Five Practical Mindfulness Exercises

By Liz Chamberlain Ph.D., Licensed Psychologist 

Discover your own everyday cues to practice informal mindfulness. Here are five suggestions:

Engage your five senses 

When driving, notice the feel of the steering wheel, the sights, sounds around you, the scent, and the temperature of the air. 

While washing dishes, pause to notice the feel of the soap, its scent, and the shimmer of the bubbles. Listen to the sound of the water running and reaching the dishes or the sink. 

When sitting down to eat, pause, and notice how the food looks, smells, and feels in your mouth. Then consider the taste, temperature, and texture as you chew and swallow. Pay attention to how it feels in your stomach, invite the sense of noticing the gradual fullness. 

Practice curiosity or “beginners’ mind” 

Drive a different route to your destination and take in the surroundings as if seeing them for the first time. 

When cooking, try a new recipe or approach one you know with curiosity about each ingredient, wondering what it will add to the dish. 

When approaching a conversation with someone, practice curiosity by “not knowing” their perspective – notice how it affects listening and understanding.

Observe like a scientist, practice non-judgment 

When you’re in the shower, notice what thoughts are present without trying to dismiss or evaluate them. Are you planning the day or stressing over an event? Bring yourself into the present by using your senses. For example, feel the warmth of the water or be intentional about the purpose of the shower. 

When driving or walking to your destination, observe any tension in your body and feelings or thoughts that might be happening. Identify the tension and invite it to release before you open the door. 

Rely on your breath 

Without changing it, simply notice your breath – is it fast, slow, rapid, shallow, cool, warm? 

Practice belly breathing by expanding the abdomen on the inhale and slowly releasing it on the exhale. Notice any changes in your sensing, thinking, and feeling after one or two breathes.

Anytime tension or distraction arises, remind yourself to come back to the breath and observe what happens. Invite release if you notice tension in your body (neck, shoulders, hands, back, etc.) 

Practice mindful check-ins

Set a timer on your phone, computer, or use daily physical cues (i.e., walking, showering, opening a door, or sitting down) to do a quick mindful check-in. Then, pay attention to the sensations, places of tension, emotions, or thoughts. Simply observe them without judgment, then engage your senses or your breath to bring yourself into the present.