If you’ve heard of or read about mindfulness – a form of meditation – you might be curious about how to practice it.
Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling at every moment – without interpretation or judgment. Spending too much time planning, problem-solving, daydreaming, or thinking negative or random thoughts can be draining. It can also make you more likely to experience stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. Practicing mindfulness exercises, on the other hand, can help you direct your attention away from this kind of thinking and engage with the world around you.
Practicing mindfulness exercises can have many possible benefits, including:
- Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
- Less negative thinking and distraction
- Improved mood
There are many ways to practice mindfulness. For example:
- Pay attention. The next time you meet someone, listen closely to his or her words.
- Make the familiar new again. Find a few small, familiar objects – such as a toothbrush, apple or cellphone – in your home or office. Look at the objects with fresh eyes.
- Focus on your breathing. Sit in a quiet place with your back straight, but relaxed. Feel your breath move in and out of your body. Let your awareness of everything else fall away.
- Awaken your senses. Paying close attention to your senses and your body’s reaction to food might reveal insight into your relationship with eating and food.
When and how often should I practice mindfulness exercises?
Aim to practice for 15 to 20 minutes, four to eight times a day. For mindfulness exercises such as focused breathing, you’ll need to set aside time when you can be in a quiet place without distractions or interruptions. You might choose to practice this type of exercise early in the morning, before you begin your daily routine.
Aim to practice mindfulness every day for about six months. Over time, you might find that mindfulness becomes effortless. Think of it as a commitment to reconnecting with and nurturing yourself.
Reprinted with permission from Mayo Clinic Staff.