Practice Mindfulness: A Mental Health Series

Mindfulness in Daily Life

Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice that teaches you to slow down racing thoughts, let go of negativity, and calm both your mind and body. It combines meditation with the practice of mindfulness, which can be defined as a mental state that involves being fully focused on “the now” so you can acknowledge and accept your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment.

Techniques can vary, but in general, mindfulness meditation involves deep breathing and awareness of body and mind. Practicing mindfulness meditation doesn’t require props or preparation (no need for candles, essential oils, or mantras, unless you enjoy them). To get started, all you need is a comfortable place to sit, three to five minutes of free time, and a judgment-free mindset.

How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation?
Learning mindfulness meditation is straightforward enough to practice on your own, but a teacher or program can also help you get started, particularly if you’re practicing meditation for specific health reasons. Here are some simple steps to help you get started on your own.

Get Comfortable
Find a quiet and comfortable place. Sit in a chair or on the floor with your head, neck, and back straight but not stiff. It’s also helpful to wear comfortable, loose clothing so you’re not distracted. But being that this practice can be done anywhere for any amount of time, a dress code is not required.

Consider a Timer
While it’s not necessary, a timer (preferably with a soft, gentle alarm) can help you focus on meditation and forget about time and eliminate any excuses you have for stopping and doing something else. Since many people lose track of time while meditating, it can also ensure you’re not meditating for too long. Be sure to also allow yourself time after meditation to become aware of where you are and get up gradually. While some people meditate for longer sessions, even a few minutes every day can make a difference. Begin with a short, 5-minute meditation session and increase your sessions by 10 or 15 minutes until you are comfortable meditating for 30 minutes at a time.

Focus on Breathing
Become aware of your breath, attuning to the sensation of air moving in and out of your body as you breathe. Feel your belly rise and fall as the air enters your nostrils and leaves your nostrils. Pay attention to the temperature change when the breath is inhaled versus when it’s exhaled.

Notice Your Thoughts
The goal is not to stop your thoughts but to get more comfortable becoming the “witness” to the thoughts. When thoughts come up in your mind, don’t ignore or suppress them. Simply note them, remain calm, and use your breathing as an anchor. Imagine your thoughts as clouds passing by; watch them float by as they shift and change. Repeat this as often as you need to while you are meditating.

Give Yourself a Break
If you find yourself getting carried away in your thoughts whether with worry, fear, anxiety, or hope observe where your mind went, without judgment, and just return to your breathing. Don’t be hard on yourself if this happens; the practice of returning to your breath and refocusing on the present is the practice of mindfulness.

Download an App
If you’re having trouble practicing mindfulness meditation on your own, consider downloading an app (like Calm or Headspace) that provides free meditations and teaches you a variety of tools to help you get centered throughout your day.

Impact of Mindfulness Meditation
Regular practice of mindfulness meditation has benefits for your physical as well as your mental health. Some of these include:
Reducing stress: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR), a standardized therapeutic approach to mindfulness meditation, has been shown to reduce symptoms of stress in healthy individuals. (Chiesa 2009)

The practice has also been found to be beneficial for a number of mental and physical disorders including anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.
Lower heart rate: Heart disease is one of the top causes of death in the United States and research suggests that mindfulness may be beneficial for your heart. In one study, participants either enrolled in an online mindfulness meditation program or were added to a waitlist for traditional treatment for heart disease. Those who participated in mindfulness meditation had significantly lower heart rates and performed better on a test of cardiovascular capacity.
Improved immunity: Research also suggests that mindfulness practices may improve your body’s resistance to illness. One study compared the impact of both mindfulness and exercise on immune functional. (Barrett 2012)

They found that people who had taken part in an eight-week mindfulness course had greater gains in immune function than those in the exercise group.
Better sleep: Studies have also shown that practicing mindfulness meditation might improve sleep and even be useful for treating certain sleep disturbances. One 2019 study found that mindfulness meditation significantly improved sleep quality. (Rusch et al 2019)

Making mindfulness meditation a regular practice can lead to stronger effects, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to do it every day. Studies have found that meditating three to four times per week can have big benefits and regularly meditating for eight weeks will actually alter the brain, according to neuroimaging studies. (Zeng et al 2017)

Tips to Practice Mindfulness in Daily Life
As you practice mindfulness meditation, it helps to find ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday life, especially on those days when life is too busy to carve out a minute alone. Mindfulness meditation is one technique, but everyday activities and tasks provide plenty of opportunities for mindfulness practice.

Brushing your teeth: Feel your feet on the floor, the brush in your hand, and your arm moving up and down.
Doing dishes: Savour the feeling of the warm water on your hands, the look of the bubbles, and the sounds of the pans clunking on the bottom of the sink.
Doing laundry: Pay attention to the smell of the clean clothes and the feel of the fabric. Add a focus element and count your breaths as you fold laundry.
Driving: Turn off the radio or put on something soothing, like classical music. Imagine your spine growing tall, find the half-way point between relaxing your hands and gripping the wheel too tightly. Whenever you notice your mind wandering, bring your attention back to where you and your car are in space.
Exercising: Instead of watching television while on the treadmill, try focusing on your breathing and where your feet are as you move.
Getting kids ready for bed: Get down to the same level as your kids, look in their eyes, listen more than you talk, and savour any snuggles. When you relax, they will too.

1.Chiesa A, Serretti A. Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(5):593-600. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0495
2.Monahan M. Don’t Hate, Meditate! Ten Speed Press.
3.Barrett B, Hayney MS, Muller D, et al. Meditation or exercise for preventing acute respiratory infection: A randomized controlled trial. Ann Fam Med. 2012;10(4):337-46. doi: 10.1370/afm.1376
4.Rusch HL, Rosario M, Levison LM, et al. The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2019;1445(1):5-16. doi: 10.1111/nyas.13996
5.Zeng X, Chio FH, Oei TP, Leung FY, Liu X. A systematic review of associations between amount of meditation practice and outcomes in interventions using the four immeasurables meditations. Front Psychol. 2017;8:141. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.00141