Provides information on mindfulness, how to practise it and how it can help with mental health problems.
If you want to try mindfulness, you don't need any special equipment for the following exercises:
- Mindful eating. This involves paying attention to the taste, sight and textures of what you eat. Try this when drinking a cup of tea or coffee for example. You could focus on the temperature, how the liquid feels on your tongue, how sweet it tastes or watch the steam that it gives off.
- Mindful moving, walking or running. While exercising, try focusing on the feeling of your body moving. If you go for a mindful walk, you might notice the breeze against your skin, the feeling of your feet or hands against different textures on the ground or nearby surfaces, and the different smells around you.
- Body scan. This is where you move your attention slowly through different parts of your body. Start from the top of your head and move all the way down to the end of your toes. You could focus on feelings of warmth, tension, tingling or relaxation of different parts of your body.
- Mindful colouring and drawing. Rather than trying to draw something in particular, focus on the colours and the sensation of your pencil against the paper. You could use a mindfulness colouring book or download mindfulness colouring images.
- Mindful meditation. This involves sitting quietly to focus on your breathing, thoughts, sensations in your body or things you can sense around you. Try to bring your attention back to the present if your mind starts to wander. Many people also find that yoga helps them to concentrate on their breathing and focus on the present moment. For more information on meditation and yoga, see our page on types of complementary and alternative therapies.
The above examples are not the only ways you can practise mindfulness. So many activities can be done mindfully. Different things work for different people, so if you don’t find one exercise useful, try another. You can also try adapting them to suit you and make them easier to fit in with your daily life, such as mindfully cooking dinner or folding laundry.
Some people find practising mindfulness in nature can have extra benefits – for suggestions, see our page on ideas to try in nature. For more general examples of exercises to try, see our page on relaxation exercises.
The mindfulness colouring really helps me unwind and relax in the evening. It promotes better sleep and I go to bed feeling ready to rest rather than anxious and wired.
In this video, Jonny explains how you might try a mindful eating exercise. This video is two minutes and fifty-one seconds long.
View video transcript as a PDF (opens in new window)
To get the most out of mindfulness exercises, try your best to:
- Pay attention. Focus on things you can see, hear, smell, taste or touch. For example, when you take a shower, make a special effort to really pay attention to how the water feels on your skin.
- Take notice. When your mind wanders, which is just what minds do, simply notice where your thoughts have drifted to. Some people find it helpful to name and acknowledge the feelings and thoughts that come up. For example, you could think to yourself 'this is a feeling of anger', or 'here is the thought that I'm not good enough'.
- Be aware and accepting. Notice and be aware of the emotions you are feeling or sensations in your body. You don't need to try and get rid of any feelings or thoughts. Try to observe and accept these feelings with friendly curiosity, and without judgement.
- Choose to return. Choose to bring your attention back to the present moment. You could do this by focusing on your breathing or another sensation in your body. Or you could focus on your surroundings – what you can see, hear, smell, touch or taste.
- Be kind to yourself. Remember that mindfulness can be difficult and our minds will always wander. Try not to be critical of yourself. When you notice your mind wandering, you can just gently bring yourself back to the exercise.
It sounded like a big undertaking but I was keen to get started. It felt like I might be about to discover something new about how my mind works.
Practical tips for mindfulness
To get more out of mindfulness exercises, there are some practical things you can try to help improve your experience:
- Set aside regular time to practise. Regular, short periods of mindfulness can work better than occasional long ones. If you struggle to find the time, try choosing one or two things you already do daily, and do them mindfully. For example, you could practise mindfulness while doing the washing up or taking a shower.
- Make yourself comfortable. It can help to do mindfulness in a space where you feel safe, comfortable and won't be easily distracted. Some people also find that it helps to be outdoors or surrounded by nature.
- Take it slowly. Try to build up your practice bit by bit. You don't need to set ambitious goals or put pressure on yourself. Remember, you’re learning a new skill that will take time to develop.
- Don't worry about whether you're doing it right. Try not to worry about doing the exercises correctly. Focus on using them in the ways that are most helpful for you. Many people find it takes a while to feel comfortable doing mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness makes me feel safe because even when I can't access my counsellors, carers, medication and relapse prevention plan, mindfulness is still there. Nothing can take it away.
This information was published in November 2021. We will revise it in 2024.
References and bibliography available on request.
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