Everyday Mindfulness Exercises for Stress Relief

Practice mindfulness in different ways

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The practice of mindfulness 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 mindfulness into your everyday life, but the benefits are well worth the effort.

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. It can build resilience to stress so you're less stressed in the future while it helps you to shrug off present stress. This can transform your experience of stress, your enjoyment of life, and the quality of your relationships. The following mindfulness exercises are simple and convenient and can lead you to a deeper experience of mindfulness in your daily life.

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, so it tops the list of mindfulness exercises. Meditation becomes easier with practice, but it need not be difficult for beginners. Simply find a comfortable place, free of distractions, and quiet your mind. Simply get started with basic meditation for beginners and then you can explore different meditation techniques

Mindfulness Exercise #2: Deep Breathing

That’s right: mindfulness can be as simple as breathing! You can focus on your breathing as you go about your daily activities. This is convenient for those who feel they don’t have time to meditate. Breathe from your belly rather than from your chest, and try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. 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. Start using breathing exercises throughout the day.

Mindfulness Exercise #3: Listening to Music

Listening to music has many benefits—so many, in fact, that music is being used therapeutically in a new branch of complementary medicine known as music therapy. That’s part of why listening to music makes a great mindfulness exercise. 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 sensations that are happening "right now" as you listen. 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

The term "cleaning house" has a literal meaning (cleaning up your actual house) as well as a figurative one (getting rid of "emotional baggage," letting go of things that no longer serve you), and both can be great stress relievers! Because clutter has several hidden costs and can be a subtle but significant stressor, cleaning house and de-cluttering as a mindfulness exercise can bring lasting benefits.

To bring mindfulness to cleaning, you first need to view it 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 cover the area of the floor; enjoy the warmth of the laundry as you fold it; feel the freedom of letting go of unneeded objects as you put them in the donations bag. It may sound a little silly, but if you approach cleaning as an exercise in mindfulness, it can become one. You may also add music to the equation.

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, and the idea of sitting in meditation and holding off the onslaught of thought can actually cause more stress! If this sounds like you, the mindfulness exercise of observing your thoughts might be for you. Rather than working against the voice in your head, you 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, listening to music, eating chocolate, and many other activities can be "mindfulness activities" if you perform them with a sense of mindfulness. This means focusing on the present moment, focusing on 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.

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