20 Mindfulness Exercises to Help Anxiety

It's the beginning of 2020, and I have a new year gift to offer you: mindfulness exercises to help anxiety. It's a brand-new year. Chances are, you would rather that anxiety didn't accompany you into this year or any other year. You don't have to remain attached to anxiety. Break free from worry and panic by making mindfulness a way of life, and start now, early in 2020, by helping your anxiety with these 20 mindfulness exercises.

Some Ways Mindfulness Exercises Help Anxiety

Mindfulness is a way of being with yourself and the world around you and as such has many anxiety-reducing benefits. It involves placing yourself smack in the middle of the moment you're in rather than being stuck in the racing, negative thoughts, worries, and fears that make up anxiety. (There's an important caveat that applies to anxiety-provoking situations. Sometimes, the present moment is the problem. When that's the case, focusing on your moment can increase anxiety and panic. In those situations, mindfulness is still helpful with a simple modification. See "When Mindfulness Doesn't Calm Anxiety.")

Placing your attention on tangible reality helps anxiety in multiple ways. In general, doing so can:

When you live with anxiety, being mindful is easier said than done. It's not easy to remain grounded in the present moment. The following mindfulness exercises can help you reduce anxiety.

20 Mindfulness Exercises that Help Reduce Anxiety

To wriggle away from anxiety's clutch, purposefully place your attention on what's around you. Use your senses to train your thoughts and emotions in the present. Mindfulness is a skill that, like all skills, takes practice, patience, and persistence to master. It starts as a set of actions, such as these activities, and eventually becomes a way of being that replaces anxiousness. Becoming mindful involves incorporating it into your daily life. Little exercises and activities, done regularly, can help you break free from anxiety. Here are 20 to get you started:

  1. Focus on a point. When you feel anxious, focus on a point in front of you. Choose one object and study it, describing the details to yourself.
  2. Drink it up. Keep a water bottle handy. Take sips intentionally, pausing to note the temperature, the feel of it in your mouth (swish it around and pay attention). Feel it descend as you swallow. (This has the added benefit of keeping you hydrated, another important part of lowering anxiety.)
  3. Go barefoot. Outdoors or inside, remove socks and shoes and walk around slowly, noticing the feel of the ground or floor.
  4. Buy yourself flowers. Not only are fresh flowers uplifting, but they are also great for mindfulness. Study their color, breathe in their aroma, and feel the petals. 
  5. Play in the sand. Kinetic sand, available in craft stores and online, can be relaxing and stress-relieving, especially when you pay attention to how it feels as you squeeze, shape, and smash it.
  6. Wearable mindfulness. Use what you have on your body, whether it's jewelry, a soft shirt, or even a rubber band around your wrist, to focus your attention and give yourself a break from negative thoughts.
  7. Wrap it up. Wrapping stuff is a fantastic mindful opportunity. Use butcher paper, old newspapers, or paper grocery bags to wrap items. Listen to the sounds of the tape, scissors, and paper. Feel the textures. Then unwrap neatly or with wild abandon.
  8. Color and decorate. Get artistic (even if you can't draw a stick figure, you can scribble--this is about process rather than product). Decorate your wrapped objects, use a coloring book, or keep a notebook handy. Watch the motion of your hand, take in the colors, and listen to the sounds.
  9. Paint. Paint rocks, complete paint-by-number activities, freestyle it, and, especially, finger paint. Feel it, see it, and pay attention to it.
  10. Stretch. When you notice anxious tension and knots in your body, stretch them out. Do it slowly and fully feel the sensations.
  11. Breathe. Pause regularly to close your eyes and take deep breaths. Place your hands on your belly to feel the air fill you and then empty. Count to about six as you inhale and eight as you exhale. Focus on the feel of your breath and the counting.
  12. Blow bubbles. This helps you breathe and offers great mindful opportunities. Watch the bubbles, catch them, feel them, and even dance purposefully through them.
  13. Listen to music. Music is a powerful anxiety-reducer, especially when you make a point of paying attention to it and all of the nuances it offers.
  14. Be active with music. Sing. Play an instrument. Dance. Adding these dimensions activates your attention deeply.
  15. Cook. Preparing food lets you engage all of your senses. It's hard for anxiety to invade your thoughts when you're fully engrossed in cooking. (Of course, that's the point of all mindfulness activities to help anxiety.)
  16. Eat. Eat the delicious meal you've made, an orange, or a bowl of cereal. Whatever you eat, do it with purpose. Pay attention to the taste, temperature, texture, sound, and feel of your food. Just be in the moment without phones, televisions, or other distractions.
  17. Do the dishes. Vacuum, make the bed, clean the bathroom, or do other such chores. As in the others, pay attention to your senses and to the act of what you're doing. When your mind wanders to worries, bring it back to your task.
  18. Stop and smell stuff. Aromatherapy is powerful, as molecules in scents travel directly to the brain and can evoke memories, cause anxiety, and relieve anxiety. Use essential oils or just smell pleasant things like citrus fruits or clean laundry. Use your sense of sight and touch to deepen the experience. 
  19. Give yourself a foot massage. This is relaxing when you immerse yourself completely in the experience.
  20. Challenge your mind. Learn something new. Head to the library and check out books on a topic that interests you, or do engaging puzzles. Pay attention to what you're doing to shrink anxiety.

Perhaps you've noticed that these mindfulness exercises are the ordinary stuff of life. That's because mindfulness is life, and living mindfully helps anxiety extraordinarily. 

APA Reference
Peterson, T. (2020, January 2). 20 Mindfulness Exercises to Help Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 18 from

Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC, DAIS

Tanya J. Peterson is the author of numerous anxiety self-help books, including The Morning Magic 5-Minute Journal, The Mindful Path Through Anxiety, 101 Ways to Help Stop Anxiety, The 5-Minute Anxiety Relief Journal, The Mindfulness Journal for Anxiety, The Mindfulness Workbook for Anxiety, and Break Free: Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in 3 steps. She has also written five critically acclaimed, award-winning novels about life with mental health challenges. She delivers workshops for all ages and provides online and in-person mental health education for youth. She has shared information about creating a quality life on podcasts, summits, print and online interviews and articles, and at speaking events. Tanya is a Diplomate of the American Institution of Stress helping to educate others about stress and provide useful tools for handling it well in order to live a healthy and vibrant life. Find her on her website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Lizanne Corbit
January, 6 2020 at 7:58 pm

From bubbles to flowers to playing in the sand, I love this entire list! So many amazing suggestions and so wonderfully easy to implement into daily life. Not to mention, such fun! It's so important to see that things like mindfulness and tools to work with anxiety don't have to be big and daunting or complicated. Thank you for sharing.

Leave a reply