Taking time each day to be in the present moment directly impacts your health and happiness — and it’s never too late to start.
Living in the here and now isn’t always easy — especially this time of year. Maybe you have to-do lists that leave you feeling scattered, or you’re constantly worrying about future or past events. Or maybe you’re an expert multitasker who’s a whiz at spreading holiday cheer.
Having pursuits that give you meaning and purpose is important. But making time to stop and smell the roses is too.
That’s what mindfulness is all about. It’s about tuning in to yourself — where you are, what you’re doing, how you’re feeling — and appreciating the beauty around you, explains Kellie Ziegler, a certified applied positive psychology practitioner in Atlanta. Even better: Mindfulness delivers big-time health benefits: lower stress, improved sleep, clearer thinking, and a better outlook, to name a few.
Fortunately, there are many ways to practice mindfulness, says Ziegler. And they don’t take much training or time. The trick is to find strategies you like and practice them consistently. That’s when the real benefits start to accrue.
Ready to give mindfulness a try? We’ve put together a week’s worth of simple activities that can help you slow down, find joy, and take in all this season has to offer.
How the Mindfulness Challenge Works
This challenge is open to everyone, including SilverSneakers members and non-members.
You won’t need any equipment to join us — just an open mind. You can download the PDF below to find each day’s exercise and follow along. We even left you some space to reflect on each exercise. Make notes of what you like about the day’s activity, what you notice, and how it might help you in your everyday life.
By the week’s end, you’ll have six different mindfulness strategies in your self-care toolkit. Try to incorporate the ones you like most into your daily routine. Practice them often and notice how your mood changes over time.
Download the 6-Day Mindfulness Challenge Activity Guide here.
Day 1: Set a Daily Intention
Before you get out of bed, take one moment to think about the day ahead. What do you want to focus on? What energy will you bring into the day? Then turn those desires into a guiding mantra: “Today, I intend to…”
- Be present in the moment
- Be open to new possibilities
- Be intentional with my actions
Why it works: This thought exercise keeps you connected to your needs and desires — and it won’t take more than two or three minutes, says Sarah Farris, a counselor and founder of Chicago Mind and Body.
Day 2: Breathe Before You Scroll
Each time you go to use a piece of technology — be it a smartphone, TV, laptop, radio — pause and breathe first. Try this breathing exercise that Ziegler recommends: Count to four as you inhale, letting your belly fill up with air. Hold for four counts, and exhale for four counts.
Why it works: Your breath works with your nervous system to turn up your body’s stress response — or dial it down, says Ziegler. This simple trick switches off your stress state and sends a message to your brain that you’re relaxed.
Day 3: Make Mindless Tasks Mindful
Bring your full awareness to a routine task like folding laundry. Notice your breath, what the fabric looks and feels like, how it smells. Pull your mind back to the task every time it wanders.
Why it works: Research shows that focusing on the task at hand can help ease stress and anxiety. In fact, one Florida State University study found that ordinary chores like scrubbing dishes led to a 25 percent increase in mental inspiration and a 27 percent drop in nervousness.
Day 4: Eat Mindfully
Pause before you dig in to think about what’s on your plate and what it took to get there. Then take time to savor the flavors and textures of each bite. When you’ve finished a meal, acknowledge how your body feels. You can even take a moment to express gratitude for the food.
Why it works: This practice has been shown to help curb cravings and better understand your body’s hunger cues, according to data from the Harvard School of Public Health. Weight loss may not be the direct outcome of mindful eating, however research shows this approach to eating helps address many emotional issues that can lead to weight gain or disordered eating.
Day 5: Connect Mind and Body
Instead of letting your mind wander during your workout or walk, pay attention to your movements and how they feel, as well as your surroundings, says Farris. Are there things you haven’t noticed before?
Why it works: Research shows that mindful exercise, done regularly, can improve your mood. SilverSneakers has fitness classes that are specifically designed to help you deepen your mind-body connection and be in the here and now:
SilverSneakers Enerchi: You’ll perform modified tai chi forms in a slow, flowing sequence to progress balance and focus.
SilverSneakers Yoga: You’ll move through seated and standing yoga poses to increase flexibility, balance, and range of motion.
They are offered as full-length (45 to 60 minute) classes or 15-minute Express classes. You can find both in-person at participating SilverSneakers fitness locations (review the gym’s schedule for exact times), or online with SilverSneakers LIVE. See the latest SilverSneakers LIVE schedule and RSVP for classes here.
But don’t worry if a full workout isn’t in the cards for you today, even as little as 60 seconds of movement can help relieve loads of stress, says Farris.
One good move to try: Cat Cow
Day 6: Focus on the Good
Flip the switch on negativity with a simple gratitude practice, suggests Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change. Ask yourself: What are three things that I feel grateful for today? What three things do I appreciate most about myself?
Feeling stuck? Here are some thought starters:
- Did I have a nice surprise today?
- Did someone do something nice for me this week? (Or did I do something nice for someone?)
- What personality traits am I most thankful for?
- What always puts a smile on my face?
Why it works: Expressing gratitude creates an instant mood boost, says Gielan. She’s also a big proponent of showing others how much they mean to you with the forgotten art of writing old-fashioned notes to others. If you can make it a habit, she says, “your brain quickly starts to recognize how much social support you have in your life.”
Bonus Challenge: Try a SilverSneakers Mindfulness & Meditation Class
Our Mindfulness & Meditation Express class is a 15-minute session that offers you a chance to slow down and cultivate a sense of calm through guided imagery and other simple-to-follow practices. You don’t have to be a meditation master to join us—all experience levels are welcome! See the latest SilverSneakers LIVE schedule and RSVP for classes here.
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