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Mindfulness in Action

winterwomancrpdIf your mind constantly nags, criticizes and hammers you with its incessant demands, it’s likely that you experience a lot of anxiety.

You’ve probably done a lot to help yourself already, including reading about mindfulness and meditating. When you try it as suggested, though, you squirm, get distracted and can’t sit still. It’s worse when mindfulness meditation just seems to make you feel even more anxious — you wonder whether you’re going backward.

If you have an overly busy mind and experience a lot of self-destructive thoughts, it can be dangerous to be left alone in your own mind with no escape. Meditation, though it works well for many people, could be counterproductive for you.

However, there is a way to experience all the benefits of mindfulness without having to sit cross-legged, saying “Om.” Practicing mindfulness in action is a slightly different path but can still lead to:

  • A calm, silent, peaceful mind
  • Freedom from emotional turmoil
  • Greater clarity and self-awareness
  • Enhanced creativity
  • More focused activity
  • A deeper connectedness with your higher self and others
  • Sharpened intuition
  • Accelerated personal growth

Mindfulness in action is simpler, gentler and more effective when you’re habitually anxious. It works with the flow of where you are right now, even if you’re in a highly agitated mood. Anxiety demands movement, not sitting still and being stuck with all that pent-up emotion.

This method works by using physical exercise. Anything that raises your heart rate, deepens your breathing and works up at least a little sweat will do. You can start at any level of fitness and just go at a pace that suits you.

Mindfulness in action contains four stages:

  1. The “Grump” stage (five to 10 minutes). This is a starting point where you allow yourself to express all the grumpy, negative thoughts you have, without trying to block, suppress, manage or judge them. Just let yourself be as you are.
  2. The “How?” stage (10 to 20 minutes). This is where you ask yourself “how am I feeling right now?” and listen to the response without judging. Going through this stage allows you to process your feelings, no matter how intense. Don’t be afraid if deep sadness or grief comes up for you. They are very common emotions that underlie anxiety, but they may surprise you. Just keep going, no matter how long it takes. Be kind to your mind. Done correctly, emotion will simply arise and pass away until your mind is relatively clear and calm.
  3. The “Now” stage (five to 10 minutes).

    This is where you invite your attention back into the present moment and just notice your current environment. You may hear the birds singing, sounds of distant traffic, the breeze in the trees and the sound of your breathing as you feel the steady, regular movements of your limbs moving forward. If the “How?” stage is not complete, don’t try to get to the “Now” stage prematurely. It’s OK if it takes you several days of practice to get here.
  4. The “What?” stage (20 to 30 minutes). This is the creative stage. Your mind is now calm and clear enough to come up with new and innovative ideas for whatever you happen to be working on. In this stage, the most important question you ask yourself is “What?” As in “What do I want… to create? to do next? to have happen?” etc… It’s like having someone else asking you that question and then there’s a pause where you tell yourself, “Hang on a moment, let me think about that…” And you daydream the possibilities: “What about this, what about that?”

It’s common at the end of this practice to get a sudden flash of clarity where the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle fall together and you tell yourself: “Aha! Now I get it!” The new idea is always surprising and pleasing.

Do this practice between 40 to 80 minutes at the same time every day for at least seven days in a row. If you’re a morning person, do it right when you wake up. If you’re a night owl, do it later on in the day, whenever you have the most energy.

When you become really good at this process, you can then easily do a rapid short-hand version during the day whenever you need answers from a higher source. But that’s an advanced skill. Regular, consistent practice over time is required in order to get to that level.

In “The Silence Of Mindfulness: A Simple Guide To Inner Peace And Emotional Well-being,” I go into more detail in an easy, step-by-step way. You can get a free copy by subscribing to my list here. Everyone on my list will also receive an invitation to attend a free webinar where I walk you through this method live to troubleshoot any difficulties you might have with it along the way.

Winter exercise photo available from Shutterstock

Mindfulness in Action

Sophie Henshaw, DPsych

Dr. Sophie Henshaw is a clinical psychologist in private practice with over 20 years' experience. She loves helping mid-career women who long to get away from hostile workplaces and bad bosses. She believes with a little imagination, escape into a free-spirited life is possible. Dr. Sophie is the author of two books: "Stressed, Depressed And Dreading Mondays" and "What Every Target Of Workplace Bullying Needs To Know." She's appeared on Channel 10, 6PR, HuffPost Live, PsychCentral, Women's Agenda, NineMSN Health, Rebelle Society and Witch. She's a regular Huffington Post contributor (under her pen name). For more, visit:

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APA Reference
Henshaw, S. (2018). Mindfulness in Action. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 30 Apr 2015)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.