Mindfulness Exercises: New Ways To Be More Mindful
Having trouble staying present? These mindfulness exercises can help you make mindfulness a part of your daily routine and boost your happiness and well-being.
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After spending the last year researching and writing my new book, Outsmart Your Smartphone: Conscious Tech Habits for Finding Happiness, Balance, and Connection IRL, I've learned that our attention is increasingly being eaten up by technology. We barely notice that our time is being consumed not only by reading and writing texts and scrolling social media.
So how do we switch our attention away from technology and instead be more mindful? One way is to make mindfulness exercises a part of your routine.
What is Mindfulness?
Being more mindful means increasing your awareness, openness, and acceptance of yourself, others, and the world around you.
To be more aware, try to explore the causes and consequences of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. For example, ask yourself if you are angry at someone, is it actually because of what they did? Or is it because of how they did it, why they did it, how it made you feel, or something in your past that still hurts.
To be more open, try not to push away unpleasant thoughts or emotions that arise in mindful moments. For example, many of us listen politely when friends share their struggles, but our real goal is to end our own discomfort of having to be in this situation. Instead, try to open yourself to any emotions that arise in you, even if those emotions are unpleasant.
To be more accepting, try to stop judging or censoring your feelings and thoughts. You may have heard judgy statements like “Boys don’t dry” or “You’re too sensitive” or “Get over it”, and it is likely that you will continue to hear these things. So it can be hard to be accepting of emotions.
Why We Need Mindfulness Exercises in the Technology Age
Even though we may not realize it, using our attention on our technologies takes energy, and we can end up getting attention fatigue without really understanding why. A sort of chronic lethargy can emerge. We might not feel bad, exactly, but we sure don’t feel good. We need to take mindful breaks—which help focus on the present moment—to overcome this attention fatigue.
If you're not sure how mindful you are to begin with, you might want to take this short well-being quiz, which tells you your scores for mindfulness and other aspects of well-being.
Now what do you do? Try these mindfulness exercises:
1. Take Breaks from Technology and Media
To be more mindful and overcome attention fatigue, we first need to take breaks from media and technology, to give our attention a break. But of course, most of us cannot avoid technology indefinitely. So learning how to manage our technology use can really help us with mindfulness.
2. Have Restorative Experiences
To maintain our happiness, we need to regularly engage in restorative experiences or go to restorative environments (which is in itself a mindfulness exercise) to develop our mindfulness skills.
Restorative experiences are those that have three components: They are different from our normal routine, they are fascinating to some extent, and they fit your needs and interests. Although many experiences could be restorative, it turns out that getting out in nature tends to be one of the best ones because it so easily satisfies these three requirements.
For example, to get to nature, most of us have to step out of our regular lives and do something a bit different. In nature, there are endless things to evoke fascination—trees, plants, animals, and other sights we are not used to seeing. Taking a walk in a nearby park or spending an afternoon in a botanical garden or community garden seems to be enough to satisfy our need to “get away” and “experience fascination”. This type of mindfulness exercise helps us overcome our attention fatigue so that we can be more present.
3. Plan Mindful Get-Aways
It might seem hard at first to find these experiences--who has the time, energy, or money to truly get away? We might have to go to a local park (instead of the beach or mountains) to reboot our mindful self.
So take a moment now to think about what kinds of restorative experiences would work for you. Be sure to think of several experiences you could have in nature, but feel free to include other locations too. For example, you might try going to an art gallery, a car show, a pet shop, a local farm, a musical event, or any number of other events that are different, fascinating, and interesting to you.
4. Stick to Your Mindfulness Exercises
Schedule a time to try a couple of these experiences. Spend at least 10-15 minutes in the restorative environment (but the longer the better) and when you’re done, reflect on how it made you feel. Ideally, try a few different experiences to see which ones work best for you. But keep in mind that if you continue going to the same place, the benefits are likely to decline, so make sure you have several restorative environments to choose from. Hopefully, you'll get a chance to be feel more mindful, even if only for a few minutes per day.
5. Take Mindful Moments
It's helpful to just take moments with yourself to pause. Just sit and be with your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. You can use a mindful video to guide you or listen to some soothing music to help really get into it.
Here's a guided mindful meditation to try
Here's some mindful music to help you get into your mindful moment
6. Try Mindful Awe
Mindful awe involves being mindful during the experience of seeing – by paying attention to the shapes, colors, and details of what we see. To create moments of mindful awe, focus on imagining being present in the moment, seeing it all, and appreciating the vastness of whatever you're looking at (landscapes are a good choice). Grab our free mindful awe activities to try it out.
Here's a few videos with more mindfulness exercises
Soga, M., Gaston, K. J., & Yamaura, Y. (2017). Gardening is beneficial for health: A meta-analysis. Preventive medicine reports, 5, 92-99.
Kaplan, Stephen. 1995. "The restorative benefits of nature: Toward an integrative framework." Journal of environmental psychology 15 (3):169-182.
About Dr. Tchiki Davis
Dr. Davis is founder of The Berkeley Well-Being Institute. After getting her PhD in psychology at Berkeley, she started creating online content & programs to boost well-being—some of these have reached more than a million people. As author of Outsmart Your Smartphone, and contributor to Psychology Today, The Greater Good Science Center, and Shine Text, Dr. Davis aims to share her insights on happiness & health with people all across the world. Learn more about Dr. Davis.