What is Mindfulness? 5 Easy Mindful Exercises

Mindfulness exercises that will lead you to a calmer, happier life.

Woman floating to practice mindfulness

What's a Mindfulness Exercise?

We hear a lot about mindfulness exercises these days. The importance, the benefits, the need to be mindful.

But what does it mean, exactly?

Well, mindfulness is the ability to be present and aware. So, a mindfulness exercise is any chance to intentionally practice being present and aware.

If this seems simple, it's because it is.

We all have the ability to be aware of where we are and what we're doing at any time. But it's also getting harder and harder to remain present and aware in a world of increasing distractions and decreasing attention spans.

5 Exercises in Mindfulness

When talking about mindfulness exercises, a lot of people think of meditation. In fact, a lot of people think that meditation and mindfulness are the same thing. But they're not!

Meditation is one type of mindfulness exercise. But mindfulness and meditation are two different things. Meditation is a way to be mindful. But there are many, easy mindfulness exercises beyond it!

And there are many that are more interactive, take less time to master, and can be easily integrated into your existing daily routine.

So, here are just a few ideas...

1. Journaling

When some people hear about journaling, they think of "Dear Diary" entries from when they were a kid.

But it's a lot more than that.

Journaling's a chance to check in with yourself, focus on what you're thinking, feeling, and writing about. Plus, in the process, you may just get to know yourself and what you think a little bit better.

Start journaling by checking in with yourself just once a day

And you can pick when you want to journal:
  • Set intentions for your day when you wake up
  • Wind down before going to sleep
  • Refocus your mind during an afternoon energy slump

And because journaling is an active, interactive exercise, it's easy to stay engaged in the mindfulness exercise, without even having to worry about disciplining a wandering mind.

The more regularly you do it, the more you'll feel the benefits. So, if you want to give it a try, keep a notebook by your bed to check in once a day. Or, if you want a little more guidance, check out a guided journaling app, that will help guide your practice along the way.

5 easy ideas to start journaling →

2. Deep breathing

Breathing is more than a biological process. It's a rhythm that reflects how we're feeling. Just like how shortness of breath can be a symptom of feeling anxious, tired, or upset.

So, when we take a minute to just focus on our breath, and nothing else, we can use the mindfulness exercise to actively calm both our minds and our bodies. And just be present.

448 Breathing:
  1. Breath in for 4 seconds
  2. Hold for 4 seconds
  3. Breathing out for 8 seconds
  4. Repeat 8 times

And the practice can be easily adapted for however you're feeling!

There are breathing exercises for anxiety, for focus, for sleep, and more.

4 breathing exercises for anxiety relief →

3. Body Scan

Body scanning is a commonly used mindfulness exercise because it's both easy to follow and highly effective.

It's a chance to just scan your body - from the top of your head down to your toes - and check in on how you're physically feeling today.
Body scan:
  1. Close your eyes
  2. Take a deep breath
  3. Start at the top of your head. And just scan down your body.
  4. Relax your jaw
  5. Release your shoulders
  6. Straighten your back
  7. Feel your hands & fingers
  8. Notice your feet against the floor

Body scanning is a great way to focus and calm your mind in the midst of a busy day, if you're feeling anxious, or if you're having trouble falling asleep at night.

4. Stretch

There's a reason mindfulness and yoga go hand-in-hand.

Stretching is a chance to check in with your mind and your body. To wake up your muscles, notice how your body is feeling today, and give your mind a break from focusing on other tasks or errands.

Plus, you don't have to be a yogi to feel the benefit.

Stretching can be adapted to any body type, age, or level of flexibility.

Sitting stretching:
  1. Stretch your arms upward
  2. With your right hand, grab your left wrist and gently tilt toward your right, stretching the left side of your body
  3. Hold for 10 seconds
  4. Repeat on the other side, grabbing your right wrist with your left hand
  5. Hold for 10 seconds
  6. Let go and stretch both hands upward, reaching your fingertips as high as they can go
  7. Release

And the best part is: it's easy to make time for some stretching.

It can take as little as 5 minutes when you wake up, before you go to sleep, or at your desk in the middle of a workday.

5. Narration

When was the last time you found yourself scrolling social media or browsing a website without really realizing you start that?

It happens to all of us. And only more and more frequently.

Mindfulness is a perfect tool to help us reduce this tendency and start enjoying the activities we're doing in the present moment.

And one of the most straightforward ways to do this is to just say or write out your answer the question: "What am I doing right now?"

This can be a quick, simple practice easy done by:
  • Writing out your answer when switching tasks
  • Setting a reminder for yourself to answer the question a few times each day
  • Starting each day by writing out what you're going to do in the day ahead

And a little goes a long way!

Once we're a bit more conscious about how we're spending our time, we'll easily adopt the habit, becoming only more present, more fulfilled, and less likely to be distracted by what we don't want to be doing anyway.

The Benefits of Mindfulness Exercises

Turns out just being more present and aware can have big effects on your mental and physical health.

Mental Health Benefits

When you live in the present moment, it's much easier to maintain perspective and feel more in control, no matter what life throws at you.

Mindfulness exercises have been shown to:

  • Improve confidence
  • Help you feel calmer
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Improve focus
  • Cause more gratitude & fulfillment

Being more aware of what's going on around you also allows you to more fully enjoy the good moments you experience and find more joy wherever you are.

Physical Health Benefits

Mental and physical health are always intertwined. And, it turns out that when you create a more mindful mindset, your physical health benefits too!

Studies have found that practicing mindfulness can:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Improve sleep

Which makes sense! With mindfulness, your mind is calmer, more fulfilled, and more in control. So your body benefits from less stress, less fear, and less dissatisfaction.

Being a Little More Mindful

While all of these are great, expert-recommended exercises in mindfulness, the truth is the best mindful exercise for you is the one that helps you feel calm and present.

For you, maybe that's cooking dinner, cleaning up your home, or an artistic hobby on the weekends. How it makes you feel is more important than what the activity actually is.

Give mindfulness exercises a try if you want to:

  • Feel calmer
  • Feel more in control
  • Feel more focused
  • Feel more fulfilled
  • Feel more present