An easy mindfulness exercise you can use anywhere, any time

Do often find yourself rushing and stressing? Wish you were more ‘in the moment’ sometimes? Learn how to slow down using this easy mindfulness exercise.

A recent study by a sociologist at Cornell University discovered that while parents enjoyed spending time with their children, mums were more stressed than dads.

And when you consider how much we need to do every day, it’s no surprise. As well as often doing the lion’s share of housework, we need to make sure our children are well cared for, and many of us juggle work or businesses on top of that – as well as cope with any responsibilities in our extended family.

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With all that responsibility it’s easy to see how we spend much of our time organising, worrying, doing… and very little time just being in the moment.

Let’s face it, if we can find a free moment in our day, we’ll fill it with doing or thinking.

I don’t have time to stop

And certainly that sounds very much like me. I don’t have much free time, and a while ago I realised that I wasn’t really present in my life.

I was rushing to get the kids ready in the morning. Rushing to get to the office. Rushing out at lunch to grab some food. Rushing to the school gate to pick the kids up… and all that time I had my head down, gazing at the pavement thinking about what I was going to do next.

I wasn’t noticing the sky, the trees, the changing seasons. I was just rushing.

One day I tried something different

So one day I tried something different. As I walked to school from the office for the afternoon pick up, I challenged myself to find three beautiful things around me.

The beauty could be visual – the colour of fresh spring leaves, the outline of a chimney against the sky – a sound – the wind rustling through the leaves, birds singing – or even a feeling – the fresh morning chill, a contentment at finishing work.

It didn’t matter what the beauty was, the point was to look for it. And in doing so, I suddenly become aware of the world around me. I noticed, properly noticed, that winter was giving way to spring. That the sky was a clear blue that day. I noticed the shape of my neighbour’s roof. A cat disappearing through a garden gate.

In short, I become observant. Present in the world at that very moment.

I felt like a child again. When I was a child I noticed, and found magic, in everything. The changing seasons, tiny insects, flowers. The smell of cars passing me. The feeling of the wind in my hair. As a child I wasn’t focused on my internal thinking, worries over what I hadn’t done, or needed to do next. I was just in the moment.

Why this easy mindfulness exercise works

There are two reasons why this easy mindfulness exercise is so powerful.

1) You stop thinking and doing, and just be

When you practise this mindfulness exercise you cannot be anywhere but in the moment as you look around you. And your mind has to switch off, and instead focus on one simple, calming task. You’re truly present, observing the time of day, the light, the season, everything.

You also take your eyes from the ground in front of you and look up at the world around you. You literally see more.

2) You’re looking for beauty

This mindfulness exercise also transforms the everyday into things of beauty. It forces you to seek out beauty and look at the world around you through a different lens.

And suddenly you appreciate the silhouette of a chimney against a grey sky, the sound of wind in the leaves of a tree. And you gain a new gratitude for the world around you.

Try this easy mindfulness exercise yourself

So if you often find yourself rushing, and rarely present in your life, try this simple mindfulness exercise. It’s so easy, and you can do anywhere, any time – waiting at the school gate, walking to work, even while driving.

All you need to do it look around you for three beautiful things. And that’s it! They can be anything you like; beauty, in this exercise, is in the eye or ears of the beholder.

The more you practise this exercise the easier it gets. Until eventually you find yourself doing it without thinking. You’ll start looking around you as you walk, or sit at your desk, and notice how pretty the paint peeling on that wall looks. Or how you love the smell of the bakery over the road.

Just try and and see!