7 Mindfulness Exercises for Anxiety, Stress, and Emotional Regulation
In our fast-paced, anxiety provoking society, being mindful has become increasingly difficult for some. If you look around while in a public place you will most likely see many people on their phones or tablets. Mindfulness exercises for anxiety however, are an incredibly helpful and effective practice to manage anxiety, stress reduction, and emotional regulation. In addition, incorporating mindfulness exercises for anxiety has also been found to help alleviate depression and traumatic symptoms. In honor of the New Year, I have compiled a list of 7 of my favorite mindfulness activities.
Mindfulness Exercise for Anxiety #1: Mindful Breathing.
Inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, on each breath focus your mind on one number beginning with One. More specifically, as you inhale repeat to yourself “one and only one”, exhale. Continue until you reach the number 10. The purpose of this activity is to begin to learn to focus your mind from distractions, as well as the calming your nervous system.
Mindfulness Exercise for Anxiety #2: Body Scan.
Sit or lay in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and scan your body from your head all the way down to your toes. Without placing judgement on what you are feeling in your body, acknowledge the sensations.
Mindfulness Exercise for Anxiety #3: Mindful Eating.
As you take a bite, notice the flavors in your mouth. See if you can name at least 3 flavors you taste. The next step is to chew your food until you can no longer distinguish individual flavors and ingredients. This helps your digestive system in breaking down food, as well as bringing your awareness to the here and now.
Mindfulness Exercise for Anxiety #4: Leave the electronics at home.
Go to your favorite coffee shop, restaurant, or book store and just sit. Without the distraction of your phone, notice your surroundings. What colors, smells, and sounds are identifiable? Notice the feelings in your body. Can you identify any changes in your body since you first sat down?
Mindfulness Exercise for Anxiety #5: Awareness.
During the warmer days take some time to get outside. Find a nice bench, rock, grassy patch, or another comfortable, calming spot. Take time to just sit and watch your surroundings. This could be looking at the clouds, watching a butterfly, or gazing at a flower to name a few. Notice the warmth of the sun on your skin. This helps us feel more connected to our surroundings and appreciate beauty and gratitude in our daily environment.
Mindfulness Exercise for Anxiety #6: Mindful Journaling.
In the morning or evening take a few moments to write down 3 to 5 things you are grateful from that day or anticipate in the upcoming day if you choose to do it in the mornings. Incorporating gratitude into our daily routine sets our brain up for positive experiences, allows us more control over anxiety, and can impact depressive symptoms.
Mindfulness Exercise for Anxiety #7: Reach Out.
Take a few moments to write a nice email, letter, or text message to someone who has impacted you positively. This doesn’t have to be a long letter, just a couple sentences. Being mindful of relationships that bring joy and taking time to write their meaning supports us in valuing the present moment with a focused, intentional mind.
Most of these mindfulness exercises for anxiety can be done anywhere, anytime. Incorporating mindfulness into our daily habits can have profound impacts on our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. I hope that these tools will be helpful for you to become your best self, living the life you deserve. Mindfulness supports us in feeling empowered over anxiety and depression, and regaining control in our lives.
For more information regarding mindfulness:
Check out the empirically validated benefits of mindfulness from this article from The American Psychological Association.
Or subscribe to The American Mindfulness Research Association to receive publications.