People who meditate are happier, healthier, and more successful than those who don’t.
The amazing benefits of practicing meditation and mindfulness are available to everyone who has the time to practice these skills.
If you have already tried meditation, mindfulness or other positive psychology interventions before, you may have thought it “wasn’t for you” after a couple of tries.
But like any skill, mindfulness takes practice. Try it again! Sometimes the only thing standing between our goals and us is a little bit of direction.
Hopefully, this article can provide the direction for you to give mindfulness a try either in your own life, your therapy, or your coaching sessions. Let’s dive in!
These science-based, comprehensive exercises will not only help you cultivate a sense of inner peace throughout your daily life but will also give you the tools to enhance the mindfulness of your clients, students, or employees.
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This Article Contains:
Group therapy that incorporates mindfulness has shown some promising results. It is as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a staple of the clinical psychology world (Kocovski, Fleming, Hawley, Huta, & Antony, 2013).
There is also evidence that group mindfulness meditation therapy is as effective as individual CBT (Sundquist et al., 2015). In a global climate with few clinical psychologists in relation to the need for them, and in a time when individual therapy time is limited and expensive, the proven efficacy of group-based therapy is great news.
Even if you do not feel a need to visit a therapist, there are mindfulness-focused groups that share and deepen meditation practice (Brach, 2016). Here are four exercises from such groups.
Fleming & Kocovski’s Treatment Plan
One such group mindfulness-based treatment program by Fleming & Kocovski (2007) aimed to reduce social anxiety. It is a good example of how mindfulness exercises can be incorporated into a group setting for its various benefits.
In this example, the exercises used have proven effective for treating social anxiety disorder in particular; however, they can be applied to many other group settings with positive results.
The treatment plan involves groups of about 8 members meeting for 2 hours, every week for 12 weeks. The first portion of each session is devoted to a short mindfulness exercise and discussion.
The treatment plan’s mindfulness exercises went as follows:
There are many different mindfulness exercises mentioned here which were specifically put together for the aim of reducing social anxiety disorder; however, the first three exercises are commonly used in group sessions to encourage mindfulness.
A description of each of these group exercises can be found below.
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1. The Raisin Exercise
This is a great introductory exercise for beginners to start practicing mindfulness since it can be attempted by anyone with any kind of food (although one with an interesting or unusual texture, smell, or taste is best).
In this exercise, the facilitator provides participants with a few raisins and asks that they pretend they have never seen a raisin before. The facilitator then asks them to pay careful attention to:
Focusing on the single object of the raisin is meant to bring the participant’s mind to the present, to what is right in front of them. We may be used to raisins, and not used to taking time to actually notice them.
“By focusing on the raisin in their hand and making a point to notice everything about it, they are unlikely to be expending energy, time, and attention on worrying or ruminating about other parts of their lives.”
When you follow these instructions and take notice, it is much easier to focus on what is in front of you. If your mind does wander, that is natural too. Gently guide it back to the exercise.
2. The Body Scan
Another popular exercise for practitioners of mindfulness is called the Body Scan. It requires very little in the way of props or tools, and it is also easily accessible for most beginners.
Would you like to follow a Body Scan right now? Try this 30 minute guided narrative by expert and founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Jon Kabat Zinn:
A typical Body Scan runs through each part of the body, paying special attention to the way each area feels. The scan usually moves systematically through the body, e.g. starting at the feet and moving upwards as follows:
After the Body Scan is complete and the participants feel ready to come back to the room, they can slowly open their eyes and move naturally to a comfortable sitting position.
Now that you have a firmer understanding of the Body Scan, listen to this mindful body scan script.
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3. Mindful Seeing
For some, the absence of visual stimuli can feel stifling. After all, a healthy imagination does not come naturally to everyone.
The activity of Mindful Seeing may be helpful to anyone who identifies with this.
It is a simple exercise, requiring only a window with some kind of a view. The facilitator guides the group following these steps:
There’s an extensive group treatment plan by Fleming and Kocovski’s (2007) that offers a glimpse into how to use mindfulness in any kind of group session and provides detailed worksheets, exercises, and handouts which can provide inspiration and guidance for your group facilitation.
4. Mindful Listening
This last activity is extracted from the Positive Psychology Toolkit© and introduces mindful listening as a group exercise.
Mindful listening is an important skill and can be a great group mindfulness exercise. In general, people thrive when they feel fully “heard” and “seen,” and mindful listening offers a break from focusing on the self or our own response.
Instead, this form of listening can create an inner stillness where both parties feel free of preconceptions or judgments, and the listener is not distracted by inner chatter whilst learning valuable positive communication skills.
The Mindful Listening exercise involves these steps:
Those questions are:
In addition to the group activities here, you may also be interested in trying gentle yoga or Qigong, both of which involve a deliberate posture, purposeful breath, and an emphasis on awareness. Both of these activities have provided evidence for the benefits of mindfulness (Newsome, Waldo, & Gruszka, 2012).
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5 Fun Mindfulness Interventions, Techniques, and Worksheets for Adults
There are several ways to engage in mindfulness on an individual level, including worksheets, techniques, and different exercises.
If the idea of participating in group mindfulness exercises is anxiety-provoking or stressful for yourself or your clients, then diving into mindfulness practice alone can be the best way to proceed.
Here are six exercises that can help to build mindfulness in different ways.
1. The Observer Meditation
The Observer Meditation (download the PDF here) looks at why it is worthwhile to detach from our internal thoughts and feelings—an important part of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, in which mindfulness plays a large role.
Adopting an Observer perspective can help us put some distance between who we are and problematic domains in life that we might be overidentifying with.
To begin the exercise, follow these steps:
If you find any emotions coming up, recognize them and create space for them. Then bring your attention back to your observing self—your feelings and thoughts are there, but you are separate from them, noticing them. This is the “Observer you”.
This exercise can be continued for as long as desired and there are many stages you can work through that will help you practice being an observer of yourself. It is not an easy exercise at first because we are often habitually inclined to react to and over-identify with our feelings.
The goal of evoking the Observing Self is to enter a separate mode which allows you to step back from yourself and your experiences. Simultaneously, however, you are connecting with a deeper constant self that is unaffected by dynamic emotions.
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2. Five Senses Exercise
This exercise is called “five senses,” and provides guidelines on practicing mindfulness quickly in nearly any situation. All that is needed is to notice something you are experiencing with each of the five senses.
Follow this order to practice the Five Senses:
Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.
Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
Take a moment to listen, and note three things that you hear in the background. This can be the chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.
Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of a fast-food restaurant across the street.
Focus on one thing that you can taste right now, at this moment. You can take a sip of a drink, chew a piece of gum, eat something, notice the current taste in your mouth, or even open your mouth to search the air for a taste.
This is a quick and relatively easy exercise to bring you to a mindful state quickly. If you only have a minute or two, or don’t have the time or tools to try a body scan or fill out a worksheet, the five senses exercise can help you or your clients bring awareness to the current moment in a short amount of time.
3. The 3-Step Mindfulness Exercise
You can find another great exercise if you are strapped for time in this 3-Step Mindfulness Worksheet. In this exercise, there are only three steps:
Step 1: step out of “auto-pilot” to bring awareness to what you are doing, thinking, and sensing at this moment.
Step 2: bring awareness to the breathing for six breaths or a minute.
Step 3: expand awareness outward, first to the body then to the environment.
When you are ready to finish the exercise, open your eyes slowly and try to carry that mindfulness with you as you go about your day.
4. Mindful Walking Down The Street Technique
One core process that can be influenced by mindfulness practice is our ability to observe our thoughts, emotions, and sensations without reacting to fix them, hide them, or solve them. This awareness creates room for choice between impulses, and action which can help develop coping skills and positive behavioral change.
1. As you were0 .imagining, did you notice any of your thoughts?
2. As you were imagining, did you notice any of your emotions?
5. The 3-Minute Breathing Space
Unlike meditations or a body scan, this exercise is quick to perform and useful in getting a mindfulness practice started.
With meditations and the body scan, thoughts often pop up, and keeping a quiet and clear head can be a challenge. This last exercise can be the perfect technique for those with busy lives and minds. The exercise is broken into three sections, one per minute, and works as follows:
Keeping a quiet mind can be rather challenging, and thoughts will often pop up. The idea is not to block them, but rather to let them come into your mind and then disappear again. Try to just observe them.
All the exercises mentioned above can be used for the benefit of yourself, individual clients, and even in group settings. They are beneficial to all client groups; however, some will be better suited than others, so a method of open-minded trial and error can often be necessary.
The most important part of mindfulness is to recognize that it is a training of the mind, and like any exercise will take some time to see the benefits. The trick is to persevere, approach the process with self-compassion, and allow for reflection, change, and flexibility between different techniques and interventions.
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