In a relationship series that I’ve been teaching, we’ve been using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) as a primary approach for developing a clear relationship with self. The goal of ACT is is to create a rich and meaningful life, while accepting the pain that inevitably accompanies it.
ACT asserts that it is only through “mindful action” that we can create a meaningful life. I’ve pulled together some core mindfulness exercises that will help cut through the noise that life creates to help you become more mindful about yourself during daily activities. Take a look and tell me what you think in our comments section.
With gratitude, Dr. S.O.S.
This is an enjoyable and simple exercise you can do it while taking a shower. * Here’s what you do:
Take a shower. While you are in the shower, feel the water as it bathes you skin. The idea is to use the sensation of the water to get in touch with your body and begin to enjoy it.
Start with your head. Allow the shower water to bathe your head, and notice the sensations.
Notice the temperature of the water, the vibrating quality, and the wetness, as it gently massages your scalp. Let those sensations ripple through your skull and head. Then turn and close your eyes and let the water caress your face, allowing the richness of feeling to wash over you.
Next, move to your shoulders. Let the water pulse onto your shoulders, noticing and absorbing all the sensations. Let yourself enjoy the water, and you can even give a loud sigh of relief and pleasure.
Continue the exercise, progressing through your chest, back, arms, pelvis, legs, and feet. Allow time for a relaxing, soothing experience.
The point is simple: To feel your body. Do this whenever you feel like it, and get yourself into the habit of feeling and being present in your body.
*adapted from Peter Levine’s Waking the Tiger, pg. 63
One Minute of Mindfulness
This is an easy mindfulness exercise, and one that you can do anytime throughout the day. Take a moment right now to try this. Check your watch and note the time. For the next 60 seconds your task is to focus all your attention on your breathing. It’s just for one minute, but it can seem like an eternity. Leave your eyes open and breathe normally. Be ready to catch your mind from wandering off (because it will) and return your attention to your breath whenever it does so.
This mindfulness exercise is far more powerful than most people give it credit for. It takes some people many years of practice before they are able to complete a single minute of alert, clear attention.
Keep in mind that this mindfulness exercise is not a contest or a personal challenge. You can’t fail at this exercise, you can only experience it.
Use this exercise many times throughout the day to restore your mind to the present moment and to restore your mind to clarity and peace.
Over time, you can gradually extend the duration of this exercise into longer and longer periods. This exercise is actually the foundation of a correct mindfulness meditation technique.
Pick up an object that you have lying around. Any mundane everyday object will do…a coffee cup or a pen for example. Hold it in your hands and allow your attention to be fully absorbed by the object. Observe it. Don’t assess it or think about it, or study it intellectually. Just observe it for what it is. You’ll feel a sense of heightened “nowness” during this exercise. Conscious observation can really give you a feeling of “being awake”.
Notice how your mind quickly releases thoughts of past or future, and how different it feels to be in the moment. Conscious observation is a form of meditation. It’s subtle, but powerful. Try it…by practicing mindfulness in this way you’ll really start to sense what mindfulness is all about.
You can also practice conscious observation with your ears rather than your eyes. Many people find that mindful listening is a more powerful mindfulness technique than visual observation.
A Mindfulness Eating Exercise: Simple Instructions
If you’ve heard about mindful eating but aren’t sure where or how to start, here are instructions for a brief mindfulness eating exercise.
The following exercise is simple and will only take a few minutes.
Find a small piece of food, such as one raisin or nut, or a small cookie. You can use any food that you like. Eating with mindfulness is not about deprivation or rules.
Begin by exploring this little piece of food, using as many of your senses as possible.
First, look at the food. Notice its texture. Notice its color.
Now, close your eyes, and explore the food with your sense of touch. What does this food feel like? Is it hard or soft? Grainy or sticky? Moist or dry?
Notice that you’re not being asked to think, but just to notice different aspects of your experience, using one sense at a time. This is what it means to eat mindfully.
Before you eat, explore this food with your sense of smell. What do you notice?
Now, begin eating. No matter how small the bite of food you have, take at least two bites to finish it.
Take your first bite. Please chew very slowly, noticing the actual sensory experience of chewing and tasting. Remember, you don’t need to think about your food to experience it. You might want to close your eyes for a moment to focus on the sensations of chewing and tasting, before continuing.
Notice the texture of the food; the way it feels in your mouth.
Notice if the intensity of its flavor changes, moment to moment.
Take about 20 more seconds to very slowly finish this first bite of food, being aware of the simple sensations of chewing and tasting.
It isn’t always necessary to eat slowly in order to eat with mindfulness. But it’s helpful at first to slow down, in order to be as mindful as you can.
Now, please take your second and last bite.
As before, chew very slowly, while paying close attention to the actual sensory experience of eating: the sensations and movements of chewing, the flavor of the food as it changes, and the sensations of swallowing.
Just pay attention, moment by moment.
Exercises borrowed from the following sites: