Mindfulness is a practice that can help you be more present in your daily life. It's about using self-awareness, focused breathing, and your five senses to help your mind and body become calm and centered.
Practicing mindfulness regularly can have many health benefits. This article explains how kids, teens, and adults can incorporate mindfulness techniques into daily life—even with just a few minutes to spare.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a practice that teaches you to be aware of and focus on the present moment. It can be incorporated into many different activities while using a variety of techniques. Over time, mindfulness can teach you to stay levelheaded during stressful situations and can help you be more in tune with your emotions.
Studies have shown that mindfulness can benefit both the mind and body. More research is needed on the efficacy of mindfulness on specific conditions, but the potential benefits of mindfulness include:
- Decreased stress and negative emotions
- Pain relief in people with chronic pain conditions
- Improvement of depressive symptoms, anxiety, quality of life, and physical functioning
- Better coping with serious illness
- Increased ability to relax
- Greater enthusiasm for life
- Improved self-esteem
- Enhanced attention and memory
Examples of Mindfulness
Carving out time every day for quiet meditation is great if your schedule allows, but there are countless ways to practice mindfulness, even during your day-to-day activities.
Mindfulness doesn't need to be complicated or time-consuming. While research supports that practicing mindfulness regularly gives the most benefits, there are mindfulness techniques that can be used every day without a large time commitment that interferes with your regular schedule.
10 Minutes or Less Exercises
Mindful breathing is something you can do almost anywhere at any time. Here's how:
- Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4.
- Hold for one second.
- Exhale through your mouth for a count of 5.
- Repeat until you want to stop.
The purpose of body scanning is to become aware of how your body feels right now, without trying to change it and without judgment.
- Sit down or lie on your back and begin to focus on your breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly and deeply.
- Shift your attention to your toes, recognizing and acknowledging them exactly how they are. Visualize breathing into your toes, then release your attention as you exhale.
- Working slowly and deliberately from your feet up to the crown of your head, repeat this process with each area of your body.
- To finish, take a few more breaths and focus on how your entire body feels.
The Five Senses Exercise
This quick exercise is helpful when you're feeling overwhelmed and need help to focus on the present moment.
For each of these steps, pause and give your full awareness to the object or sensation for a few deep breaths before moving on to the next one:
- Notice five things you can see.
- Notice four things you can feel.
- Notice three things you can hear.
- Notice two things you can smell.
- Notice one thing you can taste.
If you notice your mind starting to wander, acknowledge your thoughts without judgment, then gently guide your focus back to your breath or sensations in your body.
1 hour or More Exercises
If you have more time, these mindfulness activities promote both physical and mental wellness:
Practicing mindfulness while taking a walk has the added perk of getting your body moving, allowing you to reap the many health benefits of exercise. To do a walking meditation, focus on your breathing and the sensations in your body while you walk. Tune in to the rhythm of your footsteps to help get centered.
Research has shown that practicing yoga can lower breathing and heart rates, decrease blood pressure, lower cortisol (a hormone associated with stress), and increase blood flow to the intestines and vital organs.
Yoga is one way to help elicit the relaxation response, a state of profound rest that helps counteract the fight-or-flight stress response.
Mindfulness for Kids
Research is examining the ways in which practicing mindfulness can help children, including:
- Protecting against stress, anxiety, depression, illness, and pain
- Improving academic performance and social relationships
- Expanding the capacity to experience positive emotions
Even young kids can benefit from mindfulness exercises. Here are some activities that can be done at home or in a classroom setting:
- Have the child find a comfortable position and get into a rhythm of breathing in through their nose for a count of 3 and out through their mouth for a count of 3.
- As they are breathing in, encourage them to imagine that their thoughts are forming as little clouds above their head.
- As they breathe out, tell them to imagine the cloud floating away.
- Keep this pattern going for a few minutes.
A more playful spin on the five senses exercise above involves encouraging the child to use their "Spidey senses"—not to detect danger but to notice what they can see, feel, hear, smell, and taste right at that moment.
Strike a Pose
Ask the child to hold a pose, and explore how they feel while they're in this pose. This can help strengthen the mind-body connection.
Calmness Is the Effect, Not the Purpose
Remember that the purpose of mindfulness is simply to be aware of emotions and sensations in the present. If children are feeling restless or anxious, you want them to acknowledge those feelings without trying to change them. Calmness usually does come after mindfulness activities, but it's a product of the activities, not the purpose of them.
Mindfulness for Teens
Being a teen is stressful. Between the changes brought on by puberty and social and academic pressure, teens can feel overwhelmed just like adults can.
Many of the mindfulness techniques and exercises meant for adults also work well for teens. Here are a couple of mindfulness activities that both you and your teen can try:
Choose a word that makes you feel calm, like "peace" or "love" or even "calm." As you take deep, slow breaths in and out, say the word silently to yourself with each inhalation. If you notice your mind wandering, think of the word to help yourself refocus.
The Raisin Exercise
This one sounds silly, and your teen will probably tell you so, but give it a chance. The purpose of the raisin exercise is to engage your senses and focus.
To do it, hold a raisin (or a nut or small berry) in your hand and pretend as though you have never seen one before. Engage your senses by carefully examining the raisin. Notice how it looks and smells, and how it feels in your hand and on your tongue. Then chew it slowly, noting its flavor and texture.
What Do You Need to Practice Mindfulness?
The only things you truly need to practice mindfulness are a bit of time, a conducive space (ideally free of distractions), and a desire to do it.
If you'd prefer to have a coach to guide you through mindfulness exercises, consider trying an app such as:
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to ease anxiety or racing thoughts and focus on the present moment. The goal is to help you stay grounded in your daily life and respond to stressful situations with a calm, clear mind.
There are many different mindfulness techniques you can try at home (or anywhere). Anyone at any age can practice mindfulness.
For more guidance, download an app for mindfulness or meditation, like Calm or Headspace. If you have questions about whether mindfulness is a safe option for you and which technique is best, have a conversation with your healthcare provider.
A Word From Verywell
Committing to making mindfulness part of your regular routine doesn't have to be time-consuming or expensive. Even just devoting a few minutes a day to mindfulness can have a significant effect on your mental and physical health.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are ways to practice mindfulness for anxiety and stress?
Deep breathing and yoga are two of the many mindfulness activities that can be used to manage stress and anxiety.
How do you talk to children about mindfulness?
Some things to keep in mind when introducing children or teens to mindfulness are:
- Teach them about the purpose of mindfulness and why you're doing it.
- Model your own mindfulness practices.
- Help them find and schedule time for regular and consistent mindfulness exercises.
- Create an environment that's free of distractions.
- Interact with them. Share your thoughts and feelings about mindfulness with them, and encourage them to do the same.
- Keep it fun and positive, not mandatory or a chore.
- Remind them to focus on how they're feeling, and not to try to calm down or change their feelings (though that often comes naturally as a result).
Can you be mindful while driving?
Yes, with the obvious caveat that you shouldn't do any activities that pull your attention away from driving. But practicing mindfulness as you get into the car (notice how the seat feels, etc.) and while you're driving (keeping focused on what you're doing and what is around you) is a way to practice mindfulness and be an attentive driver.
How can you be mindful at work?
Many mindfulness activities such as deep breathing can be done in a work setting when you have a moment or two. In fact, many workplaces are starting to encourage the practice of mindfulness, because they see the benefits it provides their employees—and the possibility of higher productivity.