Mindfulness is no longer a fringe activity solely reserved for Chopra and his ilk. The practice, ancient in its roots, is wildly popular in our modern age. 9.3 million Americans engage in it. Globally, that number is estimated to be between 200 and 500 million. Since 2012, the number of kids who have given meditation a go has risen by 10 times. In short: Mindfulness isn’t just a passing trend, but what many consider to be an indispensable part of their day.
It’s no wonder, either. Mindfulness has been shown to offer a host of wellness benefits, from reducing anxiety and alleviating insomnia to improving recall and clarity. It can also foster emotional well-being, relax the ever-present “monkey mind,” and build resilience, so that whatever arises in life, from angst to bad news, can be managed. What’s more, science demonstrates that mindfulness can help you handle an overwhelming workload, while also easing the symptoms of depression.
Best part yet? Mindfulness doesn’t need to be performed on a cushion for 30 to 60 minutes—the idea of which might make people whose minds move at a mile a minute even more stressed. Rather, it can be practiced anywhere, anytime.
In this era of increased angst—both individually and universally—there’s no better time to dive into the practice, or to “freshen up” the one you already have. Here are five exercises to help you do just that.
How to practice mindfulness
1. Ground yourself—and check in
The world moves at an insanely fast pace, and the devices we’re attached to make it even harder to live outside of a cerebral place and in the physical, glorious present. When stress feels like it’s about to send you spinning, take three minutes to ground yourself and check in. Put down your smartphone or laptop and feel your feet on the ground. Notice where you are sitting (or standing), what the shape of your posture is, how your body feels. Observe your surroundings, whether it’s the details you pick up around you or a “tapping in” to the weather. Going through your senses will slow the chatter in your mind and make you feel more here.
2. Walk—or run—in silence
The benefits of walking and running to your favorite playlist are well-known, and intuitive. Music provides happiness and motivation, spurring on your next mile. (It also has a ton of other benefits.) And yet, going on a walk or a run without anything but your breath and body is a wonderful way to practice mindfulness and come, wholly, into the present.
Bonus points: Research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience shows that practicing mindfulness during a physical activity reduces post-workout soreness.
3. Take advantage of savasana
You don’t have to be a yoga practitioner to reap the benefits of savasana.
Also known as corpse pose—and typically the final posture in a yoga class—savasana has its struggles, to be sure, in that it asks you to lie on the floor and relax with attention.
Or, as Yoga Journal so wisely puts it, “to remain conscious and alert while still being at ease.”
Why? Because, Yoga Journal also says, “Remaining aware while relaxing can help you begin to notice and release long-held tensions in your body and mind.”
This requires a great deal of mindfulness, as the pose asks you to relax one part of your body at a time. Your muscles begin to unstiffen, and, with it, your brain. Further, corpse pose calms the central nervous system and may help lower both anxiety and fatigue.
How to do it? Simply get on your back, on your mat, the floor, or your bed. Let your feet flop out and give your arms some space. Feel the whole of your back on the ground and begin to soften every inch of your body. Let your hips go heavy and remove any tension around your jaw or between your eyebrows. The effect? Priceless.
4. Evoke your inner child
…by pulling out a coloring book.
“Mindful coloring,” as it’s been called, draws your attention to the present moment as you choose which colors to use and the shapes you’re filling in.
Not only is it a fresh, pleasurable activity, but science reveals that coloring can calm your amygdala, or the fear center of your brain.
5. Walk through a garden
Whether it’s your own garden or located at your favorite park, being around plants—and outside in general—is one of the easiest, loveliest, and most effective ways to add some mindfulness to your day.
When you take time to smell a flower or examine the bark on a tree, you not only become mindful of your senses but also naturally alleviate stress. Indeed, research shows that plant and horticulture therapy, as well as nature bathing, can lift your mood, relieve anxiety, and even prolong your attention span.
Given our mindfulness culture, it won’t be long before we may be replacing “coffee break” with a “bath in nature”—and for a very, very good cause. Mindfulness, in the end, settles it all.