Your health encompasses many things. You may just think about hitting the gym or what you eat but your mental health is a game-changer. The best way to live in the moment and improve mental health is mindfulness.
The best mindfulness exercises are those that are simple and accessible to all. Mindfulness does not just happen though – just as with most things that are worth doing, Mindfulness has to be worked at, and practiced regularly, to be of most benefit to us.
One of the best mindfulness exercises is the Mindful Pause. This is so simple, but very effective and only has two steps:
Firstly we pause and feel our in-breath and out-breath for 10-15 seconds
Then we finish with asking ourselves: ‘Which of my character strengths should I bring forward right now?’
‘If we are not fully ourselves, truly in the present moment, we miss everything’ – Thich Nhat Hanh
This exercise is so effective because it is very short, doesn’t take much time out of our daily schedule, and easily integrates into whatever we are doing – whether just waking up, eating lunch, sending an email, or driving home from work, etc. It brings us into the moment and makes us think about our best strengths, preparing us to be our best selves and allowing us to bring our strengths to the moment. This then enables us to be ready for those challenging moments, helps us to more easily handle stress, and to give our strengths more freely.
The 24 character strengths are defined as:
Creativity – originality, ingenuity and adaptability
Curiosity – interest, novelty-seeking, exploration, openness
Judgment – critical thinking, thinking things through, open-mindedness
Love of Learning – mastering new skills & topics, systematically adding to knowledge
Perspective – wisdom, providing wise counsel, taking the big picture view
Bravery – valor, not shrinking from fear, speaking up for what’s right
Perseverance – persistence, industry, finishing what we’ve started
Honesty – authenticity, integrity
Zest – vitality, enthusiasm, vigor, energy, feeling alive
Love – both loving and being loved, valuing close relations with others
Kindness – generosity, nurturance, care & compassion, altruism, ‘niceness’
Social Intelligence – aware of the motives/feelings of self/others, knowing what makes others tick character strengths
Teamwork – citizenship, social responsibility, loyalty
Fairness – just, not letting feelings bias decisions about others
Leadership – organizing group activities, encouraging a group to get things done
Forgiveness – mercy, accepting others’ shortcomings, giving people a second chance
Humility – modesty, letting our accomplishments speak for themselves
Prudence – careful, cautious, not taking undue risks
Self-regulation – self-control, disciplined, managing impulses & emotions
Appreciation of Beauty & Excellence – awe, wonder, elevation
Gratitude – thankful for the good, expressing thanks, feeling blessed
Hope – optimism, future-mindedness, future orientation
Humor – playfulness, bringing smiles to others, light-hearted
Spirituality – religiousness, faith, purpose, meaning
These strengths can be turned to anytime when we pause, refocus and gain clarity on what is important in that moment.
can be very useful in the transitional period between work and the start of home-time. For example, when the character strength Love emerges after a pause, we will then immediately bring our full presence in a warm and interactive way with our family. When Gratitude emerges it can remind us to be aware of how much we have to be thankful for in that moment and feel blessed and driven to share those blessings with everyone around us. When our strength Kindness emerges after a pause it will remind us to be patient with the people around us and to listen to and support them intentionally and when we’re alone, it reminds us to take care of ourselves.
The Mindful Pause can help us when we are dealing with frustrating behaviors from our children. If we pause and allow Self-regulation and Perspective to emerge, we can then practice perspective and realize that they still love us despite their behavior and self-regulation can prevent us from saying something we’d regret later.
– this is great when we need some peace and quiet and only needs a quiet, darkened room and a candle. Sit in a comfortable position and focus on the flame – not pondering on the chemical reactions as the candle burns – but instead simply focus on the candle in a pure way.
– instead of simply gobbling down our food we can take a minute to savor it. Look at the meal, smell it, feel the textures as we chew it and notice how it tastes. This exercise can just take one minute to observe it for what it is and make an enormous difference and it doesn’t have to be used through the whole meal – just occasionally.
– instead of checking emails etc in our break, we should take some time to notice the sensations in our body and mind – listen to the sounds we can hear, feel our heart beating and be present in our body for a few moments, letting go of everything we are thinking about.
– instead of simply showering we can pay closer attention to how hot the water feels, how the shampoo smells, how it lathers on our hair, etc. Be mindful of the wave of pleasure as the warm water washes over you, mindful of the shower gel, soap or shampoo. This exercise can be extended to other habits such as brushing our teeth etc. and we should completely immerse ourselves in the process.
– we can take at least 15 minutes a day to walk in a quiet, peaceful environment, listening to all the sounds around us and focusing on the present – not letting other thoughts distract us as much as possible. Instead, we should focus on the thud of our feet on the ground and the rhythm of our breath. When we’re walking in the wood, we should listen to the birds chirping, the trees rustling and the leaves crackling under our feet. It is easier to focus on these simple sounds first when we have problems concentrating. Our thoughts will often wander, but when they do we should just gently bring ourselves back to the present moment.
These mindfulness meditation exercises are all extremely easy to practice and simple to incorporate into our daily habitual activities and can help us better cope with the difficult thoughts and feelings that cause us stress and anxiety in our everyday lives. They can help us gain the ability to root our mind in the present moment and deal with all life’s challenges in a clear-minded, calm, and assertive way, thus enabling us to be fully present. Let’s all give them a try!
This article was written with content by Onorieru Obaro Princewill.
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