In our fast paced world that values results far more than emotional states, it can be easy to lose focus on the present moment. We are preoccupied with the future while we dwell on the past, rushing through our daily routines to get to the next day, the weekend, or the next week. However, with a little leadership and intentional practice, we can transform a team that’s on autopilot into a team of happy, mindfully aware individuals.
Mindfulness enables us to tune into what’s happening in the present moment and hones our ability to perceive the subtleties of our thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. There are an infinite number of ways to practice mindfulness and there isn’t one definition of what even defines it. No matter how you practice, though, research has shown that mindfulness reduces stress and boosts your experience of positive emotions.
Whether you work in an office, classroom, or just want to help incorporate mindfulness into the lives of those around you, these quick activities are a simple way to cultivate a more present and positive state of being.
1) Raisin Meditation
This is one of the most common ways to introduce the practice of mindfulness and its simplicity makes it a great activity for people of all ages. The raisin meditation teaches the power of directing one’s attention to the present moment, a skill that can then be leveraged for more advanced mindfulness exercises. While raisins are practical, this exercise can be done with other small foods like gummy bears or nuts. Here’s how to do it:
a) Pick up the raisin and hold it between your thumb and forefinger. Roll it between your fingers and pay close attention to the sensations you feel. If it helps, close your eyes while you do this.
b) Bring the raisin to your nose and smell it. Do you notice any aromas? How could you describe them? Notice any sensations in your mouth or stomach when you smell the raisin.
c) Slowly bring the raisin to your mouth and place it on your tongue. Don’t chew it, just let it sit on your tongue and notice the sensations you feel. Can you taste it? Roll it around in your mouth and explore the raisin’s texture with your tongue and cheeks.
d) Now, chew the raisin slowly, paying close attention to the change in taste and texture. Chew it thoroughly, noticing how the sensations evolve. You may feel the urge to swallow pretty immediately. Just notice this urge and when you feel ready, swallow the raisin.
e) Track the raisin as it goes down your esophagus into your stomach. See if you can feel its movement downward and pay attention to how your body feels now that you’ve finished this simple mindfulness exercise.
2) Paying Attention to the Breath
The very basis of meditation itself, mindful breathing is the most fundamental form of awareness and plays a role in nearly every style of meditation. Teaching mindful breathing is a great follow-up to the raisin meditation, which directs the attention to a tangible, sensation-inducing object. Breathing, on the other hand, can be slightly more difficult to stay attuned to. However, research on the benefits of this type of mindfulness is overwhelming, showing that practitioners are better able to regulate emotions, control stress, and experience more happiness.
There are many ways to pay attention to the breath, but the most basic way is to sit in a comfortable position in a quiet place with your eyes closed and just let your breathing happen naturally. Pay attention to the sensations that come with each inhalation and exhalation – the air moving past your nostrils, your diaphragm filling and emptying. Try not to control your breath, but just let it happen on its own, as if you’re spying on it. You may notice your mind wander to thoughts or other distractions. That’s fine and it happens to everyone. Without judgment, gently escort your mind back to the breath. Try counting 100 breaths or setting a timer for 15 minutes, whatever feels comfortable for you. When you’re done, pause for a moment to notice how your mind and body feel.
3) Meditative Walking
This exercise can be done as a group or alone, but it works best without social distractions. If you’re organizing the walk for a group, ask participants to go wherever they’d like, remaining silent, and then meet back at your starting point after 20-30 minutes, or an amount of time you can agree on.
As you walk, pay close attention to your surroundings, really savoring the beauty in as many objects as you can. Notice the vibrancy of a tree, the brilliant reflection of the sun off of an object, or the unique songs of birds. Try your best to maintain an outward focus. If you find yourself getting distracted by thoughts or worries, just gently reposition your concentration towards the outside world without judgment. Remember, everyone will get distracted sometimes.
Think about this walk like a collection – you’re collecting moments in which you’re savoring beauty. Notice the sensations you feel when you really connect to the beauty of your environment. Pause to let it sink in before moving on. Once you finish, see if you can recall the moments you savored on your walk throughout the day. Those moments are yours and you can return to them anytime.
These activities can be repeated as often as you like, especially #2 and #3. If you’re leading your team, set aside time for your group every day for a week to complete one of these exercises. At the end of the week, ask your teammates to complete a quick reflection about how it affected them. Research shows that investing even a small amount of time into mindfulness exercises can increase productivity and creativity, reduce stress and burnout, and create a more positive environment. Wanna learn more? Here’s a link to get our free ebook on mindfulness!