5 Mindful Exercises to Get Out of a Funk and Harness Your Ultimate Potential
We all need a little pick me up sometimes. Our self-esteem can plummet with a single word, we run out of inspiration, we tire ourselves out or get lost in the whirlwind that is life. The important thing, however, is that when life throws you down a pit, you have a harness, some rope and the courage to see the sunshine again!
Just like any skill, we need to work at being positive and mindful, especially when our default is to be negative. Recently, I taught a class about mindfulness and positivity that made me realise how we often have the insight and inspiration we are searching for, already within us. They just need a little coaxing to come out. Basically, you may know exactly what you need to do to get your life in order, but until you sit and find the plan that’s been in you along, you could be wandering aimlessly.
And with that, here are some practical exercises to harness the power inside yourself:
When you feel like nothing is working in your favour
It’s so easy for us to get carried away with our lives and feel like nothing is working for us. A thorough gratitude list can help you zoom out, see things in perspective and realise that you are more than negatives in your life right now. Cultivating a consistent gratitude practice can have some pretty drastic changes to your wellbeing as well, with research showing that practicing gratitude can improve sleep, mental strength and boost self-esteem! For a more spiritual twist, you can do this in the form of a gratitude letter to God as well.
Reflect about everything that makes up who you are. Your physical body, the people around you, your personality and internal qualities.
Going through all of these things, make a list of everything you are grateful for at this very moment. Try and get as specific as possible. What parts of your personality do you like? Who do you know that you are grateful for? What’s a recent experience you that you’re happy you had?
When you’ve lost inspiration
Feeling like you’re not reaching your full potential? Need something to strive for? The Best Possible Self exercise is an inspiring practice that has been shown to have immediate effects on your happiness. Visualising yourself at your best gives you a boost of determination and optimism about the future, feeding you with the drive to actually follow through with concrete steps to see your goals to fruition.
Think about who your ideal self is. What would your job be? What time would you wake up? How would you talk? What kind of habits would you have? How would you feel about yourself? What would your relationships be like?
Write down all aspects of your best possible self. Envision yourself achieving your goals, becoming the person you are striving to be, and write exactly what this would look and feel like.
When you’re doubting yourself
Reliving moments that made you proud is an awesome way to remind yourself that though you’re not exactly feeling yourself right now, you have what it takes to be and feel amazing because you have done it before. You are someone who has achieved, been admired and reached the heights of pride, whether it was while speaking to a crowd of a thousand or offering a word of advice. We all have ups and down, and when you find yourself in the downs, this is a great exercise to remind yourself that you have the ability to soar.
Think back to specific moments in your life where you felt absolutely, down to your core, proud of yourself. Don’t over think it or think this doesn’t apply to you! These moments can be very simple but there should be something about them that made you feel happy about yourself.
Write these moments down in as much detail as possible. How exactly did you feel? What made you so proud? What was the environment like? Who was with you?
Keep these accounts as a tool to empower yourself and dig yourself out the trenches of negative thinking.
When you feel a disconnect between your mind and body
Drowning in anxiety-ridden thoughts? Fretting about the future? Feeling like your attention is being pulled in so many directions that you’re hardly aware of what happening inside you? With work, social media and everything else that comes with living in the current age, our focus can be everywhere but here sometimes. Practising mindfulness is no hippy bogus though - it’s been proven to sharpen focus, boost memory, reduce stress and strengthen emotional regulation. This mindful exercise will gently bring your attention back to the present, and centre your focus on what’s most important - you.
Become aware of your breath. Inhale as slow as you can, taking full breaths.
Bring your focus to each of your five senses. Taking turns, shift your attention to each sense. It can help to close your eyes to sharpen your other senses.
Smell: How many things can you smell? What are the most dominant smells? What are the most subtle?
Taste: Is there an aftertaste of something you ate? Notice your tongue, the insides of your cheeks and your breath as you exhale.
Hearing: Start to notice all the sounds around you. See how far you can stretch this sense - just how far can you hear?
Touch: Scan your body from top to bottom. Do you feel the weight of your hair? What about the pressure of your feet on the floor? How do your clothes feel against your skin?
Sight: Observe the environment around you. What are the colours, textures and shapes you see?
When you want to give back
We already know that gratitude can seriously change your attitude and happiness, and expressing it to someone else will only intensify the effects. A gratitude letter is bound to open a whole vault of emotions for both of you and is the ultimate way to give back to someone, whilst giving you both a boost of positivity.
Think of a person who helped you in some way whom you never thanked. This might be a friend, teacher, parent, relative or even the smiley receptionist you pass every day on the way to work.
Write a letter to them, explaining the reasons why you are grateful for them. Try and recall specific moments that touched you. Don’t worry about grammar or making perfect sense.
The scariest part: Give the letter to the person and see what happens!