When you hear the word “mindfulness,” do you picture yourself sitting quietly in an empty room with your eyes shut? While meditation is one noteworthy mindfulness practice, it is far from being the only one. From coloring to journaling, there are a number of creative mindfulness exercises you can use to help reduce anxiety naturally, and according to research, the results are well worth it.
Studies show mindfulness-based stress reduction is just as effective as medication in subjects with anxiety disorders.1 Researchers believe this happens because mindfulness influences two different stress pathways in the brain, ultimately changing brain structures and activity in regions associated with attention and emotion regulation.2 There’s also strong evidence that people who practice mindfulness are less likely to react with negative thoughts or unhelpful emotional reactions when they are under stress.
Whether you struggle with anxiety or simply want to improve how you respond to stress, explore one of the following top eight mindfulness exercises below.
1. Guided Meditation
The benefits of meditation are well-documented, but if the idea of sitting still and trying to control a busy mind seems daunting, listening to a guided meditation may be the answer. During a guided meditation, a leader will take you through various meditation techniques, often bringing you back to the breath to keep your mind from wandering. This might be accompanied by calming music or nature sounds. A guided meditation can happen in-person, such as in a yoga studio or meditation center, or you can find various guided meditations online. There are also a number of apps, such as Calm or Headspace, offering a variety of meditations with different aims, such as meditation for sleep, or meditation for stress. If you’re a beginner to meditation, being guided by an expert can be especially useful.
2. Focus on an Adult Coloring Book
Coloring is a popular children’s activity, but it can also be a helpful mindfulness tool. Unlike the coloring pages of your youth, which may have featured your favorite cartoon characters, adult coloring books for mindfulness typically feature complex patterns like mandalas or abstract art. According to PositivePsychology.com, “coloring pre-drawn illustrations provides an opportunity to suspend our inner dialogue and engage in an activity that disregards the flow of negative thoughts that can dominate our lives.”3
3. Move Your Body — Go for a Walk
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, a 10-minute walk may be just as good as a 45-minute workout when it comes to reducing symptoms of anxiety.4 To turn this physical exercise into a mindfulness exercise, we suggest ditching the headphones and paying attention to the present moment while you walk. During a mindfulness walk, try focusing on your senses: what you see, smell, hear, and feel while moving. If you have an opportunity to walk in nature, even better. Studies indicate taking a nature walk effectively improves mental health, positively impacting both depression and anxiety.5
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4. Reduce Your Screen Time
Researchers have found a connection between excessive screen use and anxiety.6 If you feel like you spend too much time on your phone, tablet, computer, or watching T.V., it may be time to mindfully cut back. To do this effectively, Certified Mindfulness & Meditation Teacher & Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist Melanie Lopes suggests opening up to the idea of “mindful screen time.”7 This entails becoming more aware and curious about the time you spend on your devices. Consider asking yourself these questions: What do you check most often? Why do you do it? How does it make you feel? If you check your phone or email first thing in the morning, try pausing first, observing how you feel, checking in to see if screen time will make you feel better or worse, and then setting an intention before you proceed.
5. Make a Habit of Journaling
Journaling can help you get to the root of your anxiety and ground you in the present moment. Studies suggest the simple practice also helps to reduce feelings of distress and increase well-being when you do it regularly.8 There’s also evidence that journaling is just as effective as cognitive-behavioral therapy in young adults.9 While you can journal any time of the day, we suggest trying it first thing in the morning to set an intention for the day, or before bed to process the events of the day.
6. Look into Homeopathic Medication
Medication may not seem like a mindfulness practice, but it can help you become more mindful. Mindfulness teacher Matthew Brensilver, PhD explains, “Stabilizing on a medication actually opens the possibility of settling into mindfulness practice.”10 In the same way that symptoms of anxiety or depression may be reduced by combining medication and psychotherapy, Brensilver suggests that for some people experiencing psychiatric distress, “mindfulness paired with medication may be superior to either treatment alone.”
Homeopathic medication like Brillia is one option for reducing anxiety without a prescription medication or official diagnosis of anxiety. Free from harsh, synthetic chemicals and harmful side effects, Brillia contains antibodies to the S100B protein, which is an important regulator of various different intracellular and extracellular brain processes and highly related to mood regulation. Gentle, impactful, and extremely targeted, Brillia helps to control symptoms of anxiety, stress, irritability, and restlessness without causing any of the side effects associated with prescription anti-anxiety medication, such as headache, dry mouth, nausea, weight changes, or sexual side effects. And if you’re already taking medication for anxiety, Brillia can be added to your regimen without worry because there are no contraindications. Learn more about Brillia for Children & Teens and Brillia for Adults.
7. Set Daily Intentions
As we mentioned above, setting daily intentions is another mindfulness tool that can help reduce anxiety. Setting a daily intention sets the tone for the day, gives you a sense of purpose, and helps you focus on possibilities instead of limitations, which can be uplifting. There is even evidence that setting positive intentions can affect you on a cellular level, transforming your positive beliefs into “electromagnetic fields” by nerve cells.11
8. Practice Breath Work
When we become stressed, our body initiates the fight-or-flight response, amping up our heart rate, contracting our blood vessels, and shutting down digestion. Breathwork helps to break the fight-or-flight cycle, induce calmness, and bring you back to the present moment. From extending your exhale to inhaling into your belly, there are a number of breathing exercises you can try to start reducing anxiety right now. Explore five breathing exercises here.