Mindfulness on the Go

3 Mindful Exercises for Busy Lives

By Kayleen Pen, MA, LPC


It’s a no brainer that we tend to lead busy lives. Whether we’re running out the door to work, taking care of children, or writing research papers, time is the one thing we often feel we don’t have.

Add to this the hopes we may carry to practice mindfulness.  The benefits of a mindfulness practice are well researched. It reduces stress, boosts focus, improves memory, strengthens our immunity, increases emotional stability and cognitive flexibilty, decreases ruminations, and increases compassion and forgiveness for ourselves and others. Who doesn’t want that?  But how do we find the time??!!

Practicing mindfulness doesn’t mean we have to spend a minimum of 15-minutes in meditation every day.  There are endless ways we can incorporate mindfulness in our daily activities, resulting in the same emotional and physical health benefits described above. Here are some of the top ways you can be mindful throughout your day without having to compromise your busy life.

1.  5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness

This is a wonderful, quck, and effective way to incorporate mindfulness on the go. Here is how it works. The point is to use all 5 of our senses.

5- Sight.  Look around at five objects. Take in their color, light, texture, shape, etc. Truly engage with the appearance of these objects. Do not place judgments or opinions on those chosen objects.

4- Touch.  Touch four objects near or on you. This can be just about anything. Again, take in the texture, temperature, weight, and shape. Truly engage with the feeling of these objects.

3- Sound.  Take some time to be silent and focus on the external and internal sounds. You may hear cars in the distance or your own breathing. Take the time to pay attention to the frequency, pitch, and sound level. Notice how it pulls you into the present.

2- Smell.  Take some time to smell two objects around you. Ideally, smell something pleasant like a candle, lotion, or essential oils. Notice if the scent is strong or subtle.

1- Taste.  This is the last part of the mindfulness exercise. Notice the lingering tastes in your mouth. You are also welcome to take a small bite of food or sip of a drink to help center yourself with a flavor.

Taking the few minutes to complete this mindfulness exercise will allow you to feel grounded in the moment.

2.  3 to 5 Minute Body Scan

This is a very simple exercise to practice and you can use it just about anywhere. Take some time to sit quietly in a chair and take several deep breaths. Bring your awareness to your physical body. Start from the top of your head and work down to your toes. Notice lightness, heaviness, pain, tightness, and comfort as you work down to each body part. Allow yourself to relax each muscle should you notice any tension. Popular tense areas are our eyes, jaw, shoulders, and hands. Taking the time to notice your body in the moment allows you to be in tune with the here and now.

3.  Gratitude

Mindfulness not only helps with grounding, but it can also act as a mood-boosting tool. Gratitude writing is a perfect reflection of that. There are endless studies with empirical data reflecting a positive relationship between gratitude writing and improved mood. Gratitude journaling allows you be present and accepting of the small pleasures of your day. Take about 5 minutes of your day to write down events that occurred today that you are thankful for. This can be as small as someone holding the door for you or finding a great parking spot. There is no such thing as “too small” when it comes to reflecting gratitude! By making it a habit to look for and write down the things you appreciate, you’ll begin to notice beauty and kindness in ordinary moments throughout your day instead of them escaping your attention.

Taking time out of your day to incorporate mindfulness can feel less daunting with simple mindfulness activities like these. Don’t be afraid to try these tools out and come up with variations to meet your needs. Mindfulness is not about finding your Zen, but developing your relationship with the Now.