15 Dec Mindfulness Series: 5 Mindfulness Exercises that Will Help Combat the Holiday Blues
With the Holidays right around the corner it can be a joyful, yet extremely stressful time for the recently reformed substance abuser. Mindfulness exercises are a fantastic way to keep you on track during the stresses of the holiday season. Everyone can benefit from just 10-20 minutes a day of mindfulness practice.
Next on our mindfulness series we would like to empower you with a few exercises and techniques that one can employ to practice mindfulness on a regular day-to-day basis. We all have very convoluted and extremely stressful lifestyles. It is very rare to find five minutes of the day for us, let alone 30 minutes to sit down and think about living in the present. Hopefully these tips and guidelines will show you that mindfulness can be practiced any time, any place, and with regular, continual use you will quickly start to see the effects of its powerful healing abilities.
Exercise One: Mindful Observation
This technique helps us connect to the beauty of our natural environment and can be incredibly powerful. Below is a brief video meant to instruct children on how to practice mindfulness. Studies have recently shown that doing this in schools can lower student anxiety, and help kids self-sooth when they are under stress. Nonetheless it is a simplified version of similar techniques adults can do as well. In the video the instructor begins by asking the students to draw a picture, the persons’ “happy place”. This place can be any place that makes you feel relaxed, and at peace. This technique can also be done simply by just closing your eyes, and imagining that place. You can do this exercise at work, sitting down at your desk, at home before getting ready, or sitting upright on your bed, or even laying down. The position is no issue, so long as you are able to relax, and close your eyes while imagining this wonderful place. The instructor in the video then proceeds to tell the students to close their eyes and transport themselves to this place. Do this for about 10 minutes and just picture yourself being at this location, relaxed, stress-free, enjoying the surrounding. Think about where you are, what you see around you. For example, if you imagine a beach, think about the sun. How does the warmth feel pressing against your skin. The sand, what color is it, how does it feel between your toes. This technique can be even more simplified like this. Say you are at work at your desk. Look around you, find something visually appealing to you and just stare at it for a few minutes. Immerse yourself in this object, look at the color, look at the details of this object, and relax as you explore all the wonders this object has to offer. The point is after just 10 minutes of living in the present, mindfully observing this object it will feel as if weight has lifted, you will feel calmer, relaxed, and ready to start your day.
Exercise Two: Mindful Breathing
Probably one of the easier exercises to do, just one minute of focused breathing can help reduce stress. This technique can be done lying down, standing, and practically anywhere for a few minutes. This exercise is especially good for people during a stressful workweek, or right before going into a stressful situation, such as public speaking. You simply start by breathing in and out very slowly. One cycle should last about 5 seconds. Breathe in through you nose and out through your mouth, letting your breath flow without effort in and out of your entire body. Feel your lungs expand and deflate. Think of nothing else, but your breathing. Sit still, block out any other distractions around you, don’t think of things you might have to do later, or the day’s activities, and just think of your breathing. Focus and clear your mind of everything. Focus all your senses on your breathing, Listen to the breathe, feel the breathe, smell the clean crisp air you are breathing. As soon as you concentrate on your breathing you will begin to feel your body relax, your heart rate slow down, and your mood enhance. If you never pictured yourself mediating before, guess what, you are halfway there. Try this technique in combination with others to further enhance the experience.
Exercise Three: Mindful Awareness
This exercise helps with enhancing your appreciation for simple daily tasks and the fulfilling results they achieve. This helps elevate your sense of pleasure, resilience, and mood. Like most of the other techniques this exercise is not difficult to accomplish. Start by thinking of a daily activity, which happens often, which you would think to take for granted. For example, the simple act of opening a door for someone, or holding the elevator for someone, chose something you wouldn’t normally think about as being a big deal. Lets say you are at work, about to open your laptop to begin the day’s activities. Take a moment to appreciate that piece of equipment. How does it feel when you place your hand on its surface? Think about what it will help you accomplish. How does it make you feel, knowing and thinking about how useful this equipment is to your job? Take pleasure in the little things, be mindful of them, and you will soon begin to gain an overwhelming pride and true happiness for life. This technique can also be performed without actually touching an object of any kind!
Exercise Four: Mindful Listening
This technique is designed to help us learn mindful listening and to open our ears without judgment. A lot of what we hear and see is influenced by past experiences, but when we stop to truly listen, we can achieve a peace, present awareness that allows us to hear sounds without prejudice. For this exercise you will need to select a piece of music, which you have never listened to before. This can be chosen from your own collection or just simply turn on the radio and pick a song that catches your ear’s attention. Close your eyes, try not to get caught trying to judge the melody’s genre, title or artist name before it has begun. Instead just listen, clear your mind of everything, but the sound of the music. Listen intently for the duration of the entire song. Even if it’s a song you are not too fond of just listen, immerse yourself in the piece. The whole point is to listen without judgment. With time and practice this will allow you to be a better communicator through listening to others without pre-conceived notions or pre-judgments.
Exercise Five: Mindful Immersion
This exercise will teach patience. It is meant for us to become aware of the moments in life that have just as much meaning as finishing a task. We often want to rush through the day just so we can feel the satisfaction of having completed a task. We forget the task is as equally important as the end. Learning to fully immerse yourself in a task will allow you to open yourself up to the experience itself. Show you how to enjoy every moment of the task. For example, let’s say you are cleaning your house, don’t just run through it and finish, take your time. Create a new experience with this task by actually experiencing every aspect of it. Feel as if you are one with your broom as you sweep the floor, sense the muscles that are moving within you. Feel the force you exert as you move from one area to the next. Get creative think of a different way to clean the floor, maybe a different technique or direction of sweeping. The whole purpose of this exercise is to cultivate creativity and have you thinking of daily routines with a newfound perspective. Instead of concentrating on when the task will be done. Taking the time to do the exercise will bring new motivation and sense of care for the task itself. With practice you might start to see that you enjoy even the smallest of tasks.
A use of one or more of these exercises together will help you cope with difficult thoughts and stressful situations. These techniques are especially beneficial to substance abusers because stress can be extremely detrimental to recovery. In our sober living program we help cultivate and tech these practices to give our residents the necessary skills they will need in their normal life routines.