Mental Wellness – Mindfulness exercises for mental health

Senior Yoga Class Outdoors

 

Mindfulness is the act of being completely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at that moment, without interpretation or judgment.  Most of us spend the majority of our time thinking about the past, the future, planning, problem-solving, or even just daydreaming.  Spending too much time focusing on things that aren’t happening at that moment can be draining, especially if they are negative thoughts; this can lead to stress, anxiety, and symptoms of depression.  Practicing mindfulness can help you break out of the habit of thinking that way, and help you engage in the moment.

There are many different exercises to help practice mindfulness.  The most basic form is to sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing, or on a word or mantra that you repeat to yourself silently.  Allow your thoughts to come and go without judgment and return your focus to your breathing or mantra.

Another good introductory exercise for beginners is called the Raisin Exercise, although any food with an interesting or unusual texture, smell or taste is best.  Pick up a raisin and pretend that you have never seen one before.  Pay careful attention to the way the raisin looks, feels, smells, and tastes.  Focusing on just the raisin is meant to bring your mind into the present; you’re only focused on one thing, and giving your mind something concrete to focus on means it probably isn’t wandering or worrying about anything else going on in your life.

One way to practice mindfulness no matter what situation you are in is to do a less formal approach, such as the one laid out by helpguide.org:

  • Start by bringing your attention to the sensations in your body.
  • Breathe in through your nose, allowing the air downward into your lower belly. Let your abdomen expand fully.
  • Now breathe out through your mouth.
  • Notice the sensations of each inhalation and exhalation.
  • Proceed with the task at hand slowly and with full deliberation.
  • Engage your senses fully. Notice each sight, touch, and sound so that you savor each sensation.

The main thing to remember with mindfulness and meditation is that you probably won’t get the hang of it right away.  Don’t give up!  When you notice your mind straying, don’t criticize yourself, just gently redirect and refocus your mind to the current moment.  For more types of mindfulness exercises, visit https://mindfulnessexercises.com/ or https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/mindfulness-exercises-techniques-activities/.