In the practice of mindfulness, participants allow themselves to be fully present and in the moment, to acknowledge their thoughts, and to breathe with purpose and to accept themselves wholly. This powerful skill requires patience, understanding, and practice. When performed in a group setting, it provides participants with an opportunity to learn as everyone will have their own unique interpretations and experiences. The following exercises should be led by a qualified instructor or counselor.
Mindful Painting and Planting Session
In the world today, many people tend to rush through their day sometimes not even recalling what activities they participated in. Taking time to enjoy small moments is a critical part of self care. Research shows practicing mindfulness helps those with anxiety, depression, and overall stress lower their symptoms.
In this exercise the group leader will need:
- An assortment of plants, flowers, and herbs
- Planting Soil
- Inform the participants they can come up to the front and select one plant, one pot, a few paints, and a few brushes.
- Once everyone has selected their materials, go around the room and ask why they selected that particular item, and what they notice about the plants and pots in terms of appearance, texture, scent, and sound.
- Tell the participants they can go ahead and spend about 15 minutes painting their pot however they would like focusing on color, texture, movement, sound, and visual appearance in general. If the group struggled with this step, have everyone go around and share. If not, have them think about it quietly amongst themselves.
- Once the pots have dried, allow the participants to begin planting their selected flower or herb. Have them examine it using all of their senses, leaving the planting for last.
- Go around the room and ask about each participant's experience. Have they ever painted or gardened like this before? What did they like about it, and what was difficult? How did it feel emotionally? What was going on within their bodies and minds during the exercise? This can be a free form discussion or more organized with each participant sharing one at a time.
Mindful Shaving Cream Art
People tend to think of the mind and the body as separate entities when in fact they are very much connected. Art can give people the ability to tap into the body and listen to what it is trying to communicate. By doing so, they can open the doors for a deeper understanding of emotional states and thought processes. When people have a better grasp on what they feel and why they feel a certain way, stress tends to reduce. With more knowledge comes better self awareness, control, and understanding.
You will need one of each for each participant.
- Liquid watercolors
- Water color paper
- Shaving cream
- Shallow pans
- Scraping tool
- Have participants start by collecting their supplies and using their senses to ground themselves.
- After a few minutes, have them spray their shaving cream into the shallow pan and spend some time getting to know the texture, smell, sound, and sight of it. The scraping tool can be used to further explore.
- Allow them to select a few colors and place a few drops into their shaving cream. Have them note how they are feeling and remind them this is a gentle observation of the self.
- Using their scraping tool, allow them to create whatever they are feeling in the moment. Allow 10 to 15 minutes.
- Finish by having them place their paper onto the shaving cream and gently pressing downwards. Pull the paper up and scrape off the remaining shaving cream. The participants will be left with a unique piece of art that represents their emotional state.
- Discuss amongst the group how the participants were feeling throughout the exercise. Was it difficult to have few instructions? Did some feel like they made mistakes? What emotions came up throughout the process?
Mindful Equine Grooming for Kids
Kids are typically more open to mindfulness than many adults. Children can reap amazing benefits when taught this skill at an early age. There is a lot of research surfacing that notes kids who practice mindfulness have an improved sense of self, reduced stress, increased ability to focus, enhanced problem solving and memory, as well as less negative self talk.
In this exercise, you will need to be at an appropriate equine facility with equine specialists and counselors present. You will need:
- One horse per one or two children
- Several grooming options available per person
- Start by having the kids do a few minutes of breathing and noticing the natural rhythm of their breath.
- Invite each participant to select a grooming tool and spend some time noticing its visual appearance, tactile feeling, scent, and sound.
- Have the participants begin grooming their horse and noticing how they feel in the moment. If uncomfortable feelings come up, encourage the participants to notice them gently and continue the exercise.
- After everyone has finished, process what this exercise was like for them. Was it challenging to notice things differently? What do they typically do when they feel uncomfortable?
Research has shown that being outside in nature, or even looking out the window at nature, reduces stress. Participating in a group mindfulness surfing session can be a doubly beneficial experience.
In this activity, the participants and instructor should be prepared with surfboards, sunscreen, and water. Instructors should be advanced surfers and certified in emergency response.
- Instructors will first ask participants to focus on their breath before the surf session begins.
- The instructors will then lead mindful walking and seeing. Have the participants focus on how walking on the beach feels, what aspects of their bodies are moving, and what the overall experience is like.
- Then, allow the participants to get into the water, noticing how their bodily sensations and mental state have shifted. Have the surfers incorporate mindful seeing and mindful movement into their swimming. Mindful seeing is described as noticing what is typically left behind, such as nuanced colors and textures.
- Have the surfers tap into their sense of sight and observe what they normally do not. Have them notice what the water feels like, and how they feel emotionally. Encourage them to continue to use these exercises throughout their surf session.
- At the end of the exercise, ask them to share their experience. What was the most difficult for them? What stood out? How did and does their body feel throughout the process? What thoughts came up for them?
Woodworking With Mindfulness
Woodworking can be a relaxing way to unwind for many people. Combining woodworking with mindfulness creates a fun way to de-stress and practice being fully present. This exercise should be led by an appropriate instructor who is certified in emergency services.
In this exercise participants will need:
- Two types of sanding paper, fine and rough grit
- One piece of small wood per participant
- Begin with a mindful breathing exercise where the participants are merely observing their natural breathing.
- After a few minutes, have the participants explore the sanding paper and wood with all of their senses, except taste.
- Ask them to observe what they are drawn to first. What parts of their bodies were touching the objects? What did it feel like emotionally? What thoughts came up?
- Remind them to gently observe themselves. Have them begin sanding their wood piece in any way they would like. If anything negative comes up, have them acknowledge it, and imagine it floating by.
- After the session, process what came up for the group. Was it easy, or challenging? What shifted for them throughout the exercise?
Being More Conscious
Group mindfulness exercises are a unique way to reduce stress, bond with other group members, and learn how to be more present and connected. With enough practice, anyone can become more accepting, and kind to themselves.