Mindfulness is intentionally paying attention, and being present in the moment with compassion, with acceptance, and without judgment. It is a practice to engage in for mind-body health, and an important part of the recovery process.
Substance use alters the natural rhythms of the body and mindfulness can help bring you back in tune with those changes. It can help ease you off of autopilot and into a stress-free life of awareness.
Practicing mindfulness can be easy and fun. Next time you’re hanging out with a group of friends, try playing some of these mindfulness games and exercises; you might be surprised to find how relaxed you feel afterward!
11 Mindfulness Games
- Letting Go Game. Ask everyone to write down a list of worries, stressors, etc. Then fold up the pieces of paper, tie them to balloons, and have each person let go of their balloon (and their worries!) at the same time.
- Mindfulness Magazine Collage. Ask everyone in the group to bring old magazines that they don’t mind cutting up. Pass around the magazines and cut out words and images that resonate with you for whatever reason: words that describe you, words that describe mindfulness, images of peace and love, etc. Paste these onto a piece of paper (or a box or a rock or another object that you wish to decorate) and share your collage with the others.
- M&M Mindfulness Game. Pass around a bag of M&Ms (or Skittles or another type of candy/food that comes in colorful varieties) and grab a small handful. For each M&M you select, you have to tell the group something about yourself. For each red M&M, tell the group about a skill at which you excel. For each orange M&M, list three words that others would use to describe you. For each yellow M&M, tell the group a story about one of the best moments of your life and how it shaped you into the person you are now. For each green M&M, talk about and/or share a song with the group that has meaning for you and explain why. For each blue M&M, tell the group about the last time you volunteered your time to help someone and how it enhanced your current sense of self. For each brown M&M, tell the group a story from your childhood and how it helped to shape your present adulthood state.
- Coloring Book Group. Adult coloring books are becoming an increasingly popular activity. Host a gathering and either pick up some adult coloring books or print out pages from the Internet! There are even entire coloring books dedicated to mandalas, the symbol for a balanced universe and self.
- Affirmation Cards. Decorate a pack of flashcards with positive self-affirmations. Have everyone in the group decorate positive affirmation cards for one other as well. Store these cards in a Rolodex or on a keychain and flip through them when you’re feeling stressed or inadequate.
- Take a Walk. Take a group walk, but enjoy each other’s company without speaking to one another. Instead, try to be present in the action. Focus on rhythmic breathing. Lift the foot on the inhale and lower it on the exhale. Think about how the ground feels beneath your feet. Think about your lungs, filling and releasing oxygen-rich air to fuel your body. Scan your body for tightness and/or soreness. Feel the muscles in your feet and legs contracting and relaxing with each movement.
- Musical Mindfulness. Have one individual play a standard chord progression or song and have everyone else take turns soloing over it. This works especially well if everyone in the ground has an instrument, like in a drum circle or in a guitar class. Try not to speak; just feel the flow and play whenever you feel the timing is right.
- Yoga. Group yoga is great for physiological and psychological health. Attend a formal class or just watch an instructional YouTube video. Focus on your breath and how the exercises make you feel. It doesn’t matter if you can’t touch your toes or if you can’t balance on one foot…the important part is being present and feeling your body changing for the better.
- Observe Nature. Explore a nature trail and stay in tune with your five senses. What do you see? What can you smell? What can you hear? What do you feel? If you consume anything, what do you taste? Keep notes in a diary if you wish.
- Mindfulness Raisin Exercise. This mindfulness activity can be applied to any type of food or other activity. Here we use a raisin because of its small size and interesting texture. Practice staying mindful and keeping your thoughts focused on the raisin. Look at the fruit as if you are responsible for memorizing its details. Notice how much detail it actually has. Notice the grooves and varying textures. Feel the texture of the raisin and run your fingertips over its curves and edges. Rub the raisin lightly across your skin. How does it feel? Place the raisin on your tongue and feel the weight of it. Chew the raisin slowly, contemplating every jaw and tongue movement. Experience the sweet flavors and smells that emerge. Mindfully consider eating the raisin for about a minute before swallowing it.
- Stargaze. Get a group together to watch a meteor shower, or just to enjoy the beauty of the night. Lie on your backs facing away from each other to avoid distraction. Listen to the sounds of breathing mixing in with the sounds of the evening. Contemplate the massiveness of the universe and the beauty of existing in the moment.
Spiegler, M. D., & Guevremont, D. C. (2010). Contemporary behavior therapy (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.