Mindfulness is awareness without judgment. This state of mind is increasingly rare in a world full of distractions and stress, yet it’s crucial to our mental and physical well-being. If you are having trouble reaching a state of mindfulness, try these mindfulness exercises! Most can be completed anywhere and for free. Not all mindfulness exercises will work for everyone, so try out a few and see what clicks.
What Mindfulness Exercises Can Help You Reach Awareness Without Judgment?
- The “Five Things” Exercise
- Box Breathing
- Body Scan Meditations
- Mindful Seeing
- Walking Meditation
- Gratitude Journal
- Mindful Eating
The “Five Things” Exercise
This is a classic mindfulness exercise that takes you through the five senses. You can practice it anywhere, any time, and you don’t need to practice it out loud. If you find yourself feeling anxious, distracted, or disconnected, make a list of:
- Five things you see
- Four things you can physically touch
- Three things you hear
- Two things you smell
- One thing you taste
We often neglect our senses when listening to the inner monologue in our heads or feeling sensations in our bodies. This exercise forces us to look beyond ourselves and identify where we are and what is around us.
How often are you aware of your breathing? Box breathing is a great exercise for tapping into your breath and calming your mind. Like the “five things” exercise, it’s easy to do, can be done silently, and can be done anywhere!
Here’s how it works. Inhale slowly while counting to four (in your mind). Hold the breath for another count of four. Exhale slowly while counting to four. Hold again for a count of four. Repeat this exercise at least 10 times to start, but there is no limit to how long you can box breathe. It may take a longer time to lower your heart rate if you are stressed, and that’s okay. Box breathing is all about patience, balance, and calm.
Body Scan Meditations
Breathing can help us tap into our bodies - certain breathing exercises like “stair-step” breathing even guide your breath as it fills your lungs or stomach. If you want to tap into your whole body, from your head to your feet, try a body scan meditation.
Body scan meditations are just that - meditations focused on the sensations and tension within your body. A guiding voice may start with the feeling of your big toe or the hairs on your head. You may be asked to imagine that these parts of your body are feeling heavy - practices like Yoga Nidra play with the feeling of weight in the body to help you feel more relaxed.
You can find body scan meditations on sites like YouTube, or through meditation apps like Insight Timer or Calm. Try them in the morning or the evening - you may find that they energize you or put you right to sleep!
What did you do today? How do you feel? What is going on around you and inside your mind? All of these questions make great journal prompts because they encourage self-reflection. Self-reflection, in turn, increases awareness. And this is just one of the many benefits of journaling. Journaling is a quick and easy way to explore your mind and emotions while getting creative! Try picking up a journal for five minutes each night and just writing about your day. What went on? What do you want to remember? How did the events of the day leave you feeling? The more you explore these topics, the easier it will be to anticipate certain emotions and become aware of what makes you tick.
Not sure you can pick up a daily journal habit? Start with a gratitude journal. A gratitude journal is just a list of three things you are grateful for every day of the year. They can be bullet points! Gratitude journals can put you in the right mindset for the day and be a reminder of all that you do have around you - be it your house, your family, your health, clean air, or clean water. If you’re thankful for any of those three things today, write them down! You’re already starting on a gratitude journal that brings you to today and the present moment.
Why do phenomena like change blindness or inattention blindness occur? It’s because when we’re not always focused on what’s in front of us, we deprive ourselves of the chance to really see it. Mindful seeing is a practice in which we slow down, focus on what is in front of us, and really see the world.
This practice doesn’t need a guiding track and you don’t have to write anything down. Just find something to look at, breathe, and notice that object. It can be as simple as a rock or as complex as a painting. Just remember to keep breathing and stay focused. You may find things that you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise and gain a new appreciation for the object in front of you.
The founder of EMDR therapy, Francine Shapiro, found that taking a walk helped her process traumatic memories in new and less harmful ways. She incorporated bilateral stimulation into her therapy practice, which is very popular today. Walking is relaxing. It calms the mind and has the ability to bring you into the present moment. Just going for a walk may be the key to harnessing awareness without judgment, but if you need a little help coming into the present moment, consider a walking meditation.
Walking meditations guide you to focus on the feeling of your feet hitting the sidewalk, the fresh air going in and out of your nose, or the wind on your face. Like body scan meditations, you can find walking meditations on sites like YouTube, or through meditation apps like Insight Timer or Calm. All you need is headphones and a good pair of shoes!
That’s right, coloring! Early studies on mindfulness and coloring show that coloring can reduce short-term anxiety and stress. While coloring a page a day may not make you the next zen master, it can put you in a better headspace for mindfulness exercises. Keep a coloring book near your desk or by your bedside table for a quick stress reliever.
You can be mindful as you do anything: walk, color, work at your desk, or eat. Mindful eating is a great way to be in the present moment and enjoy the taste of the food that you worked so hard to cook (or spent so much money to buy!) Mindful eating also forces you to slow down and chew your food, which makes your food easier to digest and gives your gut less work to do in the long run. Mindfulness isn’t just calming - it’s good for the body, too!
To mindfully eat, simply eat with intention and take time to taste the food that is in your mouth. Smell it. Feel it, if it’s a food that you eat with your hands. The appreciation you have for the food will make your meal so much better.
This is the beauty of mindfulness exercises, whether you choose to mindfully eat or lay down for a body scan meditation. You find a new appreciation for yourself, the world around you, and all that you can do. Try mindfulness today and enjoy this world just a little bit more.