If you dwell too much on the past or worry too much about the future, you’re missing the beautiful opportunities that line the path you’re on today. Be present to the possibilities right now. Cultivating mindfulness starts when you allow yourself to slow down and be present.
Here are three powerful yet simple opportunities to create a head space and heart space of mindfulness. Lean into one of these today and see what a few minutes of presence can offer you!
This grounding technique is intented to take your focus away from the negative thoughts or emotions you are experiencing by integrating the five senses.
If you can take space from the source of stress by walking to a quiet area of your home or office or venturing outside this is a great way to start this exercise. To center yourself, start with a slow, deep breath in through your nose and out through your mouth.
Using your eyes , begin to look with intention for five things you can see. As you search your surroundings, reflect on how each object makes you feel. For example, if you were outside you might hone in on a beautiful butterfly and smile as you take in its bright colors or the movement of its wings. Look up, down, and all around to make the best use what is available for you to see.
Next find 4 things you can touch. As you touch each object, be mindful of the texture and how it makes you feel. Is it soft, rough, smooth, cool…? Don't shy away from tugging at a clump of grass and rubbing it between your fingers or running your hands under the faucet and delighting in its warmth.
Then find 3 things you can hear . Listen with intention to your surroundings as you think about each sound carefully. Consider how this sound makes you feel. Perhaps relaxed, tense, or energized.
Now find 2 things you can smell . Breathe in slowly as you take in the scent of each thing. Pause at the perfumery notes of a nearby rose or the salty smell of the ocean air.
End the exercise with one thing you can taste. If you don’t have a piece of candy or a small snack on hand, think about something you love about yourself instead. In this final step, be deliberate with how you approach your sense of taste or reflection of self. Think about how the texture of the food feels on your tongue . Enjoy the sweet or savory taste on your tongue. Slowly appreciate the flavor in your mouth as your grounding technique comes to an end.
Come back to this simple sensory practice whenever you need a reason to change your thoughts or feelings. Give yourself permission to change the trajectory of your day as you implement a calming technique that helps encourage time for introspection, reflection, and self-love.
Find a centering object like a stone, feather, seashell, or other small trinket. Holding it in the palm of your hand, rub your fingers around the object as you think about the negative thoughts or feelings you are experiencing. This grounding practice is intended to give your worries and feelings a place to go. This in turn, allows you to let go and allow yourself to reset and start again.
I encourage my clients to be present to the beautiful opportunities nature offers in the form of centering objects like stones and seashells. Take a mindful walk and see what you discover along the way to add to your collection of centering objects. It also is a great idea to keep these items in a bowl on your desk or nightstand for convenient access when needed. These small objects are easy to take on the go in your pocket or purse too. Keeping these items close allows you to tap into them to center yourself whenever you need a quick reset.
Deep breathing plays a critical role in signaling to our brain that we are in distress and are using our breath to calm down. Focusing on the slow, rhythmic tempo of our breath brings our cortisol levels down and allows our body to follow suit.
My favorite breathing exercise involves lengthening the exhale. In a heightened state of stress or anxiety, inhaling deeply may not always calm you down.
Here's the research behind why lenghtening the exhale can be a powerful practice. Taking a deep breath in is linked to the sympathetic nervous system, which controls the fight-or-flight response. If we perceive a threat, we might start taking too many deep breaths too quickly. This can actually cause you to hyperventilate. Hyperventilation decreases the amount of oxygen-rich blood that flows to your brain. Because exhaling is linked to the parasympathetic nervous system, it influences our body’s ability to relax and calm down.
Putting the exhale to practice:
This technique can be done in any position that’s comfortable for you, including standing, sitting, or lying down. I find it useful to close my eyes as I focus on deep breathing. It allows me to tune out any external stressors or distractions and be present to the power of the breath.
Remember that an essential part of cultivating mindfulness comes from being still. Quiet your mind, open your heart, and stand or sit in stillness. Focus on your breathe as you ground yourself in the present. Look to natural beauty for inspiration and a sense of peace.
There's no right or wrong way to practice mindfulness. You don’t need any special equipment or tools. You simply need to be still and allow these simple, mindful practices to recenter your day.