Mindfulness activities to try in under 30 minutes

You don’t have to be a fitness junkie or mental well-being advocate to practise mindfulness.

Fong Wai Kei

Enjoys writing in comic sans unironically.

Published: 19 May 2023, 1:57 PM

Everyday, my dad would pour himself a cup of water first thing in the morning. Sometimes, I would catch him in action, standing by the water pitcher with his cup in his hand, gazing into the distance to collect his thoughts for the day. (That is, until he catches me looking. Then, he’d greet me back with a smile.)

Unbeknownst to me, this was an act of mindfulness that he consciously weaved into his daily morning routine. Seeing how simple and effortless it appeared, I decided to try it for myself. Now, it’s become my habit too, helping me start my day on the right note. 

And best of all? This action is free, quick and very much accessible. 

With the hustle and bustle of life, some of us may start to neglect our mental well-being. However, you don’t need a lot of time to practise mindfulness.

In fact, whether you have half an hour on your hands or only one minute to spare, here are some mindfulness exercises for you to try throughout your day:

1 minute

Drinking a cup of water to start your day: Instead of scrolling through your social media feed, grab a cup of water to start your day hydrated. 

If you feel that a cup of water is boring, you could even consider adding chia seeds or lemon juice to your water.


Drinking a cup of water can help you start the day hydrated and set your mood for the day. PHOTO CREDIT: COTTONBRO STUDIO VIA PEXELS


‘Resetting’ your body: Take three deep breaths. Unclench your jaw. Shake out the tension in your shoulders and roll them back. 

Dedicate time to focus on your breathing and readjust your posture to re-centre your mind. 

5 minutes

Morning braindump: Having concerns from the day before or feeling worried about the day ahead? Release your frustrations onto a piece of paper. 

You can write on scrap paper or collect your daily scribbles in a journal. Feel free to play around with the format to find what’s comfortable for you – be it in long prose, a bulleted list or a mind-map. 

For those who want to expand beyond morning braindumps, bullet journalling may be up your alley.  

By seeing your frustrations visibly on paper, you may also be able to process these thoughts better and even feel more motivated to tackle them head-on.

Spacing out (intentionally): When things get overwhelming, set a short timer to let your mind wander. 

One exercise you could try is the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding technique, where you focus on:

  • Five things you can see
  • Four things you can feel
  • Three things you can hear
  • Two things you can smell
  • One thing to taste

By isolating your senses, this simple ground technique reminds you of what’s happening in the present. This technique is often used to help those get through panic attacks but is also useful for daily life. 

For the last two senses which may seem out of reach, consider applying some hand lotion or essential oils if there is nothing significant nor nice to smell within your surroundings. Sucking on a sweet could also be an option for the last sense.


Take five minutes in the morning to release your thoughts or five minutes to try the 5-4-3-2-1 grounding exercise. PHOTO CREDIT: MIKHAIL NILOV VIA PEXELS, MAGDA EHLERS VIA PEXELS

10 minutes

Full body stretch: Prolonged sitting from studying or working can create a sedentary lifestyle that stiffens our muscles overtime. A full body stretch can help alleviate muscle tension. Start from your neck and work your way down to your shoulders, arms, back, hips and legs. 

If you don’t know where to start, consider trying some office stretching exercises or simple stretches that you can do at home. You could also consult trusted healthcare views on Health Hub or guided tutorials on SingHealth’s YouTube channels. 

Taking a walk: If you enjoy changes in your scenery, consider taking a simple walk around your neighbourhood. This has been scientifically proven to lower your stress levels and improve your mood.

Taking a walk amidst greenery and nature has also been shown to quieten your mind and if you’re truly looking to unplug, leave your phone at home.

Those seeking solidarity can look no further than the viral TikTok video user @ninalaevski with the caption “Going on a stupid walk for my stupid mental health”. The video encapsulates how the step towards better mental well-being can be hard but is necessary nonetheless. (And if adding humour motivates you to get out of the house, then why not?)


This video went viral with 8.4 million views in January last year. PHOTO CREDIT: @NINALAEVSKI VIA TIKTOK

30 minutes

Listening to podcasts on your commute: Peruse a variety of podcast episodes on your streaming platforms, like Spotify or Apple music. This can include content on self-help and social trends. Some options for you to try are How to Be a Better Human by TED and PRX and The Happiness Lab with Dr Laurie Santos by Pushkin Industries. 

For those struggling to get into this, try starting with shorter 10-minute episodes. Radio Headspace by Headspace Studios might be a good start. 

Now, you have an alternative to looking down and scrolling through your social media feed. In fact, you could even create your own “main character moment” by getting lost in the changing view outside the window.


Have a “main character moment” as you commute and enjoy the scenic views. PHOTO CREDIT: SINITTA LEUNEN VIA PEXELS


Colouring: If you’re looking for something more intricate, consider picking up an adult colouring book, with themes like the oceans or cities. Alternatively, there are free colouring sheets online to print and Mandalas that have been proven as an effective outlet to relieve stress and express creativity.


This is one of the colouring pages I’m doing from Johanna Basford’s ‘Lost Ocean’ book. PHOTO CREDIT: FONG WAI KEI


Paint-by-numbers: For those who want to reap the benefits of colouring but may not be as creatively-inclined, paint-by-numbers are another option. One kit often includes the canvas, multiple small paint tubs and a paintbrush.

Choose from a variety of sizes and repurpose them into artworks to be hung on your wall or display shelves. Common options include nature or city landscapes and animals. 

Nanoblocks: Building nanoblocks can give you a momentary escape from reality. By setting this 30 minutes away to focus on building your piece, it can help to clear your mind for a while before you return to your task at hand.


These are some examples of nanoblocks that you can find, including my current (and growing) collection (above). PHOTO CREDIT: YOUTHOPIA/FONG WAI KEI, SHOPEE


So, no matter where you’re at and what you’re doing, hopefully some of these tips will help you in maintaining a healthy mind.

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