Mindfulness Exercises for Mental Health

Mindfulness Exercises for Mental Health

Spread the love:

This article discusses various effective mindfulness exercises for mental health with a step-by-step easy to follow guide.

Mindfulness is a way to have a more helpful relationship with this thinking, to recognize when your thoughts are being unhelpfully dragged back to the past or catapulted into the future. Mindfulness is about knowing where you are (being in the moment) but also having an awareness of – but not getting stuck in – where you have been (reflection) and where you are going (anticipating).

But how can mindfulness be helpful in your everyday life – as you go to and from work, in your job, with your family and friends, with cooking and eating, and even sleeping?

Many of us work in a fast-paced, stressful world, dealing with a flood of information including email, meetings, text messages, phone calls, interruptions, and distractions at work. Family life can also be fast-paced and stressful – managing a job, a home, and the variety of demands as you try to meet everyone’s needs and your commitments. Thinking about what needs doing and what you didn’t do, getting frustrated, stressed, and anxious.

Unfortunately, a good part of our time passes that way for most of us. We’re in one place doing one thing but thinking of things we aren’t doing and places we aren’t at.

It’s easy to stop noticing what’s going on within you and around you – your surroundings and other people – and to end up living in your head, caught up in your thoughts without being aware of how those thoughts are controlling what you feel and do. It’s easy to waste ‘now’ time, missing what is happening in the only moment that exists.

Mindfulness enables you to experience and appreciates your life instead of rushing through it, constantly trying to be somewhere else. Mindfulness is not another set of instructions. Mindfulness is simply a shift in your awareness of your life – your routines and habits, work, and relationships.

It isn’t necessary to be mindful in all your waking hours, but unless you make a concerted effort to be mindful daily it’s easy to get distracted by myriad things that divert your attention through the day.

Occasional attempts at ‘being in the moment or to ‘notice the little things more’ and ‘live in the now’ are well-meaning, but distractions and preoccupations take over, and resolutions to be more mindful fall by the wayside.

What to do? You need to make mindfulness a habit with the help of mindfulness exercises, something that you do regularly until it becomes your normal practice.

Your mind can do this with continuous practice, and you can start your mindfulness practice with the help of the below-mentioned mindfulness exercises.

Establishing new ways of thinking and doing is not difficult, provided the new ways are constantly repeated. How come? When you think or do something in a new way, you create new connections, or neural pathways, in your brain. Then, every time you repeat that thought or action, every time you continue using these new pathways, they become stronger and more established.

It’s like walking through a field of long grass, each step helps to create a new path, and every time you walk that new path you establish a clear route that becomes easier to use each time. It becomes a habit to use that route.

Since your distracted and preoccupied mind isn’t going to remind you to be mindful, you need something else to remind you.

Related: Mindfulness Exercise: The Concept and The Practice

Mindfulness Exercises for Mental Health

Mindfulness Exercises #1: Managing Moments of Loneliness

‘Only the lonely know how I feel tonight.’ – Roy Orbison

Loneliness is not the same as being alone. To be alone simply means to be physically separate from others. But loneliness is an emotional state. It’s a feeling of isolation or separation.

Loneliness is something that most of us experience from time to time. You may experience loneliness as a vague feeling that something is not right, a kind of emptiness. Or you may feel loneliness as deprivation and pain.

There are all sorts of reasons why you may feel lonely and cut off from others. Divorce, bereavement, mental or physical health problems, disability, discrimination, unemployment, and being a carer are all common causes of loneliness. And although moving to a new area, starting a new job, or having a baby can be exciting and positive, people often find that new experiences can leave them feeling lonely.

You may have lots of social contacts or be in a relationship or part of a family and still feel lonely.

Whatever the circumstances, the common experience is a feeling of being disconnected. You feel sad, alone, and that either no one understands or that they misunderstand. Typically, when you’re lonely, your mind shifts to ruminative cycles of the past and future that lend themselves to disconnection, leading to more loneliness.

But it is possible to manage loneliness. Mindfulness can help you to see that a sense of connection is always available to you, whatever your circumstances.

Mindfulness Exercises #1 Steps:

‘I wandered lonely as a cloud / That floats on high o’er vales and hills’ – William Wordsworth

Take up a hobby. Social contact and friendships are not the only way to feel connected. Activities like gardening, reading, drawing, yoga, swimming, and cycling can help you feel engaged and connected. If you have a hobby or passion that you can lose yourself in, you will even find yourself searching out moments to be by yourself to write, read, paint, bake, garden, cycle, etc.

These activities leave no room for undesirable thoughts. As you focus on what’s happening and what you’re doing, the merging of activity and thoughts keeps you fully absorbed at the moment.

Make the most of opportunities for social contact. Find others like you. Find out where the other knitters, singers, hikers, or kite-boarders are.

Get support. Whatever the reason for your situation, you can find a group that provides information, support, and opportunities to share experiences with other people in a similar situation.

Contribute. If you’re feeling lonely, reach out. If you can help other people, in the process you help yourself. Even helping just one person is a start. It will take the focus away from you. Volunteer for a cause. It will help you in meeting people who feel strongly about something and with whom you can make a genuine connection.

Think about getting a pet. Consider adopting a dog or cat from your local animal shelter. The trust and affection of an animal can create a connection between you. As someone once said, ‘Cats and dogs are very good at something that humans aren’t: living in the present.’

Mindfulness Exercises #2: Performing Spontaneous Acts of Kindness

‘Ask yourself: Have you been kind today? Make kindness your daily modus operandi and change your world.’ – Annie Lennox

Kindness is related to compassion. With compassion, the focus is on the alleviation of suffering. Kindness, on the other hand, is simply concerned with people being considerate and showing goodwill towards others. Acts of kindness are selfless acts that either assist or lift the spirits of someone else. There need be no reason to be kind other than to make people smile or be happier.

Kindness is mindful. It takes you out of yourself. You have to be aware, to actively look for opportunities in the present moment to be kind. Kind gestures free you from focusing on yourself and enable you to reach out to someone else.

You may feel you have little to offer, but whether it is a smile, a cup of tea, an invitation to dinner, or an offer to help carry something, it is the act of giving itself that is important. As Gandhi said, ‘Almost anything we do will seem insignificant, but we must do it.’

Of course, some people are easy to be kind to. If they show gratitude or if they have been kind to you first, it’s easier to be kind back.

It’s not, though, easy to be kind when you’re wound up or stressed. It’s not easy to be kind to rude people. But keep in mind that although they may not be nice, you are. And if you can show kindness it can make you both feel better.

Mindfulness Exercises #2 Steps:

‘Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone may do the same for you.’ – Diana, Princess of Wales

Start your day by sending an email specifically designed to help someone else. Make introductions, send some encouragement or offer a helpful resource or link.

Reach out to someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Today, take a few minutes to reconnect with someone. Write them a card, email, or text to let them know you were thinking about them.

Smile at people. Smile at people you pass in the street, in a queue, to the person who serves you in a shop or café.

Tip big. Give a tip that makes the waiter’s day.

Be polite on the road. Be kind to other drivers. In a queue, when a driver tries to merge into your lane, let them in with a smile.

Treat someone to cake. It could be your colleagues, neighbor’s family, or friends. Whoever you choose, surprise them by bringing in a homemade or shop-bought cake. In the summer, bring in some fresh fruit – strawberries or melon.

Save a life. Donate blood. Donated blood is a lifeline for many people needing long-term treatments, not just in emergencies. Your blood’s main components – red cells, plasma, and platelets – are vital for many different uses.

Speak kindly. Practice speaking kindly. And every time you do have a negative thought, counter it aloud with a positive one.

Mindfulness Exercises #3: Focusing and Engaging Your Attention

‘If you don’t know where you are going, you will probably end up somewhere else.’ – Laurence J. Peter

Mindfulness requires focus: a clear and defined point of attention. It means managing your attention so that it is focused and occupied with immediate experience.

Often, the advice is to quiet your mind for ten minutes and focus on a breathing meditation to help you find inner peace, calm, and balance.

But it’s not easy to simply sit and meditate – to quiet your mind and focus on your breathing – without your mind wandering.

There is, though, a way to keep effortlessly focused for relatively long periods, to be ‘in the zone. It’s known as ‘flow’.

‘Flow’ refers to time spent doing something that keeps you focused and engaged.

If you have ever started a job or activity and become so absorbed in what you were doing that time passed without you noticing, you were in a flow state of mind. You thought of nothing else as you concentrated and focused, your awareness merged with the activity, and you were ‘living in the moment.

With flow activities, your mind is fully occupied with one activity. It’s unlikely your mind will wander, as it is immersed in a feeling of positive focus and enjoyment in the process of the activity. Thoughts and emotions are not just contained and channeled: they are positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand.

The level of engagement absorbs you so deeply, keeping attention so focused, that nothing can distract you. It’s as though a water current is effortlessly carrying you along.

Mindfulness Exercises #3 Steps:

‘Life is short. Focus on what matters and let go of what doesn’t.’ – Unknown

Identify the things you enjoy doing: hobbies, sports, interests. They are activities where you can experience flow. If you can’t think of anything that you currently do, start something new. Here’re some ideas to get you started:

Play a sport. Badminton, squash, tennis or table tennis, rugby or football, bowling or billiards. Whatever it is, everything in sport happens at the moment. Yoga, boxing and judo, darts and archery, rock climbing, canoeing, and swimming are just a few examples of flow activities. Focusing on each movement forces your mind to live in that single moment with your body.

Sing and dance to music. Join a dance class, be it ballet, ballroom, hip hop, or tap.

Join a choir. Sing and dance along to your favorite tunes in the kitchen. You’ll become immersed in the music and be in the moment.

Take up a hobby. Gardening, cooking, painting, drawing, calligraphy, crochet, woodcarving, model building, juggling, whatever it is, for many people a creative activity is a place to dwell happily in the present moment.

Start playing an instrument. Piano, guitar, drums, flute, or harmonica, whatever it is, for many people, playing an instrument is a mindful meditation in itself.

Play games and puzzles. Whether they’re card or board games, computer games, jigsaws, crosswords, or Sudoku, all require a level of concentration and provide a challenge that will have you absorbed.

Read a book or watch a film. It could be a gripping thriller, science fiction, or clever comedy. Whatever the genre, a good book or film can capture your attention completely.

Mindfulness Exercises #4: Managing Change

‘Change is inevitable – except a vending machine.’ – Robert C. Gallagher

We may not know how or when change is going to show up in our lives, but one thing is for sure: it will show up. And it’s not always welcome. Whether it’s redundancy, your children growing up and leaving home, your favorite restaurant changing the menu, or your town center streets being turned into a one-way system, changes are never far from your door.

Too often, we resist strange new situations and circumstances. We fight to hold onto people, places, and things. We struggle to let go.

But when you resist change, you are simply clinging to the past and fearful of the future.

Of course, not all change is unwelcome – when you get the job, buy the house you want, travel somewhere new and interesting. It’s at times like this you notice what you have to gain from change.

The question is, ‘How can you manage change when it’s unwelcome and – as far as you can see – uncalled for?’

Mindfulness can help by helping you to let go and accept the new situation, to keep an open mind, and accept it will take time to adjust. Mindfulness can help you to see that everything comes to pass. Nothing comes to stay.

Also Read: Love Your Ordinariness

Mindfulness Exercises #4 Steps:

‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.’ – Reinhold Niebuhr

Embrace change by seeking change. By changing even small routines, you can train your mind to accommodate changes. Changing things, you can change the way you think.

Move the clock or bin to a different place in the room. Or move the teabags, jam, or cereal to a different cupboard in the kitchen. See how often you automatically look for these items in the place they used to be. Confusing? Frustrating? Yes. But you can adjust. After only a couple of weeks, you will have adjusted to the changes.

Then try these:

  • Cook a new recipe.
  • Listen to new music or a different radio station.
  • Walk or drive a new route to work.
  • Change how you travel – walk instead of cycle. Cycle instead of drive. Or get public transport. Take the stairs instead of the lift.
  • Try new activities and experiences that encourage your mind to be open to new possibilities.

Accept change. When change is foisted upon you, recognize and accept that you cannot control what has already happened. But you can see change as an opportunity. Find the benefit of the change. There’s always a benefit and an opportunity.

Be patient. Wherever you are within a process of change, allow yourself time to adjust. What could be more futile than resisting what already is? Once you accept a change, rather than react to it – take impulsive, opposing action – you can respond to it – act thoughtfully and favorably.

Mindfulness Exercises #5: Knowing when to Start Over

‘Everybody’s got a past. The past doesn’t equal the future unless you live there.’ – Tony Robbins

When it comes to leaving a miserable job, calling time on an unhappy relationship, or ditching joyless exercise classes, too often many of us simply decide to stay the course.

Why can’t you let go and move on? Perhaps you can’t see an alternative. Often, it’s difficult to walk away if you can’t see another path to take, especially if walking away could mean quite a big change in your life.

Maybe you feel you’ve made a commitment and, so should stick with it and put up with the difficulties. Perhaps you don’t want to admit that you were wrong to have put up with a bad situation for so long. Anyway, you’re so used to it, you may as well carry on.

You’re probably thinking about the sunk costs: the time, effort, love, or money you have already put in and can never get back.

But sunk costs can fool you into sticking with something. You continue to put more time, effort, or money into someone or something even though it’s not doing you any good.

Of course, you don’t want to give up too easily on your commitments, but refusing to let go of something that’s making you miserable means you are allowing your past to dictate your present.

Don’t keep making the same mistake. Know that strength shows in your ability not only to persist but also to start over, to let go of the past, and begin again in the present.

Mindfulness Exercises #5 Steps:

‘No matter how filled up your canvas of life seems to be, in reality, it’s always blank, every moment is a blank page. It seems convoluted with words, texts and storyline, but in reality, it’s a blank page.’ – Bentinho Massaro

Let go. Realize that at the time, based on what you knew and how you felt, you did make the right choice. At the time, your decision was the right one. Now though, the situation isn’t right for you.

Feel better about your mistake. Find something positive about the situation. However, bad the situation, you can always draw something good out.

Start again. Beginner’s mind encourages you to respond to things as they are right now. Think about what you have to gain from the moment you let go, rather than what you have to lose by pulling out. All that matters are which option will be the best from this moment on.

Identify what you’ve learned from the experience and what you will do differently now. Think about what you’ve learned about yourself as a result of this experience. Keep an open mind on how to apply your experience to your current situation.

Be patient. Know that if you pull out of the relationship, the job, or university course now, although it will take time to adjust, you will have less anxiety and stress and more control over your life.

If you can’t see an alternative way forward, talk to friends, family, and colleagues and ask for their ideas. Seek professional advice if you need information from an expert.

If your commitment was to someone else, let them down gently and, if it helps, suggest a way that you could make up for it.

Also Read: 100 Mindfulness Quotes to Live in The Present Moment

Spread the love:

3 thoughts on “Mindfulness Exercises for Mental Health”

  1. Pingback: How meditation can strengthen all romantic relationships? - BEaYOUtilicious

  2. Pingback: Quotations for Your Daily Dose of Inspiration - BEaYOUtilicious

  3. Pingback: Mindfulness Exercises to Improve Your Mental Health - BEaYOUtilicious

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *