5 Mindfulness Exercises to Calm your Anxiety
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“Mindfulness is about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn
Life goes by incredibly fast. Like WAY too fast. And if we don’t stop to appreciate it once in awhile, it is going to pass us right by (I’m pretty sure there is a great movie quote about this — I’m usually so good at those).
Thriving is about being awake in our lives
and according to Jon Kabat-Zinn, mindfulness is a way to get there. I don’t believe you can truly be thriving without taking in the beauty and amazingness of life. Even the ordinary in life needs to be noticed and appreciated.
But it requires that we step back for a moment and just be.
So I’m going to introduce you to some of my favorite mindfulness exercises that will help you just be.
That will increase your awareness of yourself, your feelings/thoughts, and your surroundings.
They will temporarily release you from any anxiety, negative feelings (positive feelings too! – sorry – but I promise it will help you feel those positive feelings stronger!), pressure from others, overwhelm, or anything that you might be feeling that may be bringing you down even if it is just for a moment.
Note: I know I’m emphasizing the benefits of mindfulness on difficult emotions, but mindfulness exercises are beneficial at any moment. When you are feeling good, its great to practice mindfulness so that when you aren’t feeling so hot, you will have an easier time. Mindfulness is a practice. It is something you can do every day. I advise introducing it into your routine during the day — some like to start the day off with a mindfulness or meditation and some like to end the day with it — so that you can deepen your practice and deepen your ability to focus on the present moment.
Ok, so without further adieu. Here they are:
The bread and butter of meditation. Breath awareness is solely about the breath and applying all your focus to the slow in and out as it moves through your body. The breath awareness exercise is just as it sounds: you are just bringing your attention to your breath. How it feels. The way it moves in and out of your body. The life-giving energy that flows from it.
I recommend starting with a couple minutes so that you can get the hang of it, not overwhelm yourself, or cause anxiety because its hard and “you’re not doing it right.” This isn’t about right. It is about creating a grounding practice for yourself that will calm and ease your anxiety. Your breath is always flowing. It is always there. So it is always something you can turn your attention to if life becomes a little too much. It is loyal and ever flowing.
This exercise builds off of breath awareness and expands your control over your breath. Whereas in the first exercise you were allowing your breath to just be and notice it, in this exercise you will be controlling the breath. This is helpful when your breathing becomes heavy or pressured, you are worried, anxious, or unsure, or you are simply needing your mind to calm the #@$& down!
You can alter this however works for you, but the basic principle of progressive breathing is following a simple pattern: breathe in, hold, breathe out…breathe in, hold, breathe out. I recommend starting with just 1 second intervals to get the hang of it and as you begin to feel comfortable, you can add a second to each interval. Continue to add seconds to the intervals (as you continue to feel comfortable) up to 10. This will seem impossible at the very beginning as you are manipulating your breath, but as you progress deeper you will find that your lungs expand and 10 seconds is very manageable.
The body scan is one of the first mindfulness exercises I learned and fell in love right away. A body scan is pretty much what it sounds like, a mental scan of your body.
The body scan is about bringing your attention to each and every one of your body parts as you move from your toes to your head. I tend to move up one leg, move over to the next leg, and then up the body, starting with my big toe. You can do it anyway you like, put your own spin on it, or do it exactly how I do it, the most important thing is bringing your awareness to your body.
Alien objects is one of my faves. It forces you to develop a completely new perspective on everyday objects. It results in a gratitude for what is around you and allows you to notice more and be mindful throughout your day.
You can use any object you choose (the object I choose in the exercise is a cell phone, which ended up turning into an exercise on letting go of your phone – maybe that’s a sign I need to do that more!). You can even do it with food – called mindful eating.
Take the object you choose and imagine you have never seen it before. You have no idea what it is, only what your senses can perceive of it. No prior knowledge to its functions or why someone would want it. Notice how the object feels, its weight, its texture. Imagine that this is the first time you have ever held this object.
Breathing colors is a modification of the breath awareness practice. It uses all the same principles of the practice, but it adds in a more visual piece by giving your breath a color.
You are imagining that your breath has a color, whichever color that you choose, and as it flows in and out of your body, you see that color. Imagine the color become bolder with each breath you give it.
I often have my clients choose in in-breath color and an out-breath color, but you could only choose one color.
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