how the pencil feels in your hand, the texture of the paper and the brightness of colours you see. You can find mindfulness colouring books in most stationery shops.
The golden rules
Regardless of the mindfulness exercises you choose to do, try the following steps to get the best results.
- Focus - really immerse yourself in the task.
- Be impartial - examine your thoughts and feelings but accept them without judgement.
- Live in the now - come back to the present by shifting your attention back to your breathing and senses.
- Take it a day at a time - sustained concentration can be tough, but you’ll get better with practice.
- Consistency is key - short, regular sessions are better than occasional long ones. Pick 1 or 2 exercises that fit into your routine.
- Keep calm, get comfortable - choose somewhere you won’t be interrupted.
Ready to master your emotions?
Mindfulness is a skill that requires patience and repetition. The more you do it, the better you’ll get. If a mindfulness exercise doesn’t feel like a good fit, change to another. Everyone is different.
You’ll find information on alternative remedies for stress in the next article in this series about stress-free living.