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Lisa Armstrong is the mother of two grown daughters, a yoga practitioner, an educator and a long-time freelance writer who focuses on health, wellness, and historical topics that affect humanity's personal and collective well-being.

Mindfulness meditation made easy

Eat, play, walk — you can be active and practice mindfulness at the same time. Check out these easy steps to becoming more aware and peaceful in your everyday life.

Woman meditating

Think calm, focused, serene, happy... what?

How can you think about that serenity nonsense when you're in a traffic jam with kids screaming in the back seat, thawing groceries and deadlines all looming — tomorrow?

What is mindfulness ? Experts at Mayo Clinic define mindfulness as "the act of being intensely aware of what you're sensing and feeling at every moment, without interpretation or judgment." Today, physicians even prescribe the practice of mindfulness as a way to deal with anxiety, stress, and even pain. Dr. Amy Saltzman, an internal medicine specialist, defines mindfulness as "paying attention, here and now, with kindness and curiosity."

We don’t often put our attention anywhere specific, so it gets pulled into our persistent mental jabber, like a kid who can’t stop asking for candy. But you can actually learn to put your attention somewhere else on purpose through a process called mindfulness.

The focus of many spiritual disciplines is that our ability to be content is affected by our capacity to stay in the present moment. However, most of us have a habit of being mentally absent from what's going on in the present moment. In other words, we aren't "mindful."

"Mindfulness” is a body-mind practice that originated in Zen Buddhism and was first popularized several decades ago by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a researcher at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

How can mindfulness benefit you?

Scientific research has proven that there are many important benefits of mindfulness (and mindfulness meditation) training. It can help:

  • Reduce anxiety and depression.
  • Lessen negative thinking and feeling distracted.
  • Improve your mood.
  • Improve your physical health.

Steps to mindfulness

Mindfulness is much easier than most people realize. Here are some easy steps to becoming more relaxed, happier and more loving through mindfulness-based focus and meditation:

StopIsolated stop sign

Become aware of the present moment.

Recognize and realize

Become aware of your thoughts and your feelings but realize that they do not control you.

Pay attention

For example, as you wash your hands (or your dishes), be aware of the feeling of the water, the scent of the suds, and so on. Concentrate on the sensations of the experience as you breathe slowly.

Focus on your breath

Sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. Pay attention to the feeling of air as your breath passes in and out of your nostrils. Notice the length, quality and sensations of the breath. Notice the rising and falling of your abdomen with each breath.

Walk

isolated raw chocolate

When walking, walk slowly and leisurely, and focus on the sensations in your legs and any part of the present moment.

Eat

Take a small food item, such as a raisin or a piece of chocolate. Spend time looking at, touching, smelling, anticipating and finally tasting the food, chewing very slowly. Paying close attention to your senses when it comes to food may change the way you perceive it.

Play a game

Author Alfred James suggests "the game of five," in which you carefully notice five things in your daily life, such as the flowers in your yard, the wind on your face, sensations of the clothing you wear or other everyday connections. Change these items every day.

Anyone can use these simple mindfulness techniques throughout the day to stay calm, focused, and even kind and cheerful. You have the power to consciously guide your thoughts — to focus in and out on specific things in our surroundings and inside our minds.

With these steps as a start, you can start to feel happier, more content and more loving toward others (and yourself) in a short time. Just keep practicing, and take it a breath at a time!

More on mediation

Inhale meditation, exhale stress
Say “Om” and meditate for heart health
Yoga for a healthier heart

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