Stress-Relieving and Calming Mindfulness Activities
When we’re stressed, unhappy, anxious, frustrated, or furious, we usually want want the feelings to go away. This is entirely normal. It’s difficult to sit with unpleasant emotions, especially when there seems to be no way out. We could use Netflix, work, exercise, or Oreos to drown them out. Maybe we try to beat the blues by repeating positive mantras or giving ourselves pep speeches in the mirror.
While some of these activities may be beneficial in the short term, suppressing our feelings can amplify them and have a negative impact on our physical and mental health. So, rather than burying our feelings, how can we face and release them in a healthy way? One method is to practise mindfulness, which is the act of becoming aware of oneself in the present moment.
“[Mindfulness] allows us to bring a healthy discernment into our daily experience and recognise the parts of our thinking, speech, and conduct that contribute to pain and those that lead to freedom,” says Kirat Randhawa, a meditation instructor based in New York City. “We can boost the causes of freedom while weakening the causes of suffering through time. Mindfulness permits us to meet the experience with an embodied presence, allowing us to genuinely enjoy the unfolding of each moment once we understand the required circumstances for happiness.”
While happiness and joy may not be immediate benefits of practising mindfulness, doing so on a regular basis might help you stop obsessing on the past and worrying about the future. Magdalene Martinez, LMSW, a therapist and yoga instructor, thinks it can also help you develop more self-compassion.
She continues, “Mindfulness is the practise of being at ease with what is.” “The more you practise, the easier it becomes to accept whatever feelings you are experiencing.”
Mindfulness is unique in that it may be practised by anybody, even children, in any setting and at any time. There’s something out there for everyone, whether you want to learn to connect with your emotions or teach mindfulness to your children. We enlisted the help of experts to compile a list of the greatest mindfulness activities that you can include into your daily routine, share with others, or utilise whenever you’re feeling stressed. Choose a few, test them out for a week, and write down what you learnt about your mental environment.
The Game of Names:
This game is less complicated than Eye Spy, but it can still be a useful tool for preventing spiralling thoughts.
Look around you and list three things you can hear, two things you can see, and one sense you are experiencing.
“You are anchoring yourself by improving your awareness of your body and environment,” Martinez explains.
Intention Setting Exercises:
Take a few moments to centre yourself before opening your laptop and getting to work.
Shirin Eskandani, mindset coach and founder of Wholehearted Coaching, explains that setting intentions in the morning helps you start the day with a clear mind. “Journaling, movement, reading, and meditation are all examples of this. Be adaptable and do what seems right to you.”
Start with yoga and pay attention to what your body requires at the time, or read an uplifting book to set a positive tone for the day.
Developing your own morning routine can be challenging if you are more of a night owl than an early bird. If that’s the case, schedule some time in the afternoon or evening to clear your head. Eskandani claims that all it takes is 10 minutes.
Deep Breathing Exercise:
The quality of our breathing reveals a lot about where we are in our brains. If you’re nervous, your breath may feel short, shallow, or constricted. As a result, practising deep breathing through the diaphragm is an easy technique to relieve tension.
“When feeling cluttered, preoccupied, or ungrounded, taking long, deep breaths begins to relax the nervous system and pulls attention to the present moment, which creates a feeling of closeness with the body, the earth, and the natural spaciousness that is inherent in each moment,” Randhawa explains.
Eskandani recommends the four-count strategy if you’re new to deep breathing exercises. Inhale for four seconds and then exhale for four seconds. This should be done five times.
The Game of Wiggle and Freeze:
Sarah Rudell Beach, a Mindful Schools Certified Instructor and Coordinator of Course Development at Mindful Schools, believes this is a terrific exercise to do with your kids. But, let’s be honest, if you want to be silly with your roommates, go ahead! Allow yourself to relax.
You and your child (or buddy) will wiggle, bounce around, or dance until you yell “Freeze!”
“Then everyone stops and notices what they can feel in their bodies,” Beach adds. “It could be movement, tingling, heat, shaking, buzzing, or anything else.” “You are free to repeat it as many times as you like! It’s a fun way to get some exercise while also beginning to cultivate a better awareness of physiological sensations, which is an important part of mindfulness practise.'”
Experiment with Candles:
Light a candle of your choice, relax, and watch the flame wobble and flicker. Martinez explains, “This is basically a type of meditation.” She recommends staring at a candle for five to ten minutes and letting your mind wander. Keep an eye on your thoughts. Allow them to pass without being judged.
Exercising with Tea:
If you enjoy sipping tea every day, try doing so a little more slowly. Better yet, pay attention to the feelings, scents, and sounds you notice from the minute you begin brewing until you finish your cup.
“Notice how it feels to make the tea, the colour of the tea leaves, the sound of the kettle, the form of the mug, the aroma that emanates, the flavour of the tea, and how it feels in your body as you make and drink the tea,” Randhawa advises. “Observe the sensations that develop as you sip the tea and how often your attention wanders to invite yourself to engage the action with an embodied present. Then slowly bring the mind back to the tea, back to the body, resting it in the present moment, with compassionate awareness.”
You can do this exercise in the same way if you prefer coffee. This type of mindfulness can be applied to any task.
The Berry Challenge:
When it comes to lunchtime, many of us eat while watching television, scrolling through our phones, or typing on our computers. We eat our meals too quickly when we’re distracted, which increases the risk of overeating, indigestion, bloating, and gas. That’s a recipe for impatience and grumpiness.
So here’s a challenge for you: eat a strawberry as slowly as you possibly can. “Aim for 30 seconds to a minute to start,” Martinez advises. Take note of the flavour, texture, and any scents.
This can be done with any bit of food and can assist you in slowing down when eating.
Gratitude List Exercise:
Write five to ten things you are grateful for when you wake up in the morning or before you go to bed at night.
“The quickest method to centre oneself in stressful times is to make gratitude lists because they help you focus on what is working,” explains Eskandani. “The key, though, is to be explicit. ‘I am thankful for the zoom call I had with my parents and sister last night,’ for example, rather than merely ‘I am grateful for family,’ try: ‘I am grateful for the zoom call I had with my parents and sister last night.'”
Exercising with Your Breath:
This is a great exercise to perform with your child or by yourself. You may also incorporate any deep breathing techniques into this.
Invite your child to breathe with you if you’re doing this with them. Inquire if they can feel their breath in their nose. Is it in their chest or their stomach? Is it possible for them to hear their own breath?
“Place your child’s palm on their chest and watch how it glides up and down while they breathe,” Beach suggests. “I think it beneficial to have the children count their breaths. For example, ‘One breath in, two breaths out,’ and so on. Ask your child how they feel after spending a few moments focusing on their breathing – peaceful, tired, bored, relaxed, or something else. Let your youngster know that it’s fine to feel whichever way they do. The aim of mindfulness isn’t to feel a certain way, but rather to pay attention to how we’re feeling at any given time.”
Exercise in Stillness:
The word “meditation” can be daunting to some people. Instead of focusing on perfecting meditation, try focusing on cultivating stillness.
Simple things like focusing on your breath, a mantra (if you have one), or an image can help. You can stay stationary for five minutes, twenty minutes, or however long you choose.
Randhawa explains, “This single-pointed concentration approach enables the mind to calm while taking note of our inner dialogue.”
She adds that it’s okay if you can’t retain your focus the entire time. “Notice the activity and gently return the attention back to the primary object every time the mind wanders.”
If you need a little more help, there are some excellent meditation applications and videos available on YouTube.
The Game of Chimes:
If you have a chime or a bell, ring it once and wait until you can no longer hear the sound.
“This is something you can do with your family or a group of friends,” Martinez explains. “When they lose the sound, have each participant raise their hand. It’s possible that everyone’s hearing differs.”
You can substitute another musical instrument if you don’t have a chime. You can also look for a sound on the internet.
Exercise in Self-Reflection:
Take a few minutes to sit quietly and examine your current mental state as well as all of your current feelings. Take note of the concepts that come to mind.
“This can increase one’s knowing of oneself when done with expertise and correct instruction from an app or an instructor,” Randhawa explains. “We acquire a stronger interest about the self and our continuing mental experience without sliding into rumination by asking ourselves ‘What do I feel?’ instead of ‘Why do I feel X?’
Grab your journal first thing in the morning and jot down three pages of anything that comes to mind. It doesn’t have to be artistic or attractive. It doesn’t have to be groundbreaking or even logical. This is a mind-clearing practise in which you write anything comes to mind.
Martinez advises, “Just let everything flow.” “Doing this practise on a daily basis will help you release and process what’s going on in your head.”
The Sound Game:
Another activity you can perform with your children is this one. It’s similar to “The Name Game,” except this time you’ll ask your kids to “put on their listening ears,” as if they were pretending to put on headphones. Request that they name ten sounds that they can hear.
You can get their attention by asking: “Do you have the ability to hear sounds from inside your body? What’s going on inside the room? What about outside the house? Do you pay more attention to some sounds than others?”
“We find that this is a beneficial technique for students when they are feeling overwhelmed at Mindful Schools,” Beach explains. “It’s a powerful technique to gently transfer their attention away from a difficult situation and onto something more neutral, such as sound.”
Foot Grounding Exercise:
If you’re feeling nervous, Martinez recommends putting your feet flat on the floor, whether you’re sitting or standing. Inhale for four seconds, then exhale for four. Rep three to five times more.
Paying attention to your soles while you walk can also help you ground yourself in your feet. Observe how your weight changes from the centre to the ball of your foot with each step. Throughout this exercise, keep your breathing constant.
Try going barefoot in the grass if you have the opportunity. This is referred to as “earthing.” While studies are currently looking into the benefits of this practise, some experts believe it can aid with stress reduction, as well as blood flow, sleep, and vitality.