5-4-3-2-1 or “Five Senses” Exercise
This exercise is called “five senses,” and provides guidelines on practicing mindfulness quickly in nearly any situation. All that is needed is to notice something you are experiencing with each of the five senses.
Notice five things that you can see.
- Look around you and bring your attention to five things that you can see. Pick something that you don’t normally notice, like a shadow or a small crack in the concrete.
Notice four things that you can feel.
- Bring awareness to four things that you are currently feeling, like the texture of your pants, the feeling of the breeze on your skin, or the smooth surface of a table you are resting your hands on.
Notice three things you can hear.
- Take a moment to listen, and note three things that you hear in the background. This can be the chirp of a bird, the hum of the refrigerator, or the faint sounds of traffic from a nearby road.
Notice two things you can smell.
- Bring your awareness to smells that you usually filter out, whether they’re pleasant or unpleasant. Perhaps the breeze is carrying a whiff of pine trees if you’re outside, or the smell of a fast food restaurant across the street.
Notice one thing you can taste.
- Focus on one thing that you can taste right now, at this moment. You can take a sip of a drink, chew a piece of gum, eat something, notice the current taste in your mouth, or even open your mouth to search the air for a taste.
This is a quick and relatively easy exercise to bring you to a mindful state quickly. If you only have a minute or two, or don’t have the time or tools to try a body scan or fill out a worksheet, the five senses exercise can help you bring awareness to the current moment in a short amount of time.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a method that helps relieve physical tension in an effort to decrease emotional stress. If a body is physically relaxed, your body and mind begin to feel less anxious. This can also help with difficulty sleeping.
- In progressive muscle relaxation, you tense a group of muscles beginning with your feet and moving upwards. When you breathe in, tense the first muscle group for 4-10 seconds. Relax the muscles in conjunction with your breathing out. Keep deep breathing for 10-20 seconds and then repeat with the next muscle group.
After you have learned how to tense and relax each muscle group, here’s something else to try. When you have a very tense muscle, you can practice tensing and relaxing that muscle area without going through the whole routine.
The Body Scan
Another popular mindfulness exercise is called the Body Scan. It is also easily accessible for most beginners.
- Step 1: The Body Scan begins with the participants lying on their backs with their palms facing up and their feet falling slightly apart. This exercise can also be done sitting on a comfortable chair with feet resting on the floor;
- Step 2: The facilitator then asks the participants to lie very still for the duration of the exercise, and move with awareness if it becomes necessary to adjust their position;
- Step 3: Participants begin by bringing awareness to the breath, noticing the rhythm, the experience of breathing in and expelling out;
- Step 4: Next, the facilitator guides attention to the body: how it feels, the texture of clothing against the skin, the contours of the surface on which the body is resting, the temperature of the body and the environment;
- Step 5: The facilitator guides awareness to the parts of the body that are tingling, sore, or feeling particularly heavy or light, s/he asks the participants to note any areas of their body where they don’t feel any sensations at all or are hypersensitive.
A typical Body Scan runs through each part of the body, paying special attention to the way each area feels. The scan usually moves systematically through the body, e.g. starting at the feet and moving upwards..
Those are my favorite mindfulness activities. I often use these with my clients to manage anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms. Feel free to contact us to learn more about ways to increase mindfulness in your life!