When you are first learning to be more mindful it can be difficult to implement mindfulness exercises into your daily routine. To help with this, I came up with a list of 18 ways that you can practice mindfulness during your day.
So how can you practice mindfulness throughout the day?
The easiest way for beginners to practice mindfulness throughout the day is to memorize a few mindfulness exercises or have a list of exercises readily available for reference. Setting an alarm or reminder on your cell phone can help you remember to practice one of your chosen exercises at a specific time. As practicing mindfulness becomes a more established part of your daily routine, you can vary the exercises you do.
18 Ways To Practice Mindfulness Throughout Your Day
The following is a list of mindfulness exercises that correspond to different parts of the day. This list is by no means exhaustive. Feel free to pick and choose the exercises that appeal to you and mix it up throughout your week.
Mindfulness Exercises for the Morning
In this exercise, which is wonderful to do while still lying in bed, you take a tour of your body and mind to see how you are. Done daily, this helps us become more aware of our inner self.
How’s your breath? What emotions are you feeling? What is going on inside your body? With practice you will simply be able to pose the question, “how am I”?
2.) Morning Stretch
Going through a stretching sequence in the morning will help work out the kinks established in sleep and get your mind focused inward. As you stretch, try to keep your mind free of thoughts. Just breathe and move.
Physical therapist Dr. Cindy K. Dao put together a six stretch sequence that is billed as being better than a latte at preparing your body and mind for the day.
The sequence progresses as follows:
- Head rolls: Shoulder to shoulder, nice and slow, five times in each direction.
- Cat Cow: On your knees, inhale while you drop your belly and look up, then arch your back and tuck your chin to chest as you slowly exhale.
- Low Back Gap Stretch: Like a supine twist, lie on your back and bring one knee to chest and cross it over your body with the other leg extended. Hold for one minute each side.
- Downward Dog: Hands on the floor, push your hips up in an inverted V. Hold for a full minute.
- Quadriceps Stretch: Lay on your side, reach behind you and pull your foot towards your bottom. Hold each side for about a minute.
- Spinal Mobility Roll: Stand erect, reach your fingers to the sky and slowly bend towards your toes one vertebrae at a time. Roll back up just as slowly. Repeat 5 times.
Mindfulness Exercises While Driving
3.) Red Light Breathing
This exercise offers an opportunity to use one of life’s daily occurrences as a cue to be mindful. As you commute to work, each time you encounter a red light, practice breathing.
Aim for a 4-6 count inhale and matching exhale. If thoughts come up, which is likely as you sit in traffic, gently excuse them and focus on your breath.
Try to do this exercise for the duration of your stop. It will be hard at first, but in time you will develop the ability to focus for longer.
4.) Yield to Compassion
While driving you will approach yield signs, merge with freeway traffic, or come upon pedestrians that need to cross the road. These meetings present an opportunity to make a choice: hold your ground or yield to compassion. Mindful.org recommends the following steps to practice mindful compassion on the road:
- As you are merging, listen to your body’s gut reaction. Notice your auto-response.
- Shift your thinking to compassion. Yield the way, even if it is rightly yours.
- “Tell” the other driver “may you be well” as they cross your path.
Practicing Mindfulness at Work
5.) Mindful Meetings
We’ve all been there. You attend a meeting at work and easily half of the participants are there, but not really there. Some have their heads in their phones and others have their heads in the clouds. Mindfulness training is all about learning how to be present in the moment.
While meeting with coworkers or clients, try to give the meeting your full attention by doing the following:
- Place your phone on Do Not Disturb and ask other attendees to do the same.
- If you need your laptop, close all windows other than the ones needed for the meeting.
- Look at people when they speak.
- Dismiss outside thoughts that interrupt your focus on the topic at hand.
6.) The Observation Game
If you find yourself easily distracted from the task at hand, take a short break to regain your focus with The Observation Game.
Pick an object nearby. Anything will do, such as a paper weight, a pen, or a rubber band ball. Look at the object and consider its qualities. What color is it? What shape? Does it make noise?
Keep focused and observant for one full minute. This should clear your mind and allow you to return to your task with a rejuvenated sense of concentration.
Practicing Mindfulness During Your Lunch Break
7.) Mindful Eating
Many of us spend our lunch break not taking a break at all. You need this time to restore and refuel for the rest of your day. Instead of eating at your desk while continuing to work or scrolling through your social media feed while you gobble up a quick bite, use the time you are alloted to eat mindfully.
Mindful eating is really just about slowing down and focusing on your meal. Take time to smell, observe, and even smile at your food. With each bite, think about the textures, tastes, and aromas you are ingesting. Chew slowly and savor these delicious moments.
8.) Mindful Walking
Using a portion of your lunch hour to take a walk is a great way to stimulate digestion, clear your mind, and practice mindfulness. Similar to mindful eating, mindful walking encourages us to enjoy the walk itself, not take the walk just to arrive at a destination.
A mindful walk is more of a meander. As you slowly walk, notice the sounds you hear. Feel the breeze or sunlight on your skin. Take some deep breaths and see what smells your environment has to offer. Literally stop to smell the roses if you are so fortunate to come across them.
Mindfulness Exercises for the Late Afternoon Slump
9.) Breath of Fire
Rooted in Kundalini yoga, Breath of Fire is a technique to ignite energy, build strength, cleanse, and calm the mind using your breath. It feels pretty awkward at first but with practice it becomes more comfortable and easy to perform.
Beginners should try it for only 30 seconds at a slow pace and work up to a faster paced 60 seconds over time.
It may be helpful to watch a video to see the technique in action. The basic steps are:
- Sit in a comfortable seated position with a tall spine.
- Take a long slow breath in through the nose while letting your belly expand.
- Push the air forcefully out of your nose. It should be audible.
- Repeat for 30-60 seconds.
- Push all the air out slowly on the last exhale. Tingling is normal and great!
10.) Toes Up/Heels Up
Sometimes when we feel sluggish we just need to circulate energy around our bodies to become invigorated. This exercise will give you a boost in the late afternoon.
- Stand tall with your feet hip distance apart.
- As you inhale, come up high on your toes.
- As you exhale, rock back on your heels.
- Feel free to include movement in the arms, over head and down by your sides.
- Repeat about 10 times.
Mindfulness To Shake Stress Moments
11.) Love Tuner
When you are faced with a stressful or maddening situation it is easy to blow your lid and react, rather than respond. This tiny little flute tuned to the so called “Love Frequency” can be hung conveniently around your neck and used to recenter and calm yourself.
Breathe in through your nose and slowly exhale through your mouth into the flute creating a sound that will connect you to your intention. It is recommended to do at least 6 cycles of breath but you can tune your love for as long as you like!
12.) Squeeze and Release
After stress our bodies take time to calm and return to a stable state. You can help this process along and let go of the tension by performing a full body Squeeze and Release. It’s great to do this lying on your back but if that isn’t practical it’s fine to be seated.
- Start with your hands and arms. Squeeze all of the muscles in your hands and arms as tightly as possible to their bones. Hold for a few seconds and release with an exhale.
- Methodically work your way around your body: legs, feet, abdomen, etc.
- If lying down, bring your knees to your chest in a tight ball and squeeze everything as hard as possible for 3, 2, 1, release with a long exhale.
Mindfulness During Mundane Chores
13.) 5 Senses
This exercise is great to do while performing household chores because you only need your senses to do it. It’s also an excellent exercise to introduce a mindfulness practice to children.
As you work:
- Bring attention to 5 things you can see.
- Bring attention to 4 things you can feel.
- Bring attention to 3 things you can hear.
- Bring attention to 2 things you can smell.
- Bring attention to 1 thing you can taste.
A mantra is simply a phrase repeated over and over in your mind. Mantras are great companions to chores due to the rhythmic nature of household work. Scrubbing the counter in circles, vacuuming back and forth, or sweeping in short even strokes provide a perfect beat and repetition to backdrop your mantra.
Just pick something you’d like to focus on and say it again and again again in your mind. Make it personal or choose a popular one.
Mindfulness Exercises for the Evening
15.) Mindful Listening
Spending time in the evening with loved ones should be a pleasure but our hectic lives sometimes make us rush through things in a painful and disconnected way. Practice mindful listening with your partner or children on a daily basis to stay connected to one another and sharpen your ability to stay present. Remove all distractions, face each other, and attentively listen with your whole being.
16.) 20 Second Hug
Every human knows the power a hug has to make everything better. Research has shown that hugs release oxytocin, a hormone that makes us feel connected and loved by others.
Credited to Sadie Lincoln, founder and CEO of Barre3, the 20 Second Hug is recommended to release all kinds of juicy connectivity between you and your loved ones. Naturally, you can have a 20 Second Hug anytime you have a mere 20 seconds to spare but before leaving for the day or upon returning home in the evening seems like an extra sweet time to do so.
Mindfulness Exercises Before Bed
17.) Sorting Into Boxes
This exercise is phenomenal for those of us who have a hard time quieting our busy minds before drifting off to sleep. It’s impossible to relax with thoughts darting here and there. This exercise gives you a place for each one so you can feel sorted and able to sleep.
- Imagine you have three boxes in your mind that are labeled “emotions”, “thoughts”, and “sensations”.
- Take each thought as it arrives and imagine placing it inside the box.
- Focus on your breathing throughout the exercise.
18.) Body Scan
A full body scan is a very popular method of mindfulness training. It asks you to go through your body, notice each body part and its current state and then relax each part completely one by one.
Some people like to work down from head to toe and others prefer mixing it up and selecting body parts at random. As with all meditation techniques, there is no wrong way to do it.
Explore and enjoy this time with your truest self. As you learn this technique you may want to listen to an audio prompt that will guide you through the scan.
I hope that the list above helps you practice mindfulness throughout your day.
Feel free to leave any additional exercises you like in the comments below!