5 Mindfulness exercises to boost your physical wellbeing
Mindfulness and movement: the 5 best exercises to boost your wellbeing and look after mind, body and soul
Mindfulness and movement might not always seem like a natural pairing. After all, mindfulness is all about being still, and exercise is all about movement, right?
It’s that contrast that makes combining the two so powerful. Put them into action and find the right balance, and you’ve got the perfect recipe to improve your wellbeing. Here’s a few reasons why:
- Mindfulness increases your awareness of how you move. You become more aware of your body: how it feels, how it moves, and how it all works together. You can also become more aware of your body’s needs. For example, when you need to rest and recover, or when you can push yourself that little bit further.
- Both mindfulness and movement reduce stress and anxiety. Combine the two to enhance their effects. That’s important for any of us, but particularly if your ‘fight or flight’ response triggers headaches, muscle tension or fatigue. You don’t want those when you’re training, or in the middle of a competition.
- Mindfulness improves your focus and concentration. Strength, speed, skill, agility and endurance don’t come from your muscles alone. By exercising your mind, you increase your potential to exercise your body. And when you’re able to stay present and focused, you can perform at your best.
Sounds reasonable, right? But how do you introduce mindfulness into your routine? Or reintroduce it after you let that Headspace trial lapse? Here are five of our favourite mindfulness techniques, to stay at the top of your game.
1. Morning breath work
Morning breath = bad. Morning breath work = great!
Morning breath work exercises ask you to breathe in certain ways, and to focus on that breathing. Just like a good warm-up before the gym, starting your day with breath work can wake your body, focus your mind and set the right tone for the day ahead.
There’s a whole lot of breath work techniques out there. They include:
- alternate nostril breathing (breathing in through one nostril and out the other)
- diaphragmatic breathing (breathing from the abdomen)
- 4-7-8 breathing (inhaling, holding, and exhaling for fixed periods)
- just stopping to take a few plain ol’ deep breaths.
And since you’ve got to breathe anyway, it’s worth adding a little interest factor, right? Try out a few different techniques to find the ones that are right for you.
2. Guided meditation
Guided meditation involves listening to someone guide you through the meditation process. It can either be a recording, or live.
It might start by getting you to focus on your breathing (you’re already a pro at that). As you get more focused, the instructor might ask you to imagine things that will help you relax. It could be a place, a person, a memory or a feeling; engaging different senses in a soothing and calming way. It all helps you reach a calmer state of mind and grow more aware of yourself and your surroundings.
3. Keeping a gratitude journal
When we’re given something, or someone does something for us, or we’re just around the people we love, we feel pretty good about things. That’s gratitude.
A gratitude journal helps you keep hold of these feelings. Each day, write down a few things for which you’re grateful. They could be small things, like good weather, or no lines for the cardio machines at the gym. Or more significant things, like friends, family or loved ones. Or maybe someone gave you an Iwi Whānau Gift Card?
By focusing on the things that make us grateful, we build a more positive outlook. And by helping us identify what’s meaningful, it makes it easier to see what we should keep pursuing in life.
4. EFT tapping
Emotional freedom techniques (EFT) tapping combines acupressure with cognitive therapy. Don’t worry: it’s very straightforward. You can learn to do it yourself anytime, anywhere. That is, anywhere you feel comfortable tapping yourself while murmuring quietly.
Because that’s pretty much what EFT is. You tap certain points on your body while thinking about particular issues, emotions, thoughts or ideas. This combo can help you relax and let go of negativity.
Supporters of the practice say it works by balancing your energy and releasing blocked emotions. Sceptics suggest there’s no real proof of this. But even if it’s not doing anything this remarkable, it definitely encourages you to slow down and focus. And if it does that for you, that’s worth it in our books.
5. Body scan meditation
Lie down. Close your eyes. Take some deep breaths: in, out. In, out.
Focus on each part of your body, one at a time; from the top of your head, right down to your toes. Keep those deep breaths going. And as you reach each body part, think about how they feel. Are they relaxed? Tired? Heavy? Tense? Think about letting that tension go. And then move on to the next.
When you’re done, slowly open your eyes. Take a few more deep breaths. And continue with the day.
That’s body scan meditation. It helps you build a stronger connection between your mind and body. It's good for feeling more relaxed. And it gives you a better idea of how your muscles might respond next time you ask them to spring into action!
Look for the techniques that work for you
So there they are: five simple mindfulness techniques to help you improve your mind, body and soul. Give each of them a try for a few days and see which feel right for you. Or use them as a starting point to discover what else is out there. Just by finding the right mindfulness technique, you might even get a better idea of what makes you tick. And that’s a great way for any of us to improve our wellbeing.