5 Proven Mindfulness Exercises That Can Change Your Life
Can you recall the movie, The Karate Kid? For those who haven’t seen that movie, it’s pretty much about a simple boy who gets trained by some guy to become a karate master and win a tournament. Why do I mention the Karate Kid? Because we’re about to put your brain through the same type of training.
Did you know you could actually “train” your brain to act the way you want. Mindfulness exercises weren’t invented just to help monks who lived in those ancient temples. It’s for anyone who wants to see life through a different perspective.
Another way to think of becoming mindful is learning how to put on the right pair of glasses that can help you most. If you see life through a negative pair of lens, you’re not going to have to fun time. However, if you tend to see the glass half full, life gets a little easier.
Overall, mindfulness is meant to let you see life in a way you’ve never witnessed before. You begin focusing on ideas that you’ve never dug into before. In a way, it’s like taking the red pill from the Matrix.
The first step the average person usually takes towards mindfulness is learning how to meditate, eating healthier, and sculpting the best version of themselves. Back in my journey to embody a mindfulness lifestyle, my main focus was to train my brain to reshape its perspective of reality. I had to focus on erasing the ugly sides of life and what I didn’t have.
Before I saw the bigger picture of life and what actually mattered, I had to break down my negative thoughts into smaller categories I could handle. I knew I wasn’t in the best shape but always blamed work and my schedule for not exercising. I knew eating healthier was the right choice to make, but used those excuses to avoid cooking something healthy.
As for you…
To enforce any major changes into your life, aim at your daily routines that affects your attitude, mood, and feelings. Those three aspects control your decision making, perspective, and willpower to continue your productivity. Without some form of mindfulness exercises properly managing those three areas, you easily become depleted in energy by the end of the day.
For instance, I’m aware of the importance of exercising at least 4 times a week to maintain a healthy mentality to lower my anxiety. However, by the time I finish my errands and job, I’m exhausted and ready to rest on my couch. Without practicing any mindfulness exercises, I can easily think of an excuse to neglect exercising. But with a few tricks, my brain gets me back into the, “Mind Over Body” attitude to workout.
My attitude tends to be like a child forced to eat vegetables. I hate exercising, but I know it’s necessary and I have no choice unless I want to regret it later. My mood usually finds it more pleasurable watching Netflix than straining my body. But my mind will constantly remind itself how I my anxieties increase whenever I refuse to exercise. Thus, before my feelings convince me to ignore working out, my mind acts as a trainer by explaining the reasons I should jump into my workout clothes.
Without training your mind to embody any mindfulness exercises, your body can easily persuade you to perform bad habits that may give you temporarily pleasures, but headaches in the long run. Most of the major decisions you make will trace back to the root to of how your brain perceived the world during those moments.
After digging through a few proven studies relating to mindfulness exercises, I wanted to share them with you. Each method below is easy to apply and will make you more positive in the long run.
1. Perform around 5 – 7 Minutes of Meditation
Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, was one of the first scientists who claimed the benefits of meditation and mindfulness after conducting brain scans. After Lazar had received physical injury, she started practicing yoga and meditation as a form of physical therapy. Initially, she only believed the class was meant to help her stretch. But as she put it:
“I Started noticing that I was calmer. I was better able to handle more difficult situations. I was more compassionate and open hearted, and able to see things from others’ points of view.”
With studies already proving how meditation can reduce stress, depression, and anxiety, meditation can increase the quality of your lifestyle within a single week. All it really requires is 5 – 7 minutes of quality time alone where you can pay attention to your breathing. Mindfulness meditation requires being present to the moment and enhancing your senses.
If possible, increase your meditation sessions by 2 – 5 minutes every week until you’re able to conduct around 27 minutes of mindfulness meditation. In a second study done by Lazar, she uncovered that 27 minutes was the average time of a well balanced meditation session. However, there are no clear studies that proves 27 minutes is any better than 7 minutes a day. So long as you’re able to fit it into your daily schedule, it does benefit your lifestyle. Thus, as Lazar puts it:
“Mindfulness is just like exercising. And just as exercise increases health, helps us handle stress better and promotes longevity, meditation purports to confer some of those same benefits.”
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that builds into a habit. Such as exercising, it does not serve as an instant cure. There will be an offset chance you won’t even notice any major benefits after meditating once or twice for 5 minutes. Therefore, make it a part of your routine such as taking a shower, brushing your teethe, and eating a meal.
2. Begin Supplying Yourself With the Small Pleasures in Life (Aka experiences)
Ultimate happiness is the main goal people give themselves in life. Whether it’s through wealth, better relationships, or greater purposes, everyone searches for the big plantations that enhances their happiness. Humans easily assume big items such as the ones mentioned above will make them happier because they see other people who possess them.
Take for instance Celebrities. We view them everyday and millions of people adore them because they’re beautiful, wealthy, and most specifically, always appearing to be happy. They then fall under the assumption they either have to look a certain way or have a certain amount of money to reach that level of happiness. Yet, by the time they do receive those large bundles, they find themselves on the same boat of depression.
Rather than waiting for those great moments in life to finally provide you with the happiness you want, supply yourself with the small pleasures in life. A study done in San Francisco State University has shown that those who spent their money on experiences rather than possessions were happier with their lives.
Imagine a time you went to a Theme Park or concert and compare it to the time you went mindlessly shopping at the mall. Both experiences perhaps cost you around the same amount of money, however both gave you a totally different perspective in life. With experience, you receive positive emotions and memories than if you were to simply buy a few new outfits you’ll get tired of in the future.
Does this mean you have to spend recklessly by attending expensive trips and vacations? Heck No! Before giving in to the idea of buying yourself a meal to eat at home, eat out at an exotic restaurant you’ve never been to before. Instead of purchasing a new “toy” for yourself that you’ll get tired of within a week or month, attend a local arcade, carnival, or museum.
However, when you do decide to buy something for yourself, try to make it where it enhances your mindfulness lifestyle. For instance, after I bought a bicycle for myself, it gave me many wonderful experiences after riding it around the city. I met other cyclists and discovered how exciting their world was. (Not to mention how expensive those bikes can get.)
Provide yourself with small, but new, experiences on a weekly basis because it gives you new life satisfactions. Thus, you gain a new perspective towards mindfulness and the traditional flow of where happiness originates from.
3. Perform Kind Acts For Others
Back when I was younger, I never understood how someone could give so much without wanting anything in return. They always appeared happy and willing to give up so much just to see another person smile. It would especially confuse me when someone performed major kind acts for strangers.
However, that was before I realized the extreme benefits that helping others provide you with. Besides a few personal experiences I had upon helping others, studies have shown that spending money on other people is good for you own happiness and mindfulness. For Instance, in a Psychological Study performed recently:
When students are given money and told to spend it by the end of the day on either themselves or someone else, the students who spent it on someone else were in a better mood. The amount they got to spend, $5 vs. $20, did not make any difference in their happiness.
In 120 out of 136 countries, people who were more charitable were also happier. (It is just a correlation, so only suggestive, but interesting nonetheless.)
In an experiment in countries such as Uganda, South Africa, India, and Canada, participants had an opportunity to buy a goodie bag (that included treats such as chocolates). Half were told they’d get to keep it and the others learned that a sick child in a local hospital would receive it. Those whose goodie bags went to the sick child ended up happier. As the authors added, “This finding is particularly notable, given that more than 20% of the South African sample reported not having enough money to buy food for themselves or their families in the preceding year.”
The relationship between mindfulness and income is something that puzzles many people. After all, money can buy you the things you desire, the experiences you want, and the lifestyle you prefer. However, humans are very giving creatures that receive greater satisfactions upon the act of giving to those who have less than them.
Life gets easier to understand when you take the opportunity to help someone who needs a chance. You become less stressful about getting that promotion, buying an expensive car, or when you have time to take a vacation. Social relationships are universally critical for mindfulness because it enhances the mood of another human, which in turn, gives you a high emotional state.
4. Think the Thoughts You’re Not Thinking About
Too often, people imagine the final stages of their dreams and goals without paying attention to the minor ones. For instance, the average person likes to imagine building a popular business that will make them a famous entrepreneur but neglect the critical details on after they get there. They forget to envision the amount of employees they might need to hire to keep it running smoothly, their weekly or monthly payroll, the amount of hours they need to invest, and ways to keep themselves mentally prepared to keep their business on top.
In a research done by Liberman Sagrastino and Trope, they showed how people view their experiences that rested in the future. The further away any experience was, the more abstractly people tend to think of it.
“Like airplane passengers viewing a city just as they begin their descent, we see the distant future in simple, high-level ways rather than in fine detail.”
Imagine if a family had planned to visit Disneyland for their summer vacation. Rather than thinking about the long lines, the crowded spaces, and how much their feet will hurt by the end of the day, they only imagine how much fun they’ll have there. It’s perfectly fine to imagine those irritating details because you’re giving yourself a better awareness of what you’re getting yourself into in the future. It saves you the trouble of consciously complaining about those things because you were already mindfully prepared for them.
The same mindfulness rule applies to anything else you want in life that resides in the longrun. Don’t think about the major benefits to what you want whether it’s a successful business, a sexy body, or better relationships. Think of the nasty thoughts that comes with those great prizes.
With a sexy body comes numerous days of exercising, eating healthier and constantly on the verge of giving up. With better relationships comes times where you’ll want to argue with people, not want to spend time with them, and sometimes question if it’s worth maintaining.
Mindfulness towards the future rotates around keeping your alert on the minor details in it. Or else, by the time you do approach those great rewards or events, you’ll be mentally unprepared to accept the harsh experiences.
5. Get it Now, but Use it Later
Contrary to what some may believe, anticipation is perhaps one of the most gratifying feelings you can receive in life. It acts as the roller coaster buildup in your head towards happiness. Where you can easily buy ice cream and immediately eat it, you’ll only receive a unit of pleasure from it. However, if you bought that ice cream and wait until later to eat it, you’ll receive the same unit of pleasure along with the pleasure of looking forward to eating it.
Part of mastering your mindfulness is knowing how to delay your satisfactions for the greater good. In a study conducted by Ronald K. Mitchell, he examined three different vacations ranging from a trip to Europe to a bicycle trip through California. During his study, he concluded with:
“The people viewed the vacation in a more positive light before the experience than during the experience, suggesting that anticipation may sometimes provide more pleasure than consumption simply because it is unsullied by reality.”
Thinking about future events brings you stronger emotions than any events that occurred in the past. For example, you may have enjoyed your vacation in the past, but the anticipation to your next vacation will seem even greater than before. For other people, simply thinking about next weekend will always seem more thrilling than their previous one.
This doesn’t mean you have to always delay your instant satisfactions. This mindfulness exercise is only meant to raise your level of happiness by learning how to use anticipation to your advantage. Don’t worry about instantly receiving the things you want. Don’t stress yourself because your business isn’t where you want it to be or your weight isn’t at that satisfying level yet. Use your anticipation to your advantage and take pleasure in every small victory you receive that will get you there.
In final thoughts….
For more related topics to mastering your mind and emotions, here are a few hot topics in the area:
Discover any mindfulness exercises that pertained or marked your interest? Have any mindfulness exercises that you prefer doing that isn’t listed here? Share your interests and thoughts in the Chat Room.