9 Mindfulness Exercises to Ease Everyday Stress
It’s one of those days where nothing is going the way you expected. You forgot your phone charger at work, slept through your alarm, and missed your bus. As frustrating as it is — and as much as it may seem like you’re doomed to have a bad day — there are some simple things you can do to shift your mindset and turn things around. Incorporating mindfulness exercises into your daily routines can help restore a sense of calm when you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Mindfulness involves “staying present in the now moment and letting your thoughts and feelings come and go without judgment,” says Andrea Donnelly, spiritual mentor, quantum sound and energy healer, and CEO of We Are Here 2 Remember. This increased awareness allows you to be more receptive to guidance from the universe, she adds. Here are nine simple ways to practice mindfulness at home throughout the day.
Set an intention and check in during the day.
When you’re feeling anxious, it’s only natural to avoid what’s causing you stress. Mindfulness encourages you to approach anxiety with acceptance and self-compassion. You can start by “setting an intention that you will be fully present, open to divine wisdom, and anchored into the now moment,” Donnelly says.
For example, you can say to yourself: “Today, I will be patient.” Having a specific intention helps you face each task or challenge with “a new level of insight and awareness,” she adds. You can check in with yourself throughout the day to see if your actions are aligned with this intention.
Turn chores into an opportunity to be mindful.
If you’re washing dishes, for instance, try noticing the temperature of the water, the colors of the bubbles, and the smell of soap. Your thoughts might drift to the presentation you have to give at work, or it might suddenly occur to you that you forgot to call your mom.
Notice these thoughts popping up. Then gently shift your attention to the dishes and how the water feels as it glides over your fingertips. If dishes don’t appeal to you, that’s OK. “Maybe you can find a similar groove by cleaning your closet, organizing your cupboard, or sweeping the floor,” she adds.
Try a few minutes of quiet meditation.
Doing a meditation exercise can seem daunting even for someone like Donnelly who’s been practicing this technique for almost 30 years. Her advice is to start small by carving out a “few minutes a day to be quiet, recharge, and anchor into the now moment.”
Find a quiet and comfortable place to sit. Consider setting a timer if it helps. Close your eyes or look downward. Notice your breath and how your body feels. If your mind begins to wander, acknowledge your thoughts and turn your attention back to your breathing.
You might find it hard to stay present at first, but “the more you practice, the richer your life becomes,” Donnelly says. The benefits of meditation include greater patience, laughter, and willingness to let things go.
Take meditation outdoors.
If you struggle with being still and present, you can take this mindfulness exercise outdoors with a walking meditation. “Witness the light, trees, land beneath your feet, song of the birds, and direction of the wind,” Donnelly says. It may help to take your shoes off and feel the earth with your bare feet.
She suggests 20 minutes to get the full benefits of walking meditation, which can include reducing anxiety and stress hormones, alleviating depression, and increasing vitamin D. Walking can also improve sleep and concentration, so you’re better equipped to handle a busy morning commute or unexpected changes to your schedule.
Remember what makes you feel grateful.
Gratitude is a powerful complement to mindfulness. “If you find your thoughts darting forwards or backwards with worry, start thinking about all the blessings in your life,” Donnelly says. “This helps soften your heart and bring you to the present moment.”
You can write what you’re grateful for in a journal or the notes app on your phone. Continue adding to the list when you wake up or before you go to sleep.
Engage in mindful eating.
From the time spent preparing a meal to sitting down to eat, mindful eating encourages you to slow down and notice the smell and texture of the food. If you’re chopping vegetables, focus on the motion of slicing. Keep your phone on silent and tune out other distractions. Chew your food slowly and savor the taste of each bite.
Interact with nature.
When you’re surrounded by high-rise buildings and traffic lights, it’s easy to feel like nature is beyond your grasp. One way to practice mindfulness is by making a flower arrangement or tending to a garden. You don’t need a backyard. Just having a plant or two on your windowsill reminds you of the simple things it takes to nourish yourself, like water, food, and sunlight.
Nature also includes your furry companions. Spend a few minutes petting your cat or a neighbor’s dog. If you have allergies, wearing a soft sweater or wrapping yourself in a cozy blanket can have a soothing effect similar to taking deep breaths.
Pair music with movement.
Turn on your favorite playlist. Pay attention to the music as you breathe in and out. Notice if there’s any pain or tension as you scan your body from the top of your head down to your toes.
Allow yourself to move with the music. Mindful movement, with or without music, is something you can do with pets or people at home. The point is to engage in free-flowing gestures without worrying about what you look like.
Create some artwork.
If you’ve ever doodled in math class, you’re already a pro at mindfulness. Spending time coloring or crafting can help you break free of limiting thoughts and tune into your body.
As Donnelly says, “The home is rich with opportunities to practice mindfulness.” Increasing self-awareness can help you find clarity and allow you to be more present and engaged in your daily life.