If you’ve ever noticed the present moment, like the sun’s warmth, you’ve experienced a moment of mindfulness. This practice can improve your well-being.
Mindfulness is simply non-judgemental attention to the here and now.
When you invoke a state of mindfulness, you let the cacophony of your thoughts drift past you like clouds. This can help you turn your attention to this very moment, rather than to what happened yesterday or what might transpire tomorrow.
You don’t have to be highly skilled in mindfulness to experience its benefits. Instead, you can learn as you go while exploring the many ways to add mindful moments to each day.
1. Improves mood
A 2019 study examined the impact of meditation on mood. Participants were new to meditation and practiced short, 13-minute sessions each day for 8 weeks.
Not only did they experience fewer negative moods and anxiety, but also improved attention and memory.
2. Reduces stress
Mindfulness is well-known for its ability to ease a person’s perception of stress.
- sleep quality
The benefits were seen mostly at the end of the intervention, rather than long term.
3. Lowers blood pressure
The results compared transcendental and non-transcendental meditation and found that the latter may be a way to lower your blood pressure.
Transcendental meditation is the kind where you silently repeat a mantra in your head.
4. Improves sleep
Mindful awareness practices (MAPs) were compared to sleep hygiene education (SHE).
MAPs resulted in significant improvements in:
- insomnia symptoms
- fatigue severity
- fatigue interference
- depression symptoms
MAPs sessions included exercises in:
- seated meditation
- appreciation meditation
- mindful eating
- friendly or loving-kindness meditation
- mindful movement
- mindful walking
Sleep hygiene is a recognized strategy for reducing insomnia. In this study, mindfulness brought better results.
5. Brain changes
Mindfulness benefits aren’t just subjective, according to older
Researchers used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to find gray matter changes in brain areas relating to:
- emotion regulation
- perspective taking
- self-referential processing
A 2016 study also identified anatomical effects of mindfulness. Researchers using fMRI technology found that meditation resulted in brain connectivity changes relating to reduced depression and anxiety.
Below are a few ways to add mindfulness to your day:
There’s more than one way to meditate, but a common approach is to sit with your eyes closed and focus on your breathing. Teacher-guided sessions are helpful if you’re a novice.
Once you’ve learned how it works, you can also meditate on your own without a guiding voice.
It can be tough to “turn off” your thoughts during mindfulness. Instead, you can manage them with a technique called noting.
Noting involves acknowledging and labeling the thoughts that interrupt your mindful moments. This makes it easier to let the thoughts go.
Simple labels are more effective. For example, if a thought occurs about your job, use the word “work” to label the thought as you turn your attention away from it.
In addition to burning off energy and regulating stress, walking can be an opportunity to practice mindfulness.
Using the noting technique to gently redirect intrusive thoughts, turn your attention to your movements and surroundings as you walk.
You can also try walking meditation, which involves walking slowly and paying attention specifically to your body’s movements.
If you find yourself lost in thought during a routine household task, you can try a mindful approach instead.
Rather than planning your grocery list as you fold laundry, notice the textures of the fabric in your hands. Feel the floor beneath your feet and inhale the scent of the fabric softener as you listen to the washer fill for the next load.
Eating is a sensory experience, so it’s compatible with mindfulness.
Mindful eating involves two principles:
- slow down
- use all of your senses
The approach is the same whether you eat a large meal or a small treat like chocolate.
Notice the appearance of your food and its tactile elements like weight and texture. Savour its aroma and flavor.
Don’t forget to notice the sounds, like a crinkling wrapper, the clank of utensils against a plate, or the way that stirring hot chocolate sounds different than tea or coffee.
A body scan is a technique that can help redirect your attention from your thoughts. It can also promote relaxation.
With your eyes closed, start at either your head or your feet and slowly scan your body with your mind. Notice each area, paying attention to how it feels.
Breathe deeply and slowly through any areas of discomfort, and visualize the aches and pains leaving your body.
A body scan is a great way to catch hidden areas of tension. You might notice your fists are clenched or your face is tight. As you discover these tense spots, allow each one to relax.
Breathing is usually an automatic task. It’s also a great way to calm and ground yourself and invoke mindfulness.
There are a few different ways you can use breathing for mindfulness:
- count the number of breaths you can take before your mind wanders
- listen to the sound of your breathing
- try a structured breathing activity, like box breathing or 4-7-8
- take a few calming breaths before entering a stressful situation like a work meeting
Breathing can be part of a structured, dedicated mindfulness session like meditation, or it can be a quick calming tool you can use at any point in your day.
Mindfulness is an awareness of the present moment. Meditation is a way to practice mindfulness.
Research supports a range of benefits from mindfulness, for both physical and mental health.
There are many ways to incorporate mindfulness in your day, ranging from structured mindfulness activities to brief moments when you focus on things like your breathing, surroundings, and senses.