"Let life enchant you again." - Fernando Gros
0 items in your cart
Blog // Adaptability
May 24, 2018

A Mindfulness Exercise That Helps Me Everyday

In stressful situations, or when work or other pressures feel like too much to cope with, this quick and simple mindfulness exercise helps me find my centre.

It is 8.04 a.m. I am in Tokyo, sitting on a lounge chair, typing. I can hear a bird outside, and the sun is warm on my back.

This little description paints a very basic picture of the scene as I sat down to write this piece. But it also represents one of my favourite mindfulness exercises. It takes only a few seconds, but doing it, together with taking a few deep breaths, helps me find my centre, even in the middle of a rough day.

My anxiety issues manifested a few years ago, although they were probably causing problems long before that. I’ve written about the changes I’ve made to deal with them (I’m OK and I Quit Night-Time Meetups) and some of what I’ve learnt about their cause, Part 2, and Part 3, as well as The Aspect of Success No-One Wants To Talk About).

If you have problems with anxiety or stress, then please see a professional. This exercise isn’t a solution for all problems. It’s something that helps me, but it’s not a substitute for therapy or a deeper meditation practice.

Earlier this week, I was having a difficult day. Nothing in particular was wrong, but work and personal matters were pulling me in different directions, fighting for attention during a disrupted day, and I never really got into the flow of things. On the way to buy some groceries for dinner, I did the exercise.

It is 4.47 p.m. I am in Tokyo, walking through a park. I can hear the wind in the trees, the sun is hiding behind some clouds, and the day is starting to cool down.

You’ll notice a similar pattern in this piece to the one at the start. I’ve chosen these moves for very specific reasons.

It is 4.47 p.m. – This isn’t some past moment to be relived or some future moment to be imagined; it is the present moment and it has a name, or at least a set of numbers, to define it. Spend too much time online, or doing email, and it’s almost like being trapped in a casino. You lose track of time and your place in it. Also, it’s such an easy habit to call it a day, good or bad, when there’s often still a lot left to be lived and enjoyed.

I am in Tokyo – Our head is not big enough to contain the whole world, yet we try to cram it all in there anyway, trying to care about everything that’s going on everywhere. By all means be informed, be aware of what’s going on in the world, but also be attentive to where you are.

Walking through a park – You are not weightless software in the virtual cloud. You are a body and the body is doing something. The first step in mindfulness and meditation involves reconnecting with the breath as a reminder that being alive is more than just an idea in our head; it’s actually a bodily thing.

I can hear the wind – Sound is not only something we receive through our sense of hearing; it is something we are incredibly sensitive to. Sound in the form of music is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of human expression. But we are increasingly robotic in the way we perceive it, attuning our experience of sound to the way it is recreated through speakers on computers or in headphones. There’s something almost transcendent in listening attentively to sounds that were not created by technological devices.

The sun is – We are part of something huge and it’s all too easy to forget how marvellous that is. Being aware of the sun (or moon) is cool in a cosmic way, but it also brings with it an awareness of how natural light, heat and cold, the seasons, or the passing of the day are affecting us.

The weather is – The weather is something we experience with our bodies. I’ve come to believe a lot of the tension we experience comes from being so trapped in our heads. We spend so much time indoors and on screens that it’s like our bodies exist just to carry our brain around and to hold our devices. Reminding myself of what my body is currently experiencing is a great segue into taking a few deep breaths and feeling intimately connected to this present moment.

I hope you can try this. And please tell me if it works for you.

The pieces of this mindfulness exercise are simple

What time is it?
Where are you?
What are you doing?
What can you hear?
What is the sun or moon doing?
What is the weather like right now?

Agostina 6 years ago

It’s 15.29
Im in Fröndenberg
I’m reading this really nice blog post and looking out the window to the trees.
I can hear the birds singing and people doing stuff outside, inside the constant “wave” of the fan moving.
The sun is shining bright.
It’s very sunny and warm but got a nice fan breeze next to me.

Thank you for this post, Ive been inside a lot of noise these pst days, due to organizing summer holidays (which is a blessing, but also takes a lot of planning since there are family visiting, something that makes me excited but just trying to make sure so in advance that I will be free to see them when they are here is tiring), working from home and waiting for my vf to get back form work all day. Even if im doing stuff I cant help but counting the hours till he is back (i dont have friends nor family here but his), im online a lot in order to reach out to people and reading countless bullshit and also nice articles all day, just looking at the screen all the time either for work, “meeting up” with people or leisure (movies, reading, tv). This post is just what I needed, so thank you. Its so good to remember im in a bigger place, a material place with fantastic stuff in it surrounding me apart from the big sea of pixels. Its good to touch ground again.

Dane Cobain 6 years ago

I can relate to a lot of this post, particularly your experiences with anxiety and the line, “Spend too much time online, or doing email, and it’s almost like being trapped in a casino. You lose track of time and your place in it.” I actually have quite bad sleeping problems, although I’m feeling optimistic at the moment because the last week or so has been a little better.

I think for me, part of the problem actually comes down to where I live, which is in a two-roomed apartment in quite a rough area. It’s to the point at which sometimes I have to have the curtains closed during the day because I live in the ground floor and quite often there are people drinking outside or just generally causing trouble. I’m also locked into my contract until March and so I can’t move away until then, although the plan then is to move to the countryside and to have a better work/life balance.

In the meantime, my answers to the mindfulness exercise aren’t particularly great, but it is what it is!

It’s 4:30 PM and I’m sitting in my living room getting some work done. I can hear someone talking about books on YouTube on my TV, boy racers speeding down the hill outside and the dripping of a tap. The sun is behind a cloud and the weather is quite grey and gloomy (typical British weather). But my cat is lying in his tent and looking very cute, and I can smell incense, which always relaxes me. I have a nice cup of coffee beside me and in general, I’m feeling pretty healthy today.

I’ve actually found the breathing exercises on my Fitbit to be quite useful. I’ve been taking five minutes here and there to just clear my mind and to focus on my breathing and that’s been helping a lot. And I’m trying to take some time now to establish some healthy habits for both my mind and body so that even if I can’t change too much about my surroundings at the moment, at least I can work on the stuff that I can change. For example, I’ve quit smoking and been taking some breaks every hour to do a little exercise.

It reminds me of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer, which goes, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I’m not necessarily religious or spiritual, but I can recognise good advice when I see it!

fernando 6 years ago

Agostina – thank you for trying the exercise and I’m so glad it helped. Having my own summer holiday planning pains here as well!

fernando 6 years ago

Dane – thank you for trying the exercise and for sharing so much of your situation. It sounds quite tough and the feeling of being trapped indoors in front of a screen is really hard. My previous home was in a nice neighbourhood, but there was relentlessly loud construction noise for almost the whole two years I was there. My home was shaking most days so even having headphones on didn’t block it out.

Nicole 6 years ago

Loved this post, such a simple excersice but yet so effective. Of course its not therapy or meditation, but its good to shut down all the noise in my head, just focus in right now, this moment which will be gone while Im scrolling facebook, or twitter, or whetever social media of preference at the moment. I only found this other same kind of excercise that has the same goal: The 5-4-3-2-1
5: Acknowledge FIVE things you see around you.
4: Acknowledge FOUR things you can touch around you.
3: Acknowledge THREE things you hear.
2: Acknowledge TWO things you can smell.
1. Acknowledge ONE thing you can taste.

I think its a good one, but first I get anxious I wont remember the order of these things, how many of what, and then, what if im in an elevator? I cant taste or smell much there. On the website I found it says u should think of what your mouth tastes like or if u r not in a stimulating environment, walk till u find things u can smell, but what if u cant move? I was thinking about this and it atually made me anxious, so thank you for this one, is a much better grounding exercise for me than the one I knew.

Im glad you are doing better yourself. I know the second I smell and see and touch the ocean with my feet all my anxieties will be gone, im almost crying just thinking about that moment.

Eunice 6 years ago

I like the simplicity of the exercise. It’s true, we often get carried away in our activities and forget to appreciate the little things like nature, sounds around us and the weather.
I will make sure to try the exercise and post my results

Thanks Fernando 🙂

Enter your and your to join the mailing list.