Discover fun mindfulness activities for foodies, nature lovers, and people in a hurry.
by Jessica Dillon
5 min read
So you probably think you’re not mindful enough, otherwise why would you have clicked on here? And if you’re hoping that you can just waltz in here, do a couple of exercises and then walk away, then let me dispel this notion from your head, because that’s not how mindfulness works.
By its very nature, mindfulness is not a one time thing that you can just “do” and then forget about. In many ways, maintaining a fit mind is much like maintaining a fit body, you need to work at it constantly in order to see actual progress. And sure, maybe the first time, you’ll keep getting distracted or lose your patience. Maybe the first time you won’t feel any improvement at all.
And just like with a physical routine, you’ll feel tempted to quit. But then, when working out, you know how immature and downright silly it is to expect a ripped body after just one training session.
It’s the same for mindfulness. You can’t expect to become a mindful person after one day and chances are, the same little annoyances that brought you here in the first place will continue for some time after that.
But by introducing a brief mindfulness practice in your daily routine, you are slowly paving the way to a more mindful and aware existence. I just wanted to make this little comparison to let you know it will take some time. Don’t give up.
Because not everyone has the time for a meditation session or a full-blown practice, this section is for all you busy people out there.
This is actually a trick I picked up in yoga, but it’s an excellent way to ground yourself and become more aware. It can be done pretty much anywhere: at work, at home, even outside. And it’s super-easy, too.
What you want to do is take a moment every couple hours or so to stretch. Not just that shy, half-stretch that you attempt a couple times during the day when you really can’t take it anymore, but actual, proper stretching.
Move your arms about, wiggle your fingers a little bit, even strike a silly pose if you like. Or maybe raise your fists in that universal winning gesture. That’s the point of this exercise, to have fun while doing it and to be creative with your stretches.
Because the sillier the stretches make you feel, the more aware you’ll become of it, and the more you’ll be in the present moment.
Or the floor or your kitchen, that’ll do just as well. Or the ground in the park – that one’s particularly nice to try because the sight of nature and the fresh air compound the feeling of being alive and in the moment. But anywhere works, really.
Stand up straight and with your feet (ideally bare) firmly on the ground. Focus on your feet, your toes, the soles and arches of the feet and try to feel the stillness in them. The support the ground is giving you, focus on that.
Then, once you feel like you’ve established this support in your feet, move up slowly along the rest of your body: calves, knees, thighs, etc. Make your way to the head and feel in each body part the beautiful stillness. And remember this is where you are today. This is your present, standing here.
It doesn’t have to be an actual, physical want. We’re not talking about wanting to buy milk when you run out to the store or being in the mood for tacos (although that’s fine, too!). Rather, try to identify a desire or ambition that you have. It can be as simple as:
“Today, I want to be kind.”
It sounds really simple, I know, but in practice, it can be very grounding. Why? Because we go through a large chunk of our day just existing on auto-pilot. We already have our tasks, such as eating, working, washing ourselves mapped out for us.
We don’t need to become aware of them to survive, so often, we don’t pay attention to what’s going on for real. Identifying one ambition or desire that you have makes you aware of who you are today.
Food plays a big role in our day-to-day lives, so I thought it’s only fair to give it a special section here.
Sounds a bit food-obsessed, I know, but it does the trick. This exercise refers to paying attention to what you eat. I don’t mean counting your calories or anything like that, but rather, making yourself aware of your meal. At least one meal a day.
Start by setting your phone aside and imposing to yourself that you don’t just rush through your meal as you normally would. Observe the food in front of you.
What does it smell like? Is it hot or cold? What’s the color of your food? What about the texture?
After a moment of looking at your plate, take a bite and be aware of it. Feel it in your mouth, pay attention to how it tastes and how easy or hard it is to chew. Watch how your body is reacting to this bit of food in your mouth. Because that’s you: the person who’s chewing on that bit of steak right now.
This one’s for all you chocoholics out there. We’re not trying to mess up your diet or anything, but pretty much anyone can have a tiny square of chocolate, tailored to their specific taste (minty, milky or as dark as night).
We use chocolate in this exercise because it’s small and yet it makes you aware. So get yourself a small piece of chocolate and start biting small sections off of it. Seriously, don’t just chomp it up in one go, but rather force yourself to eat slowly, to only bite off tiny bits. And really feel it.
Become aware of the chocolate melting in your mouth and tickling your taste-buds. This is a variant of the previous exercise, but it’s also more than that. It lasts much less (usually no more than a minute) and feels like you’re treating yourself, which is always great.
No no, I don’t mean binge-watch the show, I mean actually put on a hat and apron and get cookin’! It doesn’t matter if you’re a horrible cook (and we’re sure you’re not that bad!). In fact, the stranger it is for you to be in the kitchen, the more attention you’ll pay to it.
Decide to cook one meal for yourself. It can be easy or complex. It can take anywhere from 10 minutes to upwards of 3 hours, that’s up to you. The great thing about cooking is that it forces you to pay attention to the moment at hand. That’s why, if you’re in the habit of cooking fairly regularly, we encourage you to try making something you’ve never prepared before (because otherwise you risk slipping into auto-pilot).
You don’t have to pay any special attention to actually being mindful, you’ll do that automatically, because you need to watch the recipe and the ingredients and the time your meal spends in the oven. It’s a sure-fire way to get you to realise you’re alive right now.
Lastly, we’re dedicating a section of our list to Mother Nature because there have actually been studies that show nature can help you become more aware and more productive, not to mention boost happiness.
It’s healthy to spend time outside, to breathe in fresh air, even if it’s just for 15 minutes, on a short walk. The light helps you break free from inside your head, so let’s get to it.
Or, you know, if you’re skilled that way, you can even paint an actual picture. But that’s a whole other thing, and so we’ll talk about this mental painting. This basically refers to paying attention to anything you might include in a painting. Since it doesn’t have to be restricted by canvas, you can incorporate sound and smells as well. But basically, imagine you were creating this mental picture for someone who wasn’t here.
You can do this on the street, in the park, anywhere outside really.
So take note of what is happening right now around you. The colors and the light and the wind and the smells. Take them all down. What color shirt does the lady walking ahead of you have, or is that jogger wearing short pants or long pants? Does it smell of fresh grass or of Chinese food? These little things will all make your mental picture more accurate.
And you want it to be as accurate as possible, because at the end of the day, the person you’re painting that picture for is you.
Now, this one can theoretically be done anywhere, even indoors. But for now, we’re setting it outdoors because there are many more opportunities to watch people outside than in, and besides, haven’t we already established how good nature is for you?
So sit down in the grass, on a bench, at a street cafe, wherever. And make a point of not occupying yourself with anything. Too often, when we’re sitting somewhere, we feel the need to fidget with our phone or read a paper or something. Well, don’t. Because you’ll miss a whole lot of people that way.
If you’re not sure how to people-watch, we’ve got a sure-fire tip for you. Try to single out at least one interesting aspect about the people walking past. Like the color of that woman’s hair scrunchie or the expression of the old man who just passed you by. If you like, you can also practice creativity here and try to make up little stories about them. Maybe that woman accidentally picked up one of her child’s scrunchies on her way to work this morning. Perhaps the old man just saw the love of his life after more than 20 years. Often, paying attention to someone else’s present helps you become grounded.
Exercise is great for keeping you mindful and my personal favorite is a nice jog or run. You’d think it’s not all that special and how does that make you more mindful? But it does. Even if you set out with loads of problems and accumulated stress on your mind, after about 10 minutes, you’ve forgotten all about it. Because you’re paying attention to the road, to your breathing, to not bumping into anyone. You’ve automatically put all your worries aside, knowing there will be time for them later.
Running is also on this list because it’s a great exercise for your entire body. And it doesn’t have to be fast, we’re not talking marathons here. Simply a brisk jog will do, especially if you’re not used to vigorous exercise. Without thinking about it, you’ll be observing the changes in your body, how more air seems to be going into your lungs and how sore your muscles feel.
And besides, running can give you a sense of freedom like nothing else can.
In conclusion, there are loads of excellent exercises you can practice to keep yourself mindful and to encourage creativity, you just have to be willing to set that extra bit of time aside for yourself.
You can easily make up your own mindfulness practice, because after all, everybody’s different and what keeps me mindful might not work as well for you. All you need to do is have the will to find yourself in the moment and you will.
1-Minute Mindfulness Exercises
5 Simple Mindfulness Practices for Daily Life