Mindfulness exercises can rewire your brain for your greatest performances (and reduce your anxiety and depression).
Before we get into these amazing mindfulness exercises, let’s start with the fundamentals.
Here are mindfulness definitions from a few of the more popular psychology resources and online dictionaries (and a thesaurus too).
Mindfulness Defined: What is Mindfulness?
The first mindfulness definition is from Psychology Today.
1. Psychology Today: Mindfulness Definition
The definition of mindfulness, according to Psychology Today, is a state of awareness in which a person is actively focused with an “open attention on the present.” Also, mindfulness is defined as “living in the moment” and “awakening to our current experience.”
Now, let’s turn to a simple way you can remember. Keep it simple. Write it down. Think about the following words:
Next, let’s look at how Merriam-Webster defines mindfulness.
2. Merriam-Webster: Mindfulness Definition
Mindfulness, defined by Merriam-Webster, is the “practice of maintaining a nonjudgmental state” in which someone experiences “complete awareness” of “moment-to-moment” thinking and feeling. Practicing is forming habits through mindfulness exercises.
But not all practice is created equal. Instead, you need to learn how to practice the right mindfulness exercises for you (more on this later).
Here are more important words to remember:
Next, let’s look at. the Cambridge Dictionary.
3. Cambridge Dictionary: Mindfulness Definition
As you can see above, Cambridge Dictionary also defines mindfulness as a “practice” but Cambridge adds that mindfulness is also the awareness of one’s “body, mind, and feelings” in the now.
Cambridge adds that mindfulness increases a “feeling of calm.”
Important words from this definition of mindfulness:
4. Wikipedia: Mindfulness Definition
Mindfulness, defined by Wikipedia, is a “psychological process” in which a person brings “attention to the internal and external experiences” in the now.
Wikipedia mentions that it’s “developed through the practice of meditation” and other types of mind training and mindfulness exercises.
5. Dictionary.com: Mindfulness Definition
Again, as you see above, Dictionary.com defines mindfulness as a “state or quality” of awareness.
6. Thesaurus.com: Mindfulness Definition
Mindfulness, defined by Thesaurus.com, is a list of words. They list “awareness” as a. synonym as well as other words including:
Mindfulness Exercises For Anxiety and Depression
If you suffer from anxiety and depression, then it’s best to see a doctor. I suggest you ask your doctor if the following would be helpful for you:
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy
- Mindfulness-Based Stressed Reduction
After doing the above, the following mindfulness exercise is something that you may find helpful. The mindful body scan is also a great exercise for athletes to practice before, during, and after sports competition.
Exercise #1: The Mindful Body Scan
The full body scan is something you can do at any time and anywhere, just like you can with mindful breathing. It’s an exercise that some marathon runners can do in the final mile of a race, basketball players can do before a game, or business people can perform before a big meeting.
Start with some mindful breathing. Deep breaths in and out. Let your breath anchor you from your head through your body.
As you settle into the present moment, start to scan your body. Start with your feet and work your way slowly up your body to the top of your head. As you arrive at each new area of your body, pause for a few moments, and be aware of the physical sensations there.
Work your way up gradually: toes, feet, calves, shins, knees, quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, fingertips, hands, wrists, lower arms, elbows, biceps, triceps, shoulders, neck, back of head, chin, mouth, nose, ears, eyes, forehead, whole face, top of head.
After you have done a full body scan, imagine yourself breathing as one whole body. Imagine every breath reaching every single part of your body, cleansing it as you breathe, with wholeness in the present moment.
Exercise #2: Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is the most fundamental mindfulness exercise. It’s right up there with food and water.
Breathing is something we do around the clock, but mindful breathing requires a bit of a conscious effort. Start to work mindful breathing into your daily habits and slowly increase the amount of time you practice.
Through the exercise of mindful breathing, you can begin to create a foundation for the practice of mindfulness. If you are new, start with just one minute per day. You can do it anywhere.
If you’re not already in comfortable clothes, put some on. Go to an area where you are free from distractions. You can create a peaceful atmosphere with candles or dimmed lighting, but that is not required. You can do this standing, sitting, or laying down. The point is that you must be comfortable.
As you breathe, try not to think too Hard about breathing. Instead, let your breath do its thing as it goes all the way in and out. When your mind wanders, observe it, and continue to breathe. In, out, in, out, in, out.
You don’t need to manipulate anything. Just be aware of each inhale and exhale. As you improve your awareness of your breath, you will still have thoughts in your mind. Remember, mindfulness is not about having a blank or empty mind.
No matter the challenge you face in life, you will always have your breathing to anchor you. It can bring you out of your head, into your body, and back to the present moment in seconds.
You don’t have to overcomplicate this exercise. Let the calm refuel you.
Exercise #3: Mindful Movement
Mindful movement is awareness of physical movement. It’s a great way to bring yourself into the present moment.
You can incorporate mindfulness into any form of exercise including:
Mindful movement can include any type of activity but I want to focus on mindful walking. Outside, remove your shoes and socks and stand barefoot. Be aware of the force of gravity and the weight of your body. As you stand there, feel the earth beneath your feet. Focus on all the different parts of your feet connecting to the ground. Transfer your weight to one leg and notice how the other leg feels lighter.
Now take a step forward and feel as your foot cuts through the air. As you step down, stay aware of your feelings as your weight transfers from one foot to the other. Walk forward and maintain an awareness of the feelings from your feet and up through your legs. Continue at a very light walking pace.
When you start to lose focus, gently guide your mind back to the sensations in your feet and legs. With every step, as you touch the ground, let it anchor you back into the present moment.
As your focus improves, look around and take in everything around you. Notice the details of your surroundings while remaining aware of your feet with every step. Always bring your awareness back to the ground when you find yourself losing focus. By bringing awareness to your feet, you are grounding yourself and bringing your head out of the clouds.
The process of grounding yourself is a fundamental skill in mindfulness practice. As with any type of exercise—mental or physical—it’s how you do it that makes the difference.
Mindfulness benefits us in many ways. The impact that the benefits of mindfulness can have on your life is profound. Carl Jung once said that becoming who you truly are is “the privilege of a lifetime” and mindfulness is one way to do that.
- Manage Chronic Pain
- Reduce Anxiety & Depression
- Lose Weight
- Drop Body Fat Percentage
- Impulse Control
- Anger Management
- Setting Limits
- Less Stress
- Go To Sleep Quicker
- Better Focus and Attention
- Sports Performance
- Stronger Personality Traits
- Expand Spirituality
- Set and Achieve Goals
- Improve Leadership Qualities
- Increase Grey Matter in The Brain
Sigmund Freud wrote about the “oceanic feeling” in which he described the unspeakable wholeness and limitless when one becomes aware of something greater than oneself.
Creative Mindfulness Exercises
Do you know of any creative mindfulness exercises? If yes, I would love to know your favorites.
Scott Fishman is the founder of AllWorldU. He’s coached hundreds of athletes on 6 continents. Some of his clients include coaches, trainers, physical therapists, doctors, and elite athletes.