Mindfulness is all about remaining in the present moment and being at peace with yourself.
It’s becoming more well-known as people seek solace and groundedness from the busy pace of modern life.
Mindfulness is something I’ve practiced in my own life as part of a personal journey that took me from hauling TVs in a musty warehouse to living the life of my dreams with my wife in Vietnam. I write about it in my new book Hidden Secrets of Buddhism.
In this article I’m going to go over the most effective mindfulness techniques that you can try.
1. Five senses exercise
The five senses exercises is one of my favorite mindfulness techniques because by doing it you elevate your mindfulness level before you even realize it.
By practicing this technique you come fully into your body and get in touch with the world in a very sensory and direct way that’s powerful, especially when you do this exercise on a daily basis.
This exercise is fairly simple. Here’s what you do:
- Listen to one thing you can hear and focus on its details and sounds
- Watch for something you can see and focus on its qualities and uniqueness
- Feel one thing you can sense in your body, for example the wind on your skin and focus on how that feels
- Try to see what you can smell. It may be very faint, but try to see what comes up.
- Lastly observe what you can taste, for example the after taste of a chocolate bar you ate earlier. If you can’t taste anything, focus on the memory of something you ate.
2. Breathing mindfully
Breathing is an amazing thing, because it forms the bridge between the conscious mind and unconscious.
You can’t choose to digest food, but you can choose to breathe, or you can let it run its automatic default setting, which is what happens, for example, when you sleep.
A basic breathing technique that I like is to simply sit or lie and do the following:
Breathe in normally and observe the intake of your breath as you draw in oxygen, then breathe out slowly, paying attention to the sensation of your breath leaving your body.
Added options are to keep a hand on your abdomen as you breathe in and pay attention to how your body feels overall as well.
Do this exercise for five minutes a day and you’ll notice definite benefits in how much inner peace you experience.
3. Do dragon breathing
Another breathing exercise which I really like is called Dragon Breathing.
In this one you inhale deeply, paying attention to how your chest and abdomen feel as they inflate full of air.
Hold it in for four or five seconds and then breathe out as long as possible, feeling the “fire” leave your body.
This is a great way to be mindful and also to get in touch with and own your own personal power.
4. Body scanning
Body scanning is a classic meditation and mindfulness technique.
You can do it lying down or sitting. Try to pick somewhere that’s on the quieter side.
Scan your body from top to bottom, inside and out and observe any feelings you sense including painful or pleasant feelings.
Also feel how their may be a breeze blowing over you or other sensations like itching that you’re feeling.
Do this without judging, just observing. The whole exercise of scanning your body should take 5 to 10 minutes and this can also be done daily when you have a short break from work.
5. Listening mindfully
Mindful listening is another technique you can try that I have found very valuable.
There are three primary ways that I practice this technique:
- By listening carefully to the words people say to me or the words I’m hearing in a film or on television. What’s the emotional impact of them and how do they sound? Rather than analyzing the meaning or intent I just listen to them as if they were a phenomenon like storming wind or crashing waves.
- By listening to the sounds around me as I go on my morning jog or in my workplace from the day to day. I take a five minute mindfulness moment and just focus in on everything I can hear.
- By listening to music and letting myself get really lost and absorbed in it. How does the music sound and what are some of its subtler details such as cymbals and light percussion tracks running below the main theme. For some rock songs I’ll just focus on the bass guitar track, which emerges and becomes very noticeable once you focus on it.
6. Appreciating mindfully
Gratitude is a very popular idea these days, and I’m all for it.
Granted, we don’t always feel grateful and we may have many things that aren’t going well in our lives.
But appreciating at least one thing per day in a mindful and conscious way is an excellent way to become more aware and grounded.
I do this even for the smallest thing such as somebody who opened a door for me, or a meal I had which had a delicious flavor.
Mindful appreciation is something you can do in your daily life on an ongoing basis and I highly recommend trying it out.
7. Mindful walking
Walking is another activity which can be incredibly good for raising your mindfulness.
You simply put one foot in front of the other, what could be so great about that?
Actually, it’s the simplicity of walking that makes it so special.
By getting into the rhythm of walking and paying attention to your breathing and how you feel in your body you can tap into a deep state of mindfulness.
While walking is also a time you can practice body scanning, breathing deeply and the five senses exercise.
There’s no pressure to do that, however, and the simplicity of walking can be its own profound and very effective mindfulness technique as well.
Try to make your walks at least 15 minutes in length to let yourself really sink into the experience.
If you want to get a bit more philosophical, I also love this quote from Buddha, which some also attribute to theosophist Helena Blavatsky:
“You cannot travel the path until you have become the path itself.”
8. Cooking with care
Cooking is one of my favorite mindfulness techniques, but you have to do it a certain way.
When we’re in a rush or not paying attention to our food we not only don’t get the same nutritional value, we also end up stressed and depriving ourselves of a good opportunity for more mindfulness.
Here’s how I do it:
- Write out a list of all the ingredients I’ll need
- Buy them at the store, mindfully selecting the best vegetables, fruits and spices
- Lay them out in an organized manner in the kitchen with the required pots and pans and utensils.
- Follow the recipe step by step, mindfully making food and taking my time in doing so.
I’ve started to really enjoy cooking thanks to making it part of my mindfulness activities. Plus the eating isn’t bad either.
9. Be mindful on your computer
Many of us, myself included, work on computers and find ourselves spending a fair bit of time on them.
Computers can leave us feeling spaced out and separate from our body, even kind of dissociated or low-key depressed and separate from life.
But even if you have to spend a lot of time on computers and typing away, there’s a way to make this mindful:
Firstly, I recommend the following…
Organize your desktop so it’s not cluttered and when using the internet close tabs you aren’t using and keep things organized.
You can also pay attention to your posture as you work and your breathing and how your body feels while you work.
Type with intentionality and carefully. Sit straight. Breathe deeply.
You may still be tapping away at the keys like a bonobo monkey, but you’ve just become a lot more aware and mindful!
10. Practice crafting
Another of my favorite mindfulness techniques is crafting.
My wife Jess Dang has a very successful YouTube channel about Do-It-Yourself fashion and alterations that is the perfect example of what I mean.
I’m not a tailor but I love to watch her work and see her designs.
Whatever craft it is that you want to practice, it can be an excellent mindfulness technique.
This may be constructing model airplanes and cars, small carpentry projects or painting a mural or design.
In addition, so can collecting items such as stamps, sports cards and coins.
Inner peace and well-being
I hope that readers try out some of the exercises above and look into the ancient wisdom of Buddhism to find out more.
My own discovery of how to use mindfulness was one of the breakthroughs I found by hacking the hidden secrets of Buddhism.
The biggest thing I’ve learned about mindfulness is that it doesn’t have to be a separate category: it can be part of your daily life.
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