I'm a big proponent of meditation. Studies have shown that it's a great brain boost and there's tons of anecdotal evidence that it literally changes people's lives. The problem is that I usually get re-stressed as soon as I step off my meditation cushion.
Who am I kidding? I meditate with the HeadSpace app while lying on my bed.
Who am I really kidding? I stopped using the HeadSpace app right after my daughter was born and after two years, decided to finally cancel my subscription.
If you can carve out five or ten minutes a day for meditation, do it up. Knock yourself out. I'm here for it.
But if you can't right now, don't sweat it. I've got some creative mindfulness exercises just for you.
There's more to mindfulness than crossing your legs, closing your eyes, and watching your mental clouds roll by.
I wrote the book on how improv affects the brain. But then I found myself as anxious and worried and stuck in my head as ever.
I felt like a hypocrite.
I knew that improv helped people get out of their heads and go with the flow, but I was stuck in the opposite mode during my everyday life.
So I developed 120 everyday games. They're based on improv and acting and weird shit my mom said growing up. But mostly they're based on and adapted from my improv research.
The 120 games are part of 12 life lessons inspired by improv. When I started playing these everyday games, I started to be more mindful, joyous, and connected in my everyday life.
So give it a try. Play these 7 creative mindfulness exercises to become more mindful today.
7 Creative Mindfulness Exercises
1. Call It Like You Sees It
Improv rehearsals sometimes start with everyone walking around the space, pointing at things and naming them aloud.
"Lamp." "Floor." "Window." "Wall."
Why in the world would improvisers do this?
It's to start focusing on the here and now. What is literally in the room with them?
In other words, it's a mindfulness exercise.
So the next time you're on your way somewhere, I want you to Call It Like You Sees It. Point to things and say their names out loud.
Any time I start spiraling, I point and name. "That's a tree" is a way to focus my brain on the present moment, and it's way better than thinking about the interest rate on my student loans.
2. Alien Game
When I lived in the city, I would always struggle through those crowded streets, so I came up with the following creative mindfulness exercise to help me go with the flow.
Alien Game is simple. Just pretend you're an alien sent to Earth from another planet. Which planet? Totally up to you.
You could be a Conehead or a 3rd Rock from the Sun or even a Codependent Lesbian Space Alien.
The point is to pretend that you don't understand the strange ways of the earthlings. Pay close attention to how they walk and talk and then try your best to just fit in and go under the radar.
If they're walking slowly, you walk slowly. If they're on their phones, pretend to be on your phone.
This will help you to be more mindful and nonjudgmental about the group. It will help you go with the flow, instead of forcing against it like a salmon.
And isn't it better to be an alien than a salmon?
3. Curious Detective
Curious Detective is in the same ballpark as Alien Game.
But instead of pretending to be an alien, I want you to pretend you're a detective. Again, you get some choices. You could be Columbo or Sherlock Holmes or even a gumshoe chasing Carmen Sandiego.
The point is that you need to pay very close attention when talking with people. Pay attention to what they're saying and how they say it. Ask questions and really pay close attention to the answers.
You are a detective, so you need to get to the bottom of what makes people tick.
This will help you to be more mindful of your social interactions, instead of being on autopilot or being trapped in your head.
4. Poetry to My Ears
Creative mindfulness exercises can also help us appreciate what people are saying.
In Poetry to My Ears, you need to pretend everyone is a freakin' poet. Like a Nobel laureate poet.
When someone talks to you, listen carefully for the gems and the joys of what they say. Listen to the rhythms and the allusions. Think back to high school English class. You're going to want to identify the beautiful poetic devices nestled like eagles in the words of your husband, your boss, your mother-in-law, and even that salesperson who just cold-called you.
There's beauty all around us, but sometimes it takes creative mindfulness exercises like Poetry to My Ears to start being aware of it.
5. Teach Me, Sensei
Sometimes we go through our day without really paying attention to much of anything. We think we've heard it all before. Next!
Teach Me, Sensei is a creative mindfulness exercise to help you break this bad habit. After all, you don't know everything. There are always new things to learn!
Pretend everyone you encounter is a wise old teacher. You are trying to learn something from every single person who crosses your path.
I've learned about local fairs from a cashier at the grocery store. Book recommendations at a pet store. And parenting hacks at the playground.
When I think I know it all, I don't learn anything from anyone. But when I am searching for people's wisdom, they are wise.
Be open to learning in order to be more mindful of what others can teach you.
6. You are a Unicorn Sliding Down a Rainbow
I'm all about trying to be more mindful of other people, not just of my inner thoughts and feelings.
You are a Unicorn Sliding Down a Rainbow is a creative mindfulness exercise that asks you to try your darndest to see every single person's inner unicorn.
What makes them magical, interesting, or special?
Trying to identify everyone's unicorn qualities will help you focus more on others and pay more attention to their positive attributes.
This will help you get out of your head and see the good in others.
7. Rinse and Repeat
The last of the creative mindfulness exercises is called Rinse and Repeat.
I sometimes find myself forgetting what someone has just told me. It's because I am thinking about something else or just generally zoned out.
Rinse and Repeat helps you to be more mindful and present while conversing with others.
To play, all you do is repeat the last thing someone said to you.
We need an example.
Let's say someone says, "I'll just put those in my mailbox in the office, and you can pick them up later."
I would say, "I can pick them up later...." and then go from there.
This helps me tune into what people are telling me and affirm that I am indeed mindful of the blahs that are coming from their mouth holes.
Final Thoughts on Creative Mindfulness Exercises
Meditation is great. For some people and at some times.
But for people like me, we need creative mindfulness exercises that help us be more present throughout the day. I need help being mindful when I'm walking down the street, talking with a friend, and enjoying one of my Target runs.
Sometimes that means I pretend to be an alien or a detective. Sometimes it means I look for people's inner unicorn or listen for the poetry in their everyday speech.
It's important to be more playful and find fun ways to enjoy your everyday life. And these 7 creative mindfulness exercises will start to help you do just that.