Mindfulness and meditation are two things that often go hand in hand. If you’re interested in mindfulness activities, you may be wondering what it’s all about and where to start. It can be easier to make new things into a habit by joining a group of people with like-minded interests.
Even if you have a few friends who are willing to explore mindfulness with you, it should prove to be helpful to have others by your side. If you’re looking to implement mindfulness into your day, you’ve come to the right place.
There are tons of ways to create mindfulness and practicing with your friends, family, or coworkers is a great habit to start. Humans are social creatures, so having others around us who are doing the same thing we are, can help encourage you along the way.
A collective atmosphere can help you feel supported along the way. That’s why so many people enjoy group fitness classes and do things like eat lunch and study together, right? Mindfulness is just another way for groups of people to get together and help one another achieve something they want for themselves.
If you haven’t found your mindfulness group quite yet, don’t worry. The group that’s right for you is out there. In the meantime, you can practice mindfulness on your own. For now, we’re going to talk about why mindfulness matters and fun ways to start practicing mindfulness in a group setting.
Why Practice Mindfulness?
You may have heard mindfulness and meditation used interchangeably or often together. In some ways, they are similar, have similar benefits, and tend to have the same idea about them. When asked about the differences, many folks would say that mindfulness is about practicing more awareness and intent, and meditation is when you sit in the lotus position silently or chanting.
In reality, there are many types of mindfulness practices and many ways to meditate that don’t take place sitting in a room chanting. It’s important to note the differences and many overlaps here. Both will create similar benefits and positive aspects of your life and your body.
Many medical professionals agree that mindfulness can help reduce stress and anxiety. Stress is something that most people have grown accustomed to in our daily lives.
Our national average hours worked per week, according to the American Institute of Stress, is 34.4 hours. Of course, tons of people work more than the typical 40-hour workweek while some work part-time or less. But accomplishing that many hours takes away from the time we spend at home, and often, the additional work hours aren’t enough to overcome the financial stress we feel.
If you’re someone who works and runs a household, then you’re probably all too familiar with this stress.
Whether you’re dealing with work, illness, caretaking roles, or stress within your relationships, everyone can benefit from mindfulness to reduce stress.
Here are several ways to enjoy mindfulness within group activities to help you reduce stress in your life and create bonds with others who enjoy like-minded activities.
Mindfulness Group Activities
What do you currently do to relieve stress in your daily life? Do you call your best friend or your mom on your way home from work to complain about your day? Get together after work with coworkers talk rant about work and have a few drinks? Perhaps you go to dinner with some friends?
Plenty of people use similar coping mechanisms to blow off steam. While doing things that make you feel as if you’re relieving stress can be a good thing, it doesn’t make them excellent coping skills. You certainly shouldn’t make anything that’s not positive or enhancing your life into a habit.
Instead, try some of these mindfulness activities that you can practice in groups with your friends. Practicing some of these activities with your friends can help you create positive coping skills and live a healthier, happier life with reduced stress.
Keep in mind that some group activities will require one person to lead the group. You can draw names or take turns leading the group with each activity or session so that everyone gets the benefit of the activity.
Anyone can lead the group without any new experience. If it’s helpful, the leader can keep some notes on what to do for the activity and, otherwise, just be ready to help the others along in the group.
Have you ever been guilty of mindless eating? Sometimes, you can’t help it, you’re hungry or munching and don’t realize you’ve eaten the whole chip bag until it’s gone.
If you want to be more mindful of the things you eat in general, this is a great activity to practice in your group. Let our suggestion act as a rough guide; your group can take the idea and make it work for its members any way that works best. Here’s what you’ll need:
- Make sure your group doesn’t come starving, a group planned a short while after a meal works perfectly.
- Choose several snack foods that can be somewhat unique. A cheese, cracker, and fruit spread would work great. Don’t bring catered BBQ for this occasion.
- A notebook or paper for group members to jot down notes.
Eating is something we do each day, several times a day, for most of us. Bringing mindfulness to food is a great way to get started since you potentially can practice several times per day if you want to.
Many of us eat food when we’re past the point of hunger and aren’t there to taste it; we’re just scarfing our food down to cure hunger. How many times this week have you held off your lunch to finish what you were doing, only to be starving by the time you had a chance to eat?
Daily Mindful Practices
Although it seems like it’s unavoidable, for the most part, if you implement some mindfulness into your day, you can build a schedule that allows you to fuel your body as necessary and become more mindful of your eating habits. In this activity, you’ll get the chance to explore the foods you’re eating, think about the textures and flavors, and consider how the experience of eating changes for you as you become mindful about it.
Your group might be surprised to discover all sorts of details about eating simple foods when given the time and chance to think about the experience. If anyone in your group feels confident to take the first jab at being the guide for the activity, let them go for it.
The guide should walk the group through the exercise by giving everyone some prompts or pointers to think about while tasting each food, followed by some time to write down their answers or feelings.
If you’re choosing to be the guide, you can ask group members to describe the flavors of the food, how they felt when they ate it, or thinking about what might taste good paired with the food. If you’ve ever been to a wine tasting or tasting for catering events, you can mimic the same sampling style.
Explore Your Feelings In Depth
This group activity is all about taking the time to enjoy the great moments in life. Even those going through the darkest times may be able to recall a time when you had an extraordinary feeling.
The purpose of mindfulness practice is to help you learn to enjoy the present moment. There’s no better way to learn than by revisiting a great moment from your memory. The leader of this group should ask the group members to think of something in their lives that they are grateful for and the feelings that it gave them.
Whatever they’re grateful for can be a person, place, thing, or even a memory of something that happened long ago. Rather than each group member trying to recreate the happiness or feelings of joy that they had from this gratifying moment, item, or person, they should simply try to be grateful for it.
Each person can then take turns sharing what they are grateful for with the group. We don’t want to pull our focus from the present into the past; we want to remove ourselves to enjoy the present with the other group members in this activity.
While one person is speaking, it’s an excellent opportunity for the rest of the group to practice mindful listening. Each person should focus on what the speaker is saying, and try to be aware and present as each opinion is shared.
Mindfulness and Compassion for Self
If you can imagine it, people who have gone through mindfulness transformations often forget to take care of themselves. This tends to help when significant change leads the person to begin spreading compassion and mindfulness with others, leaving themselves as an afterthought!
Being compassionate to yourself is a practice that everyone should master. Most folks would say that at least one thing causes them some sort of suffering, so the group shouldn’t have trouble coming up with ideas to practice self-compassion.
Remember, our suggestion is a rough guide. As you read through the exercise, the chosen guide can adapt the activity to suit the needs of the group. You can also practice this exercise on your own after the group to deepen your awareness.
First, make sure that each member has a notebook and something they can use to write. The group can take a seat for this exercise and choose any place or seated position that is comfortable. Each group member should take some time to think about something painful to them. There is no guideline here; one person may be writing about a traumatic life event, while another writes about not getting a promotion.
You may want to let everyone know ahead of time that each group member will have an opportunity to share what they’ve written down. The next step is for each person to share what they’ve written and then focus on why they should be giving themselves compassion in this situation.
To help each person feel validated and reinforce the self-compassion, the group members can share feelings of compassion with each person after they’ve had their turn to share.
In this activity, if your group feels comfortable, they can embrace one another at the end of each person’s turn. Sometimes, an embrace can offer the compassion that we can’t find with words, but this practice is entirely optional.
The activity is complete when each person who wants to, has shared. If a group member doesn’t want to share what they’ve written, they can take some time to write something else, or they can just be a listener in the group. Sometimes the act of writing it down and thinking about it without sharing is all a person needs to practice self-compassion, so let each person bring as much or as little participation to the group as they feel is necessary.
Mindful Balloon Activity
With a bag of balloons and your group members, you can enjoy this unique mindfulness activity. This activity can take any form you like, but some variations are for the group to sit in a circle or two rows across from one another. The group can use one or several balloons at a time. The idea in this activity is to pass the blown-up balloons back and forth to one another without letting the balloon touch the ground.
As the group becomes focused on the balloons, a guide may suggest that they’ve focused their attention and awareness on the balloons. They may have forgotten about other things that were on their mind. The mind has focused on the task and lost focus on other things that may have been taking up the mental energy of the group members.
Mindfulness Vision Activity
Have you ever noticed that seeing things is an automatic process? That’s because we do it, most moments in our waking days. It’s not something we give thought. When was the last time you stopped and enjoyed what you were seeing? This exercise is to bring awareness to the simple things we don’t notice or take for granted each day.
For this group activity, you can gather around a window with a beautiful view, or go outside somewhere that has pleasant things to view. The choices are unlimited. If you can find a picture that includes some movement, it works best for the activity, but it’s not a necessity.
The group leader and group can decide if they want the activity to be silent or take the form of some discussion. Some groups may prefer to practice mindfulness and write down their thoughts of feels and share them one by one with the group later.
The group leader can pose several questions to the group as they simply stand and enjoy the view. Think about what associations come to mind, feelings, thoughts, or memories that stir as each person takes in the view.
If your group wants to share what they wrote down, the other group members can focus on hearing things they may have missed in the scene or understanding the connections that other group members made.
This activity is a great way for group members to think about bringing awareness to the simple things they do each and remind them to take in their scenery more often.
The Body Scan
The body scan is a popular mindfulness exercise that’s usually a group favorite. The body scan intends to bring awareness to our bodies, to slow down, and help us reconnect with our physical self.
As we move through our days, our bodies give us many telltale signs that we don’t hear or ignore. To bring more focus into their bodies, the group leader should ask that each person take a comfortable, relaxed position, laying down if possible.
The group can do this indoors in someone’s home if available, or in a natural space like the grassy area of a park. The guide should feel comfortable leading each group member to scan the different areas of their bodies, bringing awareness to what’s going on inside their physical vehicle. This activity should take about twenty minutes to complete.
First, let everyone find a comfortable position. The leader of the group should begin to help the group bring focus into one area of the body at a time. Similar to other forms of meditation, the guide can instruct the group to begin focusing on their breathing to bring awareness inwards, each person should continue lying still without much movement.
Follow the Leader
As the group brings their breath into focus, the leader should suggest that the group become aware of how their bodies are feeling. The guide might suggest that the group members think about any soreness they’re experiencing, how the light or temperature feels to their skin, and how their clothing feels on their body.
As the group as brought awareness to their breathing and how their body is feeling, they should hold this focus for about one or two minutes. Now, the guide should suggest a focus on parts of the body like fingers and hands or toes and feet. The guide can start from top to bottom or go in any order that feels comfortable.
The focus should be held in each area for another minute or two, while group members have a chance to switch their focus and become aware of any feelings. The group members should work their way through being mindful of each part of their bodies. Next, they can bring their focus back to their breathing for several moments while the guide brings the group out of the deep relaxation that some may feel.
The leader may suggest that each group member thinks about anything that they’ve become aware of in their bodies. Perhaps, things that they haven’t noticed before. If the group is open to it, they can resume as a group to discuss with everyone what each person felt and experienced. Many people will feel calm and relaxed at this point, so ending the group gently is suggested.
Plenty of people can think of a time where they listened to someone talking and, in the end, had no idea what the person just said. Just like seeing, most of us let our sense of hearing go on autopilot and don’t give it much thought throughout the day. Using mindfulness can help us establish awareness of these things that we tend to leave on autopilot so that we can enjoy a more precise focus and attention throughout our days.
The good news is that a group setting is an excellent way to practice mindful listening. If you have enough people, your group can decide to make pairs to do the activity. Otherwise, one person can choose to guide the group.
In this activity, partners or the group should simply focus their attention on who is speaking. Just as one would focus their breathing during meditation, each group member should focus their listening in the same way.
The listening activity doesn’t have to be intense or extraordinary. Partners can simply share their feelings about their day, describe someone they know, or tell their partner something about themselves. The simple act of listening brings awareness to an activity we do each day and focus our attention on learning what things we may be missing out on when we listen without awareness.
Afterwards, the group can have a short discussion about things they noticed or heard while mindfully listening to their partner.
The Five Things Activity
If you haven’t yet chosen your first mindful group activity, this is a great one to start with because it’s super simple, and all group members can do it quickly, without any previous mindfulness experience.
What’s interesting about this activity is that it can be a useful tool to help people who suffer from anxiety and other mental health issues. This activity can bring a person’s awareness inward, often helping them snap out of other things they might be feeling. After you guide your group through this activity, you can share with them the benefits of using this activity alone when they’re having trouble with anything from anxiety, anger, or even difficulty falling asleep.
The leader of the group should allow each person to take a comfortable position around the room; it can be indoors or outdoors as long as the group is comfortable in the space. The group leader can instruct the group all at once and let the group move through the exercise silently, at their own pace, or guide through group through one sense at a time.
The guide should begin by explaining to everyone that the activity should bring awareness inward through the use of all five of their senses — touch, sight, smell, hearing, and taste.
For the sake of the group exercise, the only sense order that matters is to have taste go last, but the suggested order is sight, touch, hear, smell, and lastly, taste. The guide will instruct the group to become aware of five things they can see. It’s best to look around and choose the things that you wouldn’t usually bring attention to, such as a shadow on the wall, a unique wall hanging, or the different colors of leaves on a tree.
Next, the guide should instruct the group to focus their attention on four things they can feel, three things they can hear, two things they can smell, and finally, one thing they can taste. You may want to suggest group members have a sip of a drink or provide a piece of gum for the exercise.
As the guide moves through each sense, they can make suggestions to the group or ask members if they’d like to share. Alternately, the group can all take turns sharing during the exercise, but it might hinder focus.
Mindfulness has been around for a long time, but it’s a somewhat new idea to the western world. With more research and studies proving that mindfulness can help calm to mind and ease stress, it’s becoming more widespread with even some skeptics coming around to the idea.
Mindfulness is not only easy to learn; it can be fun and relaxing for almost anyone. The best thing about mindfulness is that anyone can do it alone or with others, it can be as straightforward or as complex as anyone wants it to be. It doesn’t cost anything and rarely requires anything other than the people who intend to practice it.
If you’ve enjoyed these mindfulness activities in a group setting, don’t be afraid to make a day or evening out of practicing some of the same exercises at home. You would be surprised at what you learn about yourself during solo mindfulness activities.
For more in-depth mindfulness work, consider keeping a journal and recording experiences and times you practiced mindfulness and what you believe the outcomes were. You may be surprised to learn just how much a mindfulness routine can impact your daily life.