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Basic Mindfulness Exercises

If you learn to put yourself more in the moment you'll essentially give yourself more brain power, especially if you make this a habit. How do you do this? By learning basic mindfulness exercises that can put you in a state of higher awareness and help you let go of distractions. Done regularly, these exercises let you think more clearly, primarily because they allow you to drop distracting thoughts so you can concentrate more fully on the task at hand.

The simplest for of these exercises begins with simply sitting down, relaxing and breathing deeply. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing, following the breath in and out. It is generally more effective if you breath through your nose, so do so unless you have some illness or disability that prevents this. After a minute or so of deep breaths let your breathing fall into a normal comfortable pattern, but keep paying attention to it.

Now start to move your attention to your body, one part at a time, noticing any sensations of cold, hot, tight, sore or anything you can identify. After a few minutes of attention on your body, start listening to the sounds of the room, without judging or criticizing or even thinking about them. Just listen.

Slowly open your eyes and look around as if seeing for the first time. Stop and rest your eyes on an object for half a minute. Examine it without saying things about it in your mind. Repeat this with another object, and then another, while still maintaining an awareness of your body, and your breathing. Continue in this state of mindfulness until you are ready to get up.

When you are sensing your body and your breath and the immediate environment, you are more fully "in the moment." These mindfulness exercises put your mind in a very receptive state while removing mental distractions that prevent clear thinking. They leave you ready to work mentally. Do a mindfulness exercise before any important mental task and you'll find that you have more focus and concentration.

A quick mindfulness exercise you can test right now: When you are in the middle of any task and you feel a little stress, stop. Take a moment to carefully watch yourself so you can identify what is bothering you. Find everything you can. Are you expecting something bad to happen? Is an argument from this morning still going on just below the surface of your consciousness? Are you worried about something? Is some part of your body in pain? Make a note of everything you find.

Now deal with these thieves-of-concentration one by one. Make the phone call that is on your mind, take an aspirin if you need to, and apologize to whomever you were fighting with. Close your eyes and concentrate on breathing deeply. Put things that are on your mind on the list for tomorrow (in writing). Even if all you can do is acknowledge that there is nothing you can do right now, do that. After doing these quick mindfulness exercises, you'll feel less stressed, and you'll be able to concentrate more effectively on the tasks at hand. Try it.

Using a Meditation Trigger

One technique that some people have found useful for bringing their mindfulness into everyday life, is the use of a "trigger" as a reminder. This can be anything that you will regularly encounter during your daily routine. For example, if you check your email numerous times each day, you can develop the habit of stopping to take a deep breath and become aware of your body and surroundings each time you go to your email. Or you could even use going to the bathroom as your trigger.

The idea is that once you consciously associate an activity or item with the practice of becoming more mindful, and do so often enough, you will make it an unconscious habit. Then, whenever you engage in that activity or see that item (it could be your desk, your car, clocks, or anything that works) you will find yourself taking that deep breath and returning to the present moment from your worries (which are usually in the past or an imagined future).

For more basic meditations, visit the page on the benefits of meditation.

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