08/11/2023 by Therapy For You

Practising mindfulness: 3 mindfulness exercises and tips for beginners

Practising mindfulness: 3 mindfulness exercises and tips for beginners

Busy lives. Hectic schedules. Tight deadlines. It can be easy to push through life without giving much attention to the present.


In fact, recent research shows that our minds spend as much as 47% of the time wandering, ruminating over experiences that have already happened or pondering on events in the not too distant future.


As well as causing strong feelings of stress and worry, an unfocused mind can sap the enjoyment out of our daily routines, distracting us from the flavour of a favourite meal, the refreshment of a hot shower, or the comfort of a warm bed, for example.


So, if drifting thoughts are causing you to feel anxious, uneasy or unfocused, practising mindfulness can help you embrace the here and now in a calm, collected way.


What is mindfulness?


To prevent the anxieties of past and future events from overwhelming or detracting from the joys of everyday life, mindfulness is the practice of focusing your attention on the present, tapping into what your body and mind are experiencing right now, without judgement.


Although mindfulness was originally derived from practices of ancient religions, this is a modern relaxation exercise that can benefit people from all walks of life.


Ultimately, mindfulness is about being fully present and aware of where you are and what you are doing. It’s about understanding how your mind works and fully observing your thoughts and feelings, moment to moment - and there are numerous benefits of practising it...


Improve your concentration


When you're distracted and your mind wanders, it can be hard to concentrate on tasks. By nurturing mindful awareness and acknowledging your thoughts, feelings and physical sensations, you can make positive improvements to your overall focus.


Support your physical wellbeing


Regularly practising mindfulness has demonstrated a variety of health benefits. These  include reduced blood pressure, lowered symptoms of stress and anxiety, and improved quality of sleep.


Experience greater enjoyment from life


Living your life on auto-pilot rarely allows you to appreciate everyday joys. Whether it’s spending time noticing the sights and sounds of your lunchtime walk, or the smell and taste of your favourite food, mindfulness techniques have the power to unlock a greater sense of enjoyment in the things you may take for granted.


Build stronger resilience to life’s challenges


It can be easy to become wrapped up in your thoughts and feelings. By bringing your focus to the present, mindfulness allows you to take a step back and recognise when negative thoughts are taking over, so you can reduce their influence over you.


By enhancing the awareness, clarity and acceptance of your surroundings, the benefits of mindfulness can be significant and far-reaching when you practise it regularly.


This doesn't mean you need to invest huge amounts of time into mindfulness exercises. By continuing with your daily routine and approaching everyday tasks mindfully, you can see steady improvements over time, and learn how to bring yourself back to the present whenever you need to.


3 mindfulness exercises you can try


Perhaps the best thing about mindfulness is that it requires no special equipment or apps to get started. All you need is time, persistence and some simple exercises to follow.


1. Body scan meditation


The body scan technique is a straightforward mindfulness meditation practice. This allows you to stabilise your mind and cultivate a sense of calm by bringing your attention to different parts of your body and noticing the physical sensations present.


Requiring no more than 15 minutes for a full scan from head to toe, the goal of this exercise is to ground you in the present, relieve stress, and change your relationship to the pains and aches brought about by stress and anxiety.


Why not give it a try?

  1. Sit or lay down in a comfortable, quiet place, and close your eyes if you prefer.
  2. Take a few moments to bring your awareness to the physical sensations of your body making contact with whatever you are sitting or lying on.
  3. Bring your focus to your breathing, feeling the sensations as you breathe in and out in a regular, consistent rhythm.
  4. With every breath in and out, focus your attention to each part of your body, one at a time – your feet and toes, your lower legs, your abdomen, your chest, your arms, your hands, your neck and shoulders, and so on. 
  5. With each part you examine, spend time feeling its unique sensations for as long as you feel natural. Whatever you experience is okay – there is no need to judge or change your sensations.
  6. After you have scanned your whole body in this way, spend a few moments becoming aware of the body as a whole, and feel the sensations of wholeness.

It may take some time to get the hang of noticing the sensations of your body in a non-judgmental way, but with practice it can be a powerful way to bring yourself back to the present.


2. Mindfulness of breath exercise


Occasionally, life can fly by on auto-pilot, and much like our breath, be taken for granted. By setting aside just 10 minutes to take calm, controlled, deep breaths – a few seconds in, a few seconds out – we can become more aware of our thoughts, feelings and surroundings.


As well as helping you feel more relaxed and in control, this exercise can give your confidence a boost and enable you to better overcome stressful situations.


3. The raisin exercise


The raisin exercise is a form of mindful eating and a way to rediscover the joy and gratitude of food by taking time to fully focus your mind on the textures, smells and flavours of the meals you eat.


Through consistent practice, the raisin exercise can help you find greater enjoyment in simple tasks – something that can serve as a huge boost to your emotional wellbeing day to day.


Here’s how you can try it yourself:

  1. Hold the raisin in your hand – examine it closely, as though you’ve never seen one before.
  2. Look at the raisin – explore every part, wrinkle and marking on the raisin, giving it your full attention.
  3. Touch the raisin – roll it around your fingers and feel its unique texture.
  4. Smell the raisin – notice its fragrance and how it makes your nose feel.
  5. Place the raisin in your mouth – move the raisin around with your tongue without chewing yet.
  6. Taste the raisin – bite into the raisin and consider its flavour and texture before you swallow.
  7. Swallow the raisin – notice the intention and feeling of swallowing the raisin as it goes down your throat.
  8. Follow the raisin – feel the raisin’s journey through your body and entering your stomach.

It’s important to remember that, much like other mental health treatments, there is no “right” way to conduct the practice of mindfulness. With these exercises as a guide, you can start to make positive progress toward more mindful living in a way that suits you. 


You may also notice that, even when you try to focus your attention, your mind will wander. This is perfectly natural – when this happens, simply take a note of these thoughts and bring yourself back to the present.


If you'd like to delve deeper into mindfulness but aren’t sure where to start, our free online mindfulness course is a great place to begin.


Tips to help you practise mindfulness


Whether you’re eager to get started with mindfulness for the first time, or are picking it back up after a while, these tips can help you maintain positive, sustainable progress.


Find a quiet place to concentrate


Mindfulness is all about focus – something that can be difficult to achieve in a busy or noisy environment. Choose a time and place where you will be undisturbed to begin your daily mindfulness activities.


Start a timer


Sometimes, it can be hard to find the time or motivation to focus your attention everyday. That’s why we recommend starting out by designating a short time limit, and gradually increasing it as you become more familiar.


Create a schedule


For the best results, it’s important to practise mindfulness everyday. Creating a physical schedule can be a great way to stay committed to these exercises, and avoid the temptation to leave long gaps between exercises.


Incorporate mindfulness into daily tasks


Over time, you can learn to introduce mindfulness into your repetitive everyday tasks. To give you an idea of what we mean, you may choose to spend time:

  • Acknowledging how the water feels on your skin when taking a shower
  • Noticing the aroma of each piece of food during meal time
  • Appreciating the texture of surfaces as you clean your home

Set realistic expectations


It’s important not to put too much pressure on yourself right away. Mindfulness works by making gradual improvements to your life that eventually make big differences over the course of weeks and months, not days.


At the core, remember these five important details:

  1. Make sure you’re comfortable
  2. Take any exercise step by step
  3. Acknowledge your feelings, but don’t judge them
  4. Be gentle on yourself as you get used to this
  5. Try an online course if you find it hard on your own

How do I get started with mindfulness?


Mindfulness is an important part of practising good mental health. By being fully present and aware of where you are and what you're doing, you can make strides toward a happier, healthier mindset.


Whether you choose to incorporate breathing exercises into your day-to-day, or adopt the body scan technique to regularly ground yourself, remember that professional guidance is available to help you on your journey to feeling better.


As the local NHS Talking Therapies provider for North East and South East Essex, we at Therapy For You offer a range of free treatments to help you on your mindfulness journey, including:

For more information on the mindfulness support we can provide, get in touch with one of our qualified therapists today.

Close x

You must be 18 years or over

Sorry you do not meet our criteria

If you are under 18 years old you are unable to register for an online account with Therapy For You.

Close x

You must be 16 years or over

Sorry you do not meet our criteria

If you are under 16 years old you are unable to register for an online account with Therapy For You.