There are many mindful exercises floating around, but the basics are the same for most of them.
Object of Attention: Each mindfulness exercise will give us something to focus on. Initially we tend to focus on body sensations such as taste, sound, smell, touch and breathing. As we get more comfortable with our practice we can start to focus on more abstract objects of attention such as thoughts and feelings.
Distraction: Everyone becomes distracted with mindful exercises; even experienced practitioners. Noticing distractions is a good thing, it gives us the opportunity to realize our attention has drifted and allows us to redirect our attention back to the exercise.
Objectively Noticing: When we are doing our mindfulness exercises we tend to notice that certain feelings and thoughts float into our mind. Often we even become distracted by these thoughts and feelings. Rather than pushing these thoughts and feelings away these exercises are designed to allow us to redirect our attention back to the object of focus.
It is important to do the exercises daily (or as close to daily as possible). Don’t worry if you miss a day or two. However, similar to exercising our body, exercising our mind takes time. The more we train our “mind muscles” the easier these exercises will become. Eventually we tend to notice that we are more present throughout the day even when we aren’t formally practicing.
How Do I Use the Formal Exercises?
The most important part of doing formal exercises is practicing them regularly. We all have different schedules. It might be easier to do these exercises first thing in the morning; it might be easier to do them after the kids are in bed. It doesn’t really matter as long as you find a time you can get the exercise in each day.
I usually recommend doing a 10 minute exercise at least once per day. Sometimes doing it twice per day can help to build those mindfulness muscles a bit quicker. It’s important to remember that the benefits from mindfulness come from regular practice. After a while the techniques we learn during the formal exercises will spill over into everyday life.