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Did you know that we spend more than 90 percent of our life unconsciously? Sounds scary, doesn’t it? Today we’ll talk about different kinds of mindfulness activities for adults that allow us to be more in the present moment and actually experience life instead of just living it.
It’s not all bad, though. Sometimes our automatic behaviors are indeed very handy!
Imagine if you had to control every breath in order to stay alive or consciously do every step in order to get somewhere. Walking would take ages, and you would hardly be able to do anything at all because you’d need to be focused on breathing. Besides, making a habit out of healthy activity helps to live a better life and rely less on willpower.
So what’s wrong then, you might wonder. Why be mindful?
Mindfulness helps you be more in control of what’s going on in your head. By practicing it regularly with various exercises, you’ll learn to ground yourself whenever you need it and see things clearly. You’ll be able to step back and evaluate the situation to make a better decision, calm yourself down if necessary, and even prevent anxiety.
Find all recommended mindfulness tools and resources here.
Have you ever felt overwhelmed with emotions? Made quick decisions you regretted later? Or even said something hurtful to a person you loved you’d rather not say?
Have you ever worried too much over nothing and maybe even got a full-blown panic attack?
Have you ever let your judgment, fear, or other destructive feeling take the reigns and make an important decision for you?
All of this can be reduced drastically, or even avoided completely, with regular mindfulness practice.
What is adult mindfulness?
By practicing mindfulness as an adult, you are taking the course of your life into your own hands. You decide to not let your emotions cloud your judgment and you don’t rush into anything you don’t honestly want. Being mindful means handling gracefully whatever you can control and letting go of that you can’t.
Whether it means shutting up the inner critic that stops you from doing great, making conscious decisions about your future, or simply channeling more positive energy to make your world a happier place, mindfulness takes you there.
There are plenty of great mindfulness exercises for adults you can use to achieve it.
Surely, we all have busy lives, and adding new things to do regularly doesn’t always seem easy.
But you can totally start small!
Maybe start with a Monday journaling session to reflect on your current feelings.
Or choose one of the simplest 1-minute mindfulness exercises to do every day. For example, spend one minute before getting out of bed in the morning focusing on your breathing.
Or listen to a short inspiring podcast episode instead of music every once in a while.
Some of the mindfulness activities listed below take more time than that, but it’s your personal practice, remember? Choose whatever you enjoy doing, try to fit it into your routine, and don’t force yourself into things you loathe.
It doesn’t have to be hard to bring you all the benefits!
10 mindfulness activities for adults to practice regularly
For this post, I chose ten common mindfulness exercises and activities that are suitable for adults. Most of these are better done alone for deeper connecting to your inner self, but some can also sometimes benefit from sharing with another person.
You may think of these as a kind of brain gym exercises for adults. We are used to working our bodies, now let’s take care of the mind and soul!
Mindfulness exercise #1: Mindful breathing
Even if you don’t know much about mindfulness, I’m sure you saw this one coming.
Contrary to popular opinion, mindful breathing is not the same as meditating, which we’ll talk more about below. This one you can do anywhere: while waiting in line, sitting at your work desk, preparing for a business meeting, or lying in your bed at home.
Mindful breathing is all about focusing your attention on your breath, noticing every sensation that may arise. Feeling the warmth or coolness of the air you inhale, the movement of your chest, switching between breathing through nose and mouth and seeing how it feels, and so on.
There are plenty of breathing techniques you may want to try over time to make this exercise more interesting and discover more sensations.
But at first, try to just put your hand on your diaphragm and do a simple 4-4-4 breathing. Inhale, hold, and exhale, each for a count of 4. And pay attention to everything that’s happening in your body, while disregarding all the external thoughts that appear in your head.
Mindfulness exercise #2: Repeat positive affirmations
This is one of my favorite mindfulness exercises! Not only it’s good for your awareness, but also for raising your self-esteem and setting yourself for success, whether it’s for a big business breakthrough or just for having a good day.
You may choose to say your positive affirmations in front of a mirror or circle them in your head a few times a day. I have some tips and examples for making them work for you, and you can also write your own affirmations for any personal cause.
Repeating affirmations is a great mindfulness exercise for building a positive mindset that would rarely take more than 2 minutes of your time.
Here are the most common affirmation topics to start with:
- 60 Happy Affirmations That Instantly Make You Feel Better
- 80 Positive Affirmations For Confidence And Self Esteem
- 50 Most Beautiful Affirmations For Self Love
- 40 Positive Affirmations For Inner Beauty, Peace, And Strength
Mindfulness exercise #3: Take a mindful shower or bath
Showering or taking a bath is one of the many typical automatic behaviors we regularly do. We don’t usually pay much attention to the process, so our thoughts are free to wander, which is why we get so many good ideas specifically in the bathroom.
Does it sound like you? Are you one of those people who would benefit from a waterproof notepad?
In any case, having a mentally involving self-cleaning experience is the next mindfulness exercise you can do.
Starting with taking your clothes off and getting into the shower, pay attention to everything you feel. Allow all your senses to take part in it:
- feel the warmth or coolness of water
- enjoy the massaging feeling of the water flow
- smell your shower gel or shampoo
- feel the temperature and humidity of steam when you breathe it in
- notice the difference in sensitivity of different body parts
- look at the water drops flowing down your arms
- listen to the sound of water splashes
If you choose to take a bath, light a few scented candles, use the bath salts or a bomb, maybe turn soothing instrumental music on, and create an atmosphere of relaxation. In a pleasing environment and with a calm mind, you’ll get to experience even more sensations.
Mindfulness exercise #4: Mindful walk
If you ever go for a walk by yourself, are you being in a present moment?
Or do you put headphones on and turn the world off for the whole walk, so it’s all like a blur?
There is nothing wrong with listening to music or your favorite podcasts along the way, of course, but why not go for a mindful walk every once in a while?
Next time you are walking, don’t put your headphones on. Look around and see your neighborhood with a set of fresh eyes!
Acknowledge the color of the sky and leaves on the trees, the movements from the wind, the brightness of grass. Control your breath and the pace of walking. Look up so you can notice a bird’s nest on a tree, and be aware of your surroundings so maybe you’ll see an unusual graffiti.
Pay attention to the sounds of your environment. How many different sounds can you hear? How does the air smell like? How do people look? Are they smiling or frowning?
You may notice some new things you’ve never seen before, even though you walked that same path a thousand times before!
A mindful walk can be another one of your mindful Monday ideas (or any other day) if you don’t walk alone every single day. Schedule it in advance if it’s hard to fit into your busy daily routine!
Mindfulness exercise #5: Monday self-reflection session
I love starting a week by evaluating the previous one and planning the next steps! This helps me to always stay on track with my goals and bring myself back onto the right path if I start to deviate.
That’s why I recommend having a self-reflection section on Monday.
When a new week begins, you usually feel more prone to accepting changes, coming up with creative ideas, and planning your best life. Besides, there are so many reasons to love Mondays, and even more ways to make them better, so why not make it your mindfulness day!
I have prepared 20 questions for a mindful Monday to make this exercise easier for you. You can also look up specific journaling prompts on a subject you most care about, use a guided mindfulness journal, or try a freewriting technique and just write down whatever is on your mind at the moment.
Each of the journaling techniques has its benefits, so try different things and see what works best for you. Also, mix it up once in a while to dive deeper into your feelings one way or another!
Finally, if you don’t like to write, that’s fine too! It’s usually recommended because you can get in the flow, focus easier on the topic, and not be distracted too much by other thoughts.
But your self-reflection session can be completely in your head if you want! Just find a quiet place to avoid distractions and a few minutes to think. Prepare to have some insights, too!
Mindfulness exercise #6: Being present while eating
How much attention do you actually pay to the food you eat?
It’s so common to engage in a conversation or watch something interesting while eating and not even notice where the whole plate of food went.
Not only it’s bad for digestion, but you can also easily overeat and not notice it in time!
The process of mindful eating may take a bit more time and not feel as fun without entertainment. But it’s nevertheless a good mindfulness exercise to help you pay more attention to the things you put in your mouth.
So here is how the mindful eating exercise might look like for you:
- Mute all your devices or leave them in another room. The less distractions you have, the more you can focus on the food.
- Take three deep breaths before you start eating. This is said to be good for the digestion process, as it’s much more common to experience bad symptoms afterward when you ate in a stressed state. So calm yourself down with long deep breathing before taking the first bite.
- Observe the food before putting it into your mouth. Notice the colors, the texture, the freshness. Smell it, imagine its taste, and get ready to enjoy it.
- Take a bite. Chew slowly and pay attention to different receptors of your tongue. Notice the temperature, the texture, the juicyness. Is it exactly as you imagined it would taste? Try to count how many times you chew before you swallow. I bet it’s less than 32 recommended times! Or am I wrong?
- Appreciate your food. You don’t have to say thanks for each bite or pray before eating if that’s not your thing. But try to be more positive and appreciate the fact that you got something delicious on your plate!
Do you have to eat your whole meal like this? Of course not. Even if you can dedicate the first three minutes or more to mindful eating, it will be a big step on your mindfulness journey!
If you practice it regularly, you’ll start being more conscious about your food choices and will have more clarity on the reasons you like or hate some local dining places.
Mindfulness exercise #7: Observe your emotions
This is one of the strongest mindfulness exercises to take control of your life.
As opposed to all the other ones, you can’t just randomly choose a time to do it. It’s gonna be based on some situation you find yourself in, or some emotion you may be experiencing right that moment.
The “observing emotions” exercise lets you take a step back and separate your thinking from your feelings for a moment. This way you can analyze the situation from the outside and prevent yourself from acting wrong or making bad decisions.
Basically, you can do it whenever you can describe your emotional state like anything other than “neutral”. Although the most effective way to use this technique is, of course, with negative emotions.
Here is the process for observing your emotions:
- Stop yourself in the moment, and turn your attention inside. Observe your specific feelings and identify the emotions that are prevailing. Write down or just note what those emotions are. Anger? Sadness? Anxiety? Something else?
- Close your eyes and imagine grabbing these emotions (one by one or however you want) and putting it across the room. If you are outside, make it far enough so you can still see them but can’t reach them. This allows you to see the situation as a neutral observer, so these emotions can’t affect you anymore.
- Ask yourself, how you feel physically at the moment of experiencing these emotions. Notice all the sensations, accept them.
- Reflect on why you feel it right now. What happened before, what was your response, and why are you feeling like this.
- Accept everything you feel as a natural thing to feel, but understand that any of these emotions don’t define who you are or what you can do.
- Don’t judge yourself for any of the feelings and don’t try to avoid or ignore them. Acknowledge them simply as a part of your current state, and move on.
If you never did this exercise before, start with a light emotion like frustration or irritation. When you master this skill of observing emotions, you can then use it in various life situations and have a clear head even in the most extreme circumstances.
Mindfulness exercise #8: Have a mindful conversation
One of the ways to practice mindfulness with other people is by increasing your awareness during conversations.
Mindful communication means being open and non-judgmental, fully present, and observing both yourself and your conversation partner.
This exercise is easy to practice regularly during conversations you’d have anyway.
You can aim to make it one of your 5-minute mindfulness activities to choose from daily or specifically schedule a long mindful conversation with someone. It may be your loved one, a new friend, a mindset coach, or an online therapist.
Here is what you can do to be more mindful in a conversation:
- Start a conversation by being fully present. Forget about previous conversations you may have had, all the current issues, and whatever else might be on your mind at the moment, and focus on your interlocutor.
- Turn off all the devices or put them in Do Not Disturb mode to eliminate possible distractions.
- Pay full attention to what the other person is saying. Actually listen to their thoughts instead of thinking about the next thing to say yourself.
- Listen with both: your ears and your eyes. Look at their eyes, lip movement, gestures, and the way they keep themselves.
- Be open to an opinion that doesn’t align with yours. Try to understand their point of view instead of arguing.
- When you are speaking, try to be aware of your own posture and gestures. How does your body respond to the topic? How your own words make you feel? And why do you feel it? (Don’t get carried away by these thoughts while you are still in a conversation, mentally note them so you can reflect on them later.)
Mindfulness exercise #9: Channel your creativity
There are many ways to practice mindfulness through creative expression!
Before you start, here is the list of my favorite positive affirmations for creativity.
You can read a few of them at the beginning of your creative practice or repeat a few favorites in your head during the creative process itself, especially in those moments when you need some extra inspiration.
Maybe you heard about such a thing as art therapy?
Many psychologists use this technique as part of their practice, which says how powerful this technique is.
The most commonly practiced form of it is drawing but creative mindfulness is not limited by it.
You can draw, paint, do mindful coloring, create collages, paint with your body or on your body, do all kinds of crafts, and so much more!
The idea of mindful creativity is expressing your emotions, especially those you may be not consciously aware of, through the art process. It’s about connecting deeper to your inner self, or inner child, and uncovering the hidden factors that may bother you and, in a way, ruin your life.
If you use Skillshare (which I love and highly recommend as it’s only like $2 per month), there is a ton of amazing mindfulness courses that will help channel your creativity and maybe learn a fun new skill!
For example, here are a few Skillshare classes that you may find intriguing:
- Watercolor Painting for Mindfulness and Relaxation: Creative Self Care 2.0
- Learn Tangling – Draw Patterns, Relax and Cultivate Mindfulness
- Mindset to Magic: Reconnect With Clarity And Intention Through Art
- Collage Techniques: The Art Of Play And Mindfulness
- Mindfulness Flower Arranging
- Mindful Mandalas 10 Day Drawing Challenge
- Creative Mindfulness: Easy Exercises to Find Magic & Inspiration Everywhere
Mindfulness exercise #10: Guided meditation
There is so much talk and excitement about meditation these days that I couldn’t help including it in my list of mindfulness activities for adults.
If you look at successful people or read self-development books, almost everyone who achieved something practices meditation in some form.
Mindfulness meditation helps you center yourself, explore your mental and physical feelings, calm your mind, and get rid of the negative energy you may have accumulated. It’s like taking a mental bath after which you feel light, refreshed, and can think more clearly.
If you ever tried meditation and felt uncomfortable, not being able to stop your thoughts from wondering, it’s completely normal. It’s a newbie phase everyone goes through and it gets better and easier over time to focus on your breathing and the meditation itself.
Personally, I prefer guided meditations as it’s easier to focus and not get carried away by unwanted thoughts. And, you can choose a different one every time depending on what you need the most.
My favorite guided meditations are the ones by Boho Beautiful on Youtube, here is their full playlist. Out of those, meditations for healing and for positive energy are my number one favorites!
There are also all kinds of meditation courses on Skillshare: from guided meditations on any topic you can imagine to classes on different types of meditation. At the moment of writing this, I can see 676 courses related to meditation available there, which means everyone can find something interesting for themselves and try some new different things.
This concludes my list of 10 mindfulness activities for adults!
I hope they help you be more present and not get carried away with negative thoughts and emotions as easily.
Changing mindset is never an easy task, especially if you are used to negative thinking patterns and not dealing with emotions. But with regular practice, each of the mentioned mindful exercises will get easier and create less resistance in you, so keep at it!
Do you like this analogy about these 1 to 5-minute mindfulness activities being like a brain gym for adults? Do you exercise for your mental strength often? Which ones you enjoy or don’t enjoy doing? Please share with me in the comments!