Mindfulness :: Practice Now

It takes practice to learn to be fully "present" especially in a stressed-out culture of unhealthy self-soothing options, distractions, hyper-productivity and social media. However, you can learn to become more mindful in the many aspects of your life, and in doing so, make long-lasting changes and even rewire your brain. Many therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists recommend Mindfulness and MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) to help cope with anxiety and depression and other concerns such as addictions and habit control. What is the goal with mindfulness meditation? To learn to give your attention fully to whatever you may be doing—eating, loving, working, parenting, exercising, doing chores, wherever your day may take you. The application of mindfulness is limitless, and can generalize to good health, better relationships, life-satisfaction and enhanced well-being. 

What follows are some tips to getting started with a mindfulness practice.Heres how to begin:

  1. Find a comfortable seat. Keep your back straight, soften and drop your shoulders. You can close your eyes, or keep them open. Take a deep breath.

  2. Notice your breathing, without changing it. Focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your nostrils, notice your lungs expanding and contracting with each breath.

  3. It is normal to have thoughts that distract you from your focus on the breath. The mind naturally wanders. Acknowledge these thoughts and then return your focus to your breathing.

  4. Don't judge yourself, simply notice any distractions, sounds in the environment, and especially, that the mind wants to wander. A new thought comes into your mind, greet it, then return to your breathing.

Dedicate 5-20 minutes per day to this practice of mindfulness. As it becomes easier, you can practice being fully present with your daily activities—breathing, observing, noticing whatever may be present for you in these moments with acceptance and equanimity.  If you enjoy technology, or you are someone who needs supported guidance, many of my clients prefer to use one of the many apps found on iTunes or Google Play. One of my personal favorites is an app called Headspace, developed by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, it is a simple and elegant way to learn this practice. Watch Andy Puddicombe teaching "doing nothing" on TedSalon.

Interested in learning more about the benefits of Mindfulness? Empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include:

  • Reduced anxiety and rumination

  • Decreased negative affect and depression

  • Decreased somatic distress or body complaints

  • Reduction of psychological distress

  • A boost to working memory

  • Increases in attention span

  • Less emotional reactivity

  • An increase in cognitive flexibility

  • More relationship satisfaction

  • Better self-awareness

  • Improved immune functioning

  • An increase in information processing speed

  • Improved social relationships

  • Am increase in happiness and well-being

  • Greater capacity for empathy and self-compassion