October 12th, 2015

Take a moment to focus your attention. Not just on the words that you are reading, but the sound and feeling of your breath. The weight of your body against the chair you are sitting in, the temperature and sounds in the room around you, the texture of your phone in your hands.

You just practiced mindfulness!

Studies on this practice have shown that practicing mindfulness and mindfulness meditation on a regular basis can improve both mental and physical health.

Some of the physical benefits include decreased stress, lower blood pressure, reduced chronic pain, and improved sleep.

Psychotherapists will often use this therapy as a way to help their patients manage depression, anxiety, OCD, and other mental problems.

The idea behind mindfulness is that it helps you to shift thoughts away from preoccupying and racing thoughts which contribute to negative affect. By shifting your thoughts to the present moment people often experience an appreciation of the moment they are in and begin to notice some of the benefits listed above.

I will outline a couple of ways that you can practice mindfulness in your everyday life.

Keep in mind that during these exercises the idea is not to block out thoughts and sensations, but just to experience them without judging them as being good or bad, and letting them fade away.

The ideal way to practice mindfulness is to set aside 20-45 minutes of time to meditate.

Try sitting in a supportive chair, or cross legged on the floor, then begin to focus on your breath. Notice the sensation of air flowing in and out of your nose and feel your stomach rise and fall as you breathe.

As it feels natural, start to expand your focus to other sensations in the world around you. Focus on sights, smells, textures, and finally your thoughts.

Try not to get caught up focusing on any particular idea, emotion, or sensation for any long period of time. If you find yourself judging your thoughts as good or bad, or you slip into thinking about the past or future (planning, etc.) shift your focus back to breathing and try over again.

If you find it difficult to set aside time in this way then you can also practice mindfulness throughout your daily activities.

Try to focus on all of your senses when you go about your day. Be sure to appreciate the moments in your life by noticing sights and colors around you, notice the texture of everything around you including the clothes on your body. Listen to subtle sounds around you and notice scents as well.

Lastly, try to focus on any particular task at hand. If you feel your thoughts drifting away from what you are doing gently guide your attention back to what is going on around you.

Mindfulness can be a powerful tool for helping improve your health with little more than the power of your own mind.

If you are having trouble quieting your mind there are lots of great guided meditation videos available on YouTube.

Give it a try!