Everyday Mindfulness Exercises for Stress Relief

Practice mindfulness in different ways

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The practice of mindfulness—directing all of your attention and awareness to the present—can bring many benefits to your emotional and physical health, as well as to the relationships in your life. Mindfulness is an amazing tool for stress management and overall wellness because it can be used at virtually any time and can quickly bring lasting results. It can take a little practice and trial-and-error to incorporate this practice into your everyday life, but the benefits are well worth the effort.

Among its many benefits, practicing everyday mindfulness can:

  • Pull you out of the negative downward spiral that can be caused by too much daily stress, too many bad moods, or the habit of rumination
  • Help you make fewer errors when processing your experiences
  • Help you put stressful events into perspective and build resilience so you're less overwhelmed by them in the future

The following mindfulness exercises are simple and convenient. Try working just one into your day to start, then add more as you become more comfortable with and conscious of working the practice into your day.

Mindfulness Exercise #1: Meditation

Meditation brings many benefits in its own right and has been one of the most popular and traditional ways to achieve mindfulness for centuries.

It becomes easier with practice, but it need not be difficult for beginners. Simply find a comfortable place, free of distractions, and quiet your mind. Start with a basic meditation for beginners, and then explore different meditation techniques to see which is the best fit for you.

Mindfulness Exercise #2: Deep Breathing

Focusing on the sound and rhythm of your breath, especially when you’re upset, can have a calming effect and help you stay grounded in the present moment. This mindfulness exercise is convenient for those who feel they don’t have time to meditate, as it can be done as you go about your daily routine.

Breathe from your belly rather than from your chest, and try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Mindfulness Exercise #3: Listening to Music

Listening to music has many benefits—so many, in fact, that music is used therapeutically in a branch of complementary medicine known as music therapy and be used to get into a meditative state.

You can play soothing new-age music, classical music, or another type of slow-tempo music to feel calming effects, and make it an exercise in mindfulness by really focusing on the sound and vibration of each note, the feelings that the music brings up within you, and other in-the-moment sensations. If other thoughts creep into your head, congratulate yourself for noticing, and gently bring your attention back to the current moment and the music you are hearing.

Mindfulness Exercise #4: Cleaning House

You can bring mindfulness to the simple act of cleaning your house—a routine task that, itself, can bring stress-relief benefits that come with addressing clutter.

To do this, you first need to view cleaning up as a positive event—an exercise in self-understanding and stress relief, rather than simply as a chore. Then, as you clean, focus on what you are doing as you are doing it—and nothing else. Feel the warm, soapy water on your hands as you wash dishes; experience the vibrations of the vacuum cleaner as you push it over the floor; enjoy the warmth of fresh-from-the-dryer laundry as you fold it; feel the freedom of letting go of unneeded objects as you put them in a box for donation.

Mindfulness Exercise #5: Observing Your Thoughts

Many stressed and busy people find it difficult to stop focusing on the rapid stream of thoughts running through their mind. While strategies like meditation can help with that, for some, the idea of sitting down and putting thoughts aside can actually cause more stress. If this sounds like you, the mindfulness exercise of observing your thoughts might be a fit.

Rather than working against the voice in your head, sit back and "observe" your thoughts, rather than becoming involved in them. As you observe them, you might find your mind quieting, and the thoughts becoming less stressful. If not, you may benefit from journaling as a way of processing all those thoughts so you can decrease their intensity and try again.

Mindfulness Exercise #6: Create Your Own!

You are probably now getting the idea that virtually any activity can be a mindfulness exercise, and in a way, you’re right. Walking, gardening, eating chocolate, and many other activities can all apply if you perform them with a sense of awareness. This means focusing on the present moment, tuning into physical sensations, being fully present in everything you do, letting go of thoughts of the future or anxiety over the past, and just being "there" with what you are doing.

It helps to practice meditation or another exercise that really focuses on mindfulness, but you can bring mindfulness to anything you do, and find yourself less stressed and more grounded in the process with time.

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