Mindfulness Skills and Exercises

The past is history; the future a mystery; the present, a gift from god.
The past is history; the future a mystery; the present, a gift from god.

You can use mindfulness to reduce stress, boost your immune system, manage pain, and cope with painful life events and negative emotions.  You can use mindfulness to increase your self awareness.  The more aware you are of your thoughts, feelings and actions; the more effective you will be at the things that matter most to you. 

You can apply mindfulness skills to improving attention and concentration, enhancing creativity and increasing positive emotions.  You can practice mindfulness in order to enhance your performance on the job, in sports or in school.  You can use mindfulness exercises to boost your emotional intelligence, improve relationships and relationship skills, and even to reduce addictive and eating disordered behaviors.

Chances are, you are already using mindfulness to some extent.  You can use the skills and exercises below to help you use mindfulness more mindfully, or just to increase your awareness of how you are already using mindfulness!  If you are taking medications, seeing a therapist, keeping an exercise routine or maintaining a nutrition plan to help with stress, moods or pain, you can add mindfulness to your other efforts.  This will enhance the effects of your medications and other therapies.    

Regular practice of mindfulness can change the structure of your brain.  Your life experiences have influenced you in powerful ways, and have contributed to your current brain structure.  Past experiences influence the way you respond to life events today.  By practicing mindfulness you are learning to respond differently to life events.  By responding differently, you are able to influence the direction of your life and the quality of your life.  You are re-wiring your brain.  Instead of staying stuck in your brain’s old ruts, you are constructing more effective channels.  In time and with practice, these new more effective channels will begin to feel as “normal” and comfortable as the old ruts.

THE SKILLS

AWARENESS:  Pay attention to only one thing while recognizing other things that are going on in the background.  Use your five senses to notice background sights, sounds, smells, sensations, textures, colors and light.  Check in on internal background “noises” such as pain, discomfort, urges, thoughts, feelings, sensations, memories, dreams, judgments, self talk, warning signs, red flags, hunches, values and preferences.  Your subconscious mind uses these internal noises to communicate with your conscious mind.      

NON – JUDGMENTAL:  Learn to observe internal and external events without judging them, labeling them as “good” or “bad,” or trying to change them, get rid of them or do something about them.  Simply observe them, accept them and respond to them with compassion and understanding.  For example, “My stomach feels tight because I am upset with her.  It’s ok to feel upset and it’s understandable that I would be upset by her actions.”  You are observing your upset feelings without judging them in order to understand them. 

PRESENT MOMENT:  When you are fully present, in the present moment or having a present moment focus you are able to fully participate in the present – in what is happening here and now.  You are not distracted by guilt from your past or filled with anxiety and worry about the future.  You are here now.  You are doing things that are meaningful for you today.  You are not mindlessly doing what you have always done because you have always done it.  You are not mindlessly going through the motions of a ritualized activity.  You are paying attention to what you are experiencing in the present moment.

BEGINNER’S MIND:  A beginner’s mind is what a child has who experiences something for the first time.  Imagine you are a child, experiencing an activity for the first time.  You have never experienced this before and you don’t know what to expect.  You are excited and curious.  You want to explore.  Everything is new.  You accept the experience as it is without trying to change it or make it something else.  You have no past experience, so you don’t predict negative outcomes or try to avoid the activity.  

THE EXERCISES

BREATHING:  When you are breathing mindfully, you are focusing your attention on your breathing.  Notice how you are breathing.  Notice slower breathing and fuller breaths.  Notice your belly rise and fall as you breathe in and out.  When your mind drifts away from your breathing, and it will, simply notice what caught your attention and gently shift your attention back to your breathing.  

SOUNDS:  Being mindful of sounds means you are focusing your attention on sounds; soft sounds, loud sounds, nearby sounds, distant sounds.  Notice your response to sounds.  Notice if you are annoyed by a sound or judging a sound; then gently re-direct yourself to listening to sounds without judging.  When your attention drifts away to a thought, notice what thoughts you were distracted by, and gently return your attention to sounds.

MEDITATION:  The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to help you stay in the present by becoming more aware and accepting of the present.  The goal is to practice meditation for 20 minutes two times a day.  During meditation, keep your attention on the present, noticing internal and external activities; feelings, urges, sensations, cravings, triggers, sounds, smells, tastes, thoughts and beliefs. If your mind drifts during meditation to thoughts about the past or worries about the future, gently re-direct your attention to the present.  Mindfulness meditation is not intended for relaxation or for achieving higher levels of consciousness or bliss.  It is intended to help you stay in the present.  Some people are extremely anxious about their feelings and other people have difficulty sitting still for long periods of time.  If this is true for you, beginning with only 2-3 minutes at a time at first might be more realistic, with a plan to work toward 20 minutes twice a day over time.  Working on some of the other exercises first and adding meditation later is another option.        

EATING:  When eating mindfully, choose a place that is quiet and free of distractions.  Before beginning to eat, look at the food.  Notice what it looks like; its shape and size and color, and how it smells.  Notice any internal sensations; salivation, hunger, urges before you taste the food.  Now take a bite.  Notice the taste, texture, and sensations in your mouth.  Notice your chewing.  Notice urges to swallow.  Notice your swallowing.  Notice your stomach as you swallow.  Continue eating mindfully, noticing sensations in your stomach; feelings of hunger and fullness.  Decide when you are finished eating based on when you are no longer hungry.  Avoid eating while engaged in other activities, such as watching television, reading, or working.  Notice feelings and thoughts associated with eating and urges to eat between meals.

BEGINNER’S MIND:  Pick an object in the room that is familiar to you, and examine it with your beginner’s mind; that is, as if you have never seen the object before.  Notice the shape, weight, texture and color of the object.  Try to imagine what the object could be used for.  As you continue to examine the object, do you notice anything about it that you may not have noticed before?  When you put the object away, reflect on what you learned about the object that you didn’t already know.  Consider what would happen if you approached other areas of your life with a beginner’s mind; people, places, objects, situations.  How would these other areas of your life be the same or different if you approached them with beginner’s mind?  What expectations do you now have that you would not have if you saw them for the first time? 

THOUGHTS:  When you are mindful of thoughts, you are focusing your attention on your thoughts.  After getting comfortable and becoming mindful of breathing, allow yourself to become aware of whatever enters your mind.  You just observe the thoughts without judging them as they come and go in and out of your awareness, without trying to engage them, continue them, stop them or change them.  You just notice them.  If you do seem to get stuck on a thought or a thought keeps returning, notice it, and then gently re-direct yourself back to observing your thoughts.  It is normal to get caught up in thinking about thoughts.  When this happens, return to observing thoughts.   

EMOTIONS:  Begin by getting comfortable and becoming mindful of breathing.  Think of an event in the past in which you experienced a particular feeling that you want to get in touch with; happy, sad, glad, scared, upset, angry, proud, embarrassed, etc.  Remember the situation and imagine you are in the situation now.  What do you see, hear, taste, smell, and touch?  Notice what thoughts, feelings and sensations come up as you remember the situation.  Pay particular attention to your feelings.  Is there one feeling or more than one?  Notice any urges to hold onto or push away your feelings.  Respond to these urges with understanding.  Notice how your body responds to the feelings.  Is there tension anywhere?  Sweaty palms?  Racing heartbeat?  Urge to cry?  Urge to run or hide?  Urge to fix it or make it go away?  Simply be aware of your emotions without judging or trying to get rid of them.  Re-direct your attention to just observing your emotions.  Notice any changes in your emotions during this exercise.  Do they change or stay the same?  Get stronger or weaker?  Return to mindful breathing before ending this exercise, as it can be a difficult one.  This exercise can be done with moderate, less intense feelings at first. 

PHYSICAL SENSATIONS:  Physical sensations can be urges, pain, tension, hunger and racing heart.  Begin to focus on sensations involved in your body as your body contacts the surface you are sitting or laying on.  Notice the parts of your body that are not in contact with the surface.  Notice the sensation of air on skin or a sheet touching the skin.  Notice the air temperature.  Notice any body sensations: urges, cravings, hunger, pain, muscle tension, racing heart, stiffness, cramps, body temperature, etc.  Notice any thoughts or judgments you are making about your physical sensations; then gently re-direct your attention to your body sensations.  After 5-10 minutes, shift your attention back to the sensations you feel as your body contacts the surface of your chair or bed, then focus on breathing.

ALL ACTIVITIES:  We can apply mindfulness to any activity at any time during the day.  We can drive mindfully and do household chores mindfully; meaning we are keenly focused on what we are doing at the moment.  We can practice mindfulness in the shower, during a walk, in a park, at work, during exercise, in a store, in the Dr’s office, in the waiting room, while dressing, while playing or drawing, etc.  When we find feelings of guilt about the past or anxiety about the future creep in, or unwanted thoughts, memories or cravings, we gently re-direct our focus to the here and now.

CHANGING YOUR MIND

Mindfulness is not intended to be the cure all for everything that ails us.  Mindfulness is a useful tool that you can apply to any situation.  You can use it alone or along with other remedies.  You can use mindfulness to enhance your current effectiveness or as a way to put past pain behind you.  You no longer need to allow your past to control you, define you or determine your destiny.  Mindfulness helps you respond differently to life events.  By changing the way you respond to events, you are literally changing your mind and your own course for the future.  How powerful is that!

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Comments 40 comments

Tony DeLorger profile image

Tony DeLorger 5 years ago from Adelaide, South Australia

Excellent hub Kim. I've done several courses and these skills can be of benefit to everyone. thanks


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thank you Tony. I've seen a lot about mindfulness for specific people or populations, but really everyone can use them and benefit. That was really the purpose of this hub, and I'm thinking from your comment that that idea came through. Thanks very much for reading and commenting, Tony.


vrbmft profile image

vrbmft 5 years ago from Yucaipa, California

Clearly written and easy to follow for either the seasoned monk or the beginner!! I love this "stuff." I am grateful to see you writing about this and I know from previous blogs mindfulness is a part of your "practice." Who first coined the word? Focusing on the present, breathing, stopping my catastrophic meanderings, feeling my feelings has changed my life and probably saved my life. I know I am alive in the most profound sense of that word because of staying present.

On several different occasions, I have had the wild experience of pushing the pain to the background somewhere to the extent I lost awareness of it! Happened recently after surgery, the very first day when the pain, despite meds tended to come and go with some intensity. As long as I was focused on the loved ones around me and focusing on the conversation at hand, I did not feel the pain. It was pretty amazing. Well, to be honest, every time I complained about the pain, they shocked me with this little electrode..... Nah, just kidding!!

Anywho, THANKS for a great and informative and easy to follow hub.

Vern


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thanks Vern. I was beginning to worry about you. I hadn't heard from you since your surgery. The practice of mindfulness is rooted in Eastern religion, but I'm not sure who coined the name. I started hearing the name via trainings on DBT.

My girlfriend and I, when we were 18 or 19 took a class in Transcendental Meditation, which is not the same, but that may be what caught my interest. I've been meditating since then, and I do use meditation to manage pain and anxiety, and to tolerate discomfort. I had 2 natural childbirths! That's how into it I was! I thought of it as a challenge.

I've always been big on acknowledging and validating pain as a way to take away the sting! When the kids were younger, they would run in with a boo boo. I'd say something about how much it must hurt. They would acknowledge that it hurt and run back outside to play. Most of the reaction people have to pain is fear - fear of more pain, fear that the pain will last forever, and of course, fear that they will die;

"Anywho!" Thanks for stopping in and I'm really glad to hear from you. I hope you are well.


vrbmft profile image

vrbmft 5 years ago from Yucaipa, California

I am well. And thanks for that insight into pain. I am going to copy that. I have always tried to make more sense of my fear of pain and you just cleared it up for me. The first nine months of my life were lived in pain. I do not know how constant it was, but I am told I cried and banged my head a lot to the point the stupid doctor told my Dad I was retarded and needed to be institutionalized. When that idiot went on vacation, the woman doctor who took his place discovered the source of the pain immediately, a fissure in the rectum. So needless to say, I still has remnants of those neuropathways and have had two very unpleasant experiences with anasthetic not working and one experience when I was sixteen when the doctor did not give me any and proceeded to cut out an ingrown toenail. Do I have any fear of pain? Of course!! I can laugh about it sometimes. Other times I have homocidal thots!!! Don't report me!! Anywho it is good to be back and commenting. I have a hub to post soon, a funny one, more on the sock revolution.

Take care

Vern


ocbill profile image

ocbill 5 years ago from hopefully somewhere peaceful and nice

I felt pretty good when I used to meditate. It definitely helps and I need to allot some time towards that. Thanks


Sister Mary profile image

Sister Mary 5 years ago from Isle of Man

This is a very well written hub explaining mindfulness techniques in a way that anyone can follow. Mindfulness has been around for a very long time under different names and it is good to see the practice getting out of our heads and reconnecting with ourselves once again being promoted in the world. I myself am a clinical hypnotherapist in private practice in the UK and have been using these techniques for decades with myself and with my clients. People get hung up on labels and hypnosis is a prime example. Very few people realise that hypnosis is a feeling you experience when you suspend the critical factor in order to investigate beliefs that lie outside your belief system. In fact hypnosis is a very effective tool to aid mindfulness because of the increased self awareness once the ego has been suspended.You yourself would have used hypnosis in natural childbirth though you may not call it that.Words get in our way and that is why I a great man once said become a child if you want to enter the kingdom of heaven. I believe He was telling us to be as mindful as children if we want to achieve peace and happiness. I am voting this hub up and awesome and I am looking forward to reading more of your hubs.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Wow! So many really good comments!

@vern - how extremely traumatic!!! OMG vern! Children especially think pain will last forever....and that it's their fault. not that you were old enough to think that at the time. good grief. GBU.

@ocbill - You're welcome.... and thanks for stopping to read and comment. let me know when you're back in a meditation routine.

@Sister Mary - thanks so much for your praises. I'm blushing! and thanks for adding the hypnosis piece. I have a pet peeve about that. I am good about suspending judgment and listening to others' points of view, and need to remind myself to be more critical and judgmental at times. My pet peeve is with people who "trap" too fast. They come to a quick, rigid conclusion and no amount of evidence will convince them to reconsider! I fear them like a punishing god and stay as far away as possible! Anyway. I appreciate your comments Sister Mary. Thanks.


wearing well profile image

wearing well 5 years ago from Lancashire U.K.

Excellent advice Kimh039 :)

I too experienced 3 natural births and I remember saying to myself at the time of intense labour contractions "This pain won't last long!"Fortunately for me,quick deliveries too :)

Mind over matter is powerful and especially breathing techniques too !Thanks and I voted Mindfulness Skills and Exercises hub up and useful.


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, this is fascinating, I am going to bookmark it and study it some more, I feel that it will be really helpful, thanks for the great info, nell


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

@ wearing well. I remember thinking it felt like I was running a marathon I wasn't prepared for! Yeah, quick deliveries helped! Thanks for taking time to read and comment wearing well. I really appreciate it:)


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Nell - I think I would be inclined to do one exercise at a time until it became very familiar, then another and another; for shorter periods of time at first. I used to fall asleep if I meditated laying down, although I do use meditation regularly to help me fall asleep, but it doesn't count:) Good to see you Nell. And my deepest sympathy re your recent loss of your friend.


Tusitala Tom profile image

Tusitala Tom 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Hi, Kimh039. Thanks for commenting on my hub. You deserve all those good comments for 'Mindfulness Skills & Exercises.' You could write a book on this.

If is a life-long practice, of course. Bringing one's mind under the control of one's will is the challenge. But there's so much good advice around nowadays. for example, I've just finished reading Louise L Hay's 'You Can Heal Your Life' for the Third Time.' And then there's Joseph Murphy's 'The Power of Your Subconscious Mind'; read that through around six times now.

For me, I've been into Vipassana Meditation twice daily for 25 years. Mindfulness does change our lives, but we have to work at it.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thanks T. Tom. I've never heard of Vipassana meditation. I'll have to google that one! I read the Power of Your Subconscious Mind, but haven't heard of You Can Heal Your LIfe. So much to read, so little time! Thanks for commenting Tom. I appreciate it.


gajanis786 profile image

gajanis786 5 years ago

Very informative hub......indeed by using brain power one can achieve unlimited targets in life.....but at the same time to overcome your brain and master mind power takes a long dedicated and calculated time of your life.....but nothing is impossible and your points above are good tips to achieve it.Thanks.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

thanks gajanis. Good points. Benefits can be realized fairly quickly. Ongoing benefits and continued growth occurs over time and with consistent practice. The tendency is to slip back into the old ruts, until new pathways are made and used long enough to replace the old ruts. We can unlearn old behaviors and relearn new ones - unlike "old dogs" who can't learn new tricks. Thanks for reading and commenting gajanis.


Happyboomernurse profile image

Happyboomernurse 5 years ago from South Carolina

Excellent, comprehensive hub about mindfulness. My favorite time to be mindful is during my daily walks, but you've given many suggestions for incorporating mindful activities throughout the whole day.

I also liked the way you explained how regularly practicing mindfulness can actually change the structure of our brain helping us move beyond our brain's old ruts and create new, healthier pathways.

Thanks for sharing this useful article.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

thanks happyboomernurese. I'm amazed about how much more mindful I am of mindfulness since writing this hub and reading all the comments! Seriously, I am thinking about mindfulness and practicing mindfulness more. Thanks for reading and commenting:)... i have some reading and commenting to catch up on myself!


LadyWriter profile image

LadyWriter 5 years ago from UK

A lovely hub - I think even the word "mindfulness" is calming and concentrating on one thing at a time certainly reduces stress.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

You could use "mindfulness" as a mantra, I suppose. "Mind" sounds like a mantra. I agree about doing one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is way over rated. Of course, in mindfulness, you're paying attention to one thing while recognizing things in the background. Thanks for stopping to read and comment LadyWriter:)


billyaustindillon profile image

billyaustindillon 5 years ago

Thanks for the mindfulness exercises Kim - great exercises if you do them - just reading a book about a fighter that went to Thailand to study mindfulness mediation with the monks.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

interesting billy. let me know how it ends!:) good to see you. thanks for reading and commenting!


Germaine Reilly 5 years ago

I've found practising mindfulnes helps me rein in my tendency to drift mentally, esp when doing chores or getting from A to B. I'm book marking this to revisit, thanks for a v useful overview!


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

That makes a lot of sense, Germaine. Thanks for your input. I'm glad you found it useful ... and that you took the time to say so!


Storytellersrus profile image

Storytellersrus 5 years ago from Stepping past clutter

Ok, I am bookmarking this. I am tired at the end of this day, but I can see I will want to come back and try some of your exercises. I practice mindfulness with my kundalini yoga exercises and I am always the better for it! Thanks.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Mindful Yoga! I hope you got some well deserved rest, story. Your recent poem probably wore you out! You could be asleep for days! Thanks for stopping to make one last comment:)


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 5 years ago

Great hub and worthwhile read. Being mindful and aware can get us further than we realize. There is a lot to what you say here. Thanks for creating this inspiring informational article. Rated up and awesome.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Thanks for your encouraging comments toknowinfo, and for taking the time to read, rate and comment. I appreciate it:) I hope all is well with you.


Beverly Stevens profile image

Beverly Stevens 5 years ago from College Station

Nice hub--thanks for sharing these exercises with us.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

Well thank you Beverly:) I've been really practicing eating mindfully this past month, and finally interrupted those sugar cravings!


Neil Sperling profile image

Neil Sperling 5 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

great tips - Learn to observe internal and external events without judging them - way to ,much judging going on in our minds (thus to much in whole world) Awareness and being in the moment -- your hubs echo some of mine!

Great stuff - thanks - rated up and useful!


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

I see from the titles that our hubs echo some similar themes, and I look forward to getting to them soon, Neil. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I agree; a little less judging and a little more accepting.


Neil Sperling profile image

Neil Sperling 5 years ago from Port Dover Ontario Canada

:-) - and I look forward to your comments in my hubs too!


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

@Neil :)


hailei profile image

hailei 5 years ago from Romania

VERY interesting, I have to study this hub more :) I always find it fascinating how we can play with our minds and get them to grow to superior levels... Or are they playing with us? :))

Thank you for the valuable info.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 5 years ago Author

My pleasure hailei. Thank you for reading and commenting. I think being equipped with as many skills as possible helps in ways we're not even aware of:)


MidfulMo profile image

MidfulMo 3 years ago from Carlisle, Cumbria, UK

There's a lot of good sense in your writing. We tried to get this kind of thinking going with the children we taught in schools at various times and although we didn't understand the concept quite as clearly as you explain it here, there were several children who used some of the techniques you describe in a programme called "You Can Do It" which really aimed at children learning to become aware of their emotions and attitudes. Thanks for this.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 3 years ago Author

Thank you MidfulMo. I appreciate your feedback. "You Can Do It" sounds like an interesting program for children....and probably adults too with some adaptations.


Parimalpolymath profile image

Parimalpolymath 12 months ago from India

You have covered all forms of mindfulness in this article. Great Job!

I daily do mindfulness for 10 minutes. I too have written a small article about it.


kimh039 profile image

kimh039 12 months ago Author

Thanks Parimalpolymath. I saw your hub on mindfulness and enjoyed reading the scientific perspective you offered as well as the distinction you made in your comment section between pain and suffering.

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