Five simple mindfulness exercises to help you relax May 8, 2020 For many of us, life feels very stressful at the moment. Whether you’re worrying about your own health or the wellbeing of loved ones, or are struggling to cope with the daily realities of being in lockdown, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. It’s really important to take care of your mental wellbeing right now, and one way to do this is by being more aware of the ‘here and now’. This is sometimes called mindfulness. Mindfulness is about focusing on the present moment instead of focusing on the past or the future. It is about being aware of your thoughts and emotions, how your body feels and what is happening around you. If you feel like you need to take some time to relax and focus on your mental wellbeing, why not try these simple mindfulness exercises? These mindfulness exercises can be slotted in while you go about your usual routine, and are suitable for everyone to try at home. 1. Walking mindfully If you are able to leave your home for a daily walk, try practicing a walking mindfulness exercise for 10 to 15 minutes. As when practicing all forms of mindfulness, it’s all about focusing your attention. At first, concentrate on the sensation of your feet touching the ground. Then focus on your breath, or move your attention around your body, part by part. Stop at times and just listen – see what can be heard, mentally name the sounds or just get lost in them. The key is to develop a sort of relaxed attention. When your mind wanders away, bring it back gently, without judging yourself. 2. Eating mindfully Will you be eating any food today? Thought so! Why not practice a little mindfulness while you eat? Just eat. Don’t watch TV, read, play with your phone – you can do that later! When you take the first bite of any meal, just take a moment to really pay attention to it. Look at the food carefully, feel the textures in your mouth, smell it, taste it and notice how your body reacts to it. You don’t need to keep this up all the way through the meal but use it every now and then to focus your attention. 3. Mindful listening Any time that’s convenient, try a little mindful listening. We get used to a lot of the sounds that are around us and quickly tune them out. But take some time to listen to what’s going on. If you live in the city, there might be police sirens, traffic and that city “drone”. In the countryside there could be trees rustling, birds calling or a gate creaking. What can you hear right now? Or, put on some music and really listen to it for a short period: try to hear the music without thinking about it. Try not to let your mind wander to things it reminds you of, to judgements about the music or think about the lyrics too much. Just allow the music to flow over you and for you to flow into the music. 4. Mindful habits Some things we do so often that we almost don’t notice them anymore. Chores and habits, like brushing your teeth, are usually performed automatically, while the mind skips off to other plans, worries or regrets. Instead, try to focus on that chore and really experience it. Notice how the brush moves over your teeth and the taste of the toothpaste. Let your senses focus on the process, and bring your mind back when it wanders off to other worries or thoughts. You can perform any chore mindfully and you might be surprised what you notice. 5. Just one breath At any time during the day, take a moment to focus on one breath. Breathe in, then breathe out. Focus your attention on how this feels, where you notice the air moving, how your chest and abdomen move. Try it now. You’re not looking for a revelation from this experience; think of it more like a little mental push-up for your mind. That’s it. Or if you want to extend it to a few more breaths, that’s fine. Mindfulness exercises Hopefully these ideas will help you to practice mindfulness exercises during your day. Don’t feel limited by these mindfulness exercises. Feel free to mix and match or fit them into your life any way you can. If you are feeling tense or stressed, take just a few minutes to practice one of these mindfulness exercises. Individually these steps may seem small, but you might be surprised at the effect they can have. For more tips on how to look after yourself during lockdown, read our blog post on looking after your mental health and wellbeing during the coronavirus outbreak. If you need more advice on how to cope, give our Advice Line nurses a call on 0808 801 0899.