Living in the present is not just an arbitrary term or a popular phrase—it’s a recognized and evidence-backed lifestyle that psychologists are quick to recommend for those struggling with anxiety and stress in their day-to-day life. These 5 exercises are some good ways to get started. This will certainly change your life!
Do a Mindful Body Scan
This simple exercise is a great way to get yourself in a mindful mood and get in touch with your body. Doing this in the morning can also help you get your day off to a good start.
While sitting or lying down on your bed (just make sure not to fall asleep if you try this lying down!), take a few deep, mindful breaths. Notice the way your breath enters and exits your lungs.
Starting with your toes, focus your attention on one part of your body at a time. Pay attention to how that area is feeling and notice any sensations that you are experiencing (Scott, n.d.). After a few moments of focused attention, move up to the next part of your body (i.e., after your toes, focus on your feet, then ankles, then calves, etc.).
This is not only a good method for putting you in a mindful state right off the bat, it can also help you notice when your body is feeling differently than normal. You might catch an injury or illness that you wouldn’t normally notice, just by taking a few minutes each morning to scan your body.
You can learn more about the mindful body scan and other exercises here.
Write in a Journal / “Morning Pages”
Another good exercise that can help you set the right mindful tone for the day is to write in your journal. A specific version of this exercise that is endorsed by author Julia Cameron is called “Morning Pages.”
Here’s how to use your journal as a stepping block to a more mindful day.
Early in the morning, before you’ve headed off to work or school or started checking things off your long to-do list, take a few minutes to pull out your journal or a notebook and make an entry.
You can do a new page each day and simply write however much you feel like writing, or you can try Cameron’s Morning Pages exercise:
“Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages—they are not high art. They are not even “writing.” They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind—and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize, and synchronize the day at hand” (Cameron, n.d., as cited in Scott, n.d.).
Whether you follow Cameron’s guidelines or not, taking just a few minutes to write down any mindless “chatter” in your head or log any particularly insightful dreams can clear your head and help you start your day off in a mindful state.
Visualize Your Daily Goals
Visualizing your goals is an excellent method for not only making it more likely that you will follow through on your goals, it can also help you become more mindful on a regular basis.
When you have set your daily goals (see #15 – Define Three Daily Goals on this list if you need help with this piece), take a few moments to visualize each one (Scott, n.d.).
See yourself undertaking each goal and completing each goal today. Get as much detail as you can in your visualization, so it feels real and within your reach.
When you can see yourself checking that daily goal off your list, move on to the next goal and repeat until you have visualized all of your daily goals.
Practicing visualization of goal completion can not only help you improve your focus and mindfulness, it can also lower your stress, improve your performance, enhance your preparedness, and give you the extra energy or motivation you might need to accomplish everything on your list.
Take a Mindful Nature Walk
Taking advantage of the natural beauty around us is another good way to cultivate greater mindfulness.
The next time you feel the need for a walk—whether it’s a quick trip around the block or a lengthy stroll through Mindful Nature Walka pretty, scenic spot—make it a mindful nature walk.
It’s pretty simple to make any walk a mindful walk; all you need to do is engage all your senses and stay aware of what’s happening both around you and within you.
Be intentional with your awareness; notice your feet hitting the ground with each step, see everything there is to see around you, open your ears to all the sounds surrounding you, feel each inhale and exhale, and just generally be aware of what is happening in each moment.
This exercise helps you not only connect to your authentic self, but it also helps connect you to your environment and improves your awareness of the beauty that’s all around, just waiting to be found. Add these benefits to the known benefits of walking regularly—lowered stress, better heart health, and improved mood—and you have one handy exercise!
Conduct a Mindful Review of Your Day
It can be easy to get tired and worn out by the end of the day and let things slip. To help you keep that mindful tone at the end of the day, try this exercise.
Towards the end of your day, perhaps after you finish all of your “must-dos” for the day or right before heading off to bed, take a few minutes to do a review of your day (Scott, n.d.).
Think back to the start of the day and remember your mindfulness exercise that kicked it all off. Think about how it made you feel.
Think through the rest of your day, being sure to note any particularly mindful moments or memorable events. Take stock of your mood as you moved through your daily routine.
If you want to keep track of your progress towards greater mindfulness, it’s a great idea to write all of this down in a journal or a diary; however, the point is to give yourself yet another opportunity to be mindful and end your day on the right note.