Mindfulness Basics & Benefits

Mindfulness Basics & Benefits

Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

NOTE: This post is the start of a series on mindfulness. You can read Part 2 and Part 3 here.

How would you describe your commute to work this morning?
Or the last meal you ate?
Or your most recent conversation with your partner?

How vividly can you recall the details? How specific can you be?

At a bit of a loss? Don’t be too hard on yourself.

If you’re like most people, you may be moving through your day mindlessly, more often than you realize.

Do you ever notice yourself…

  • getting distracted easily?
  • “spacing out” unintentionally?
  • overthinking or ruminating about the same things?
  • feeling trapped in personal drama (yours or other peoples’)?
  • experiencing anxiety and frequent worry?
  • overwhelmed by desire for material things?
  • fixated on your personal image?
  • fatigued throughout the day?
  • sleepless at night?
  • in chronic pain or discomfort?
  • wondering where the last hour, day, or week went?

Beyond these physical, cognitive, and emotional consequences, going through your day without being mindful also poses more serious risk to your wellness.

The solution?

As this year draws to a close, consider giving yourself the gift of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is simply the state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.

It’s often used as a technique in therapy and other health practices, and is well-supported by research.

But it’s also straightforward enough that anyone can practice it, anywhere, in just minutes. 

From an emotional wellness perspective, mindfulness certainly is worth the hype.

People who practice mindfulness enjoy:

  • decreased stress and psychological distress
  • greater emotional wellness
  • increased emotion regulation and self-control
  • decreased worry and anxiety
  • decreased symptoms of rumination and depression
  • lower levels of problematic substance use
  • improved focus and ability to sustain attention
  • improved social and relational skills
  • lower levels of anger and aggression
  • lower levels of job burnout and turnover
  • enhanced job performance

…and in children, mindfulness is associated with:

  • lower levels of stress, worry, anger, and aggression
  • increased ability to cope with bullying
  • greater resilience

In fact, mindfulness has been identified as one of the most powerful skills when it comes to enjoying ongoing emotional wellness.

And like any skill, we each can get better with practice.

Some popular methods for sharpening your mindfulness game include:

  • focused breathing exercises
  • body scan activities
  • mindful eating exercises
  • guided or unguided meditations
  • walking meditations

In this series, we’ll be sharing practical tips to help you incorporate mindfulness into each area of your life, so you can enjoy an emotionally well new year.

(Sounds pretty good, right?)

But, what if you’re ready to get started right now?

No problem.

Read on for a simple (yet powerful) grounding exercise to help you start your mindfulness practice today:

The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.

Jon Kabat-Zinn

1. Notice your breath.

Breathe in for 5 seconds, hold the breath for 5 seconds, and breathe out for 5 seconds.

Continue this pattern a few times, or until you find your thoughts starting to slow down.

2. Acknowledge 5 things you can see.

Is there a leaf on the ground next to where you’re sitting? Or a loose thread in the carpet? Or a spot on the window? A sign on the wall?

Identify 5 things you can see around you. Then name them, out loud.

3. Acknowledge 4 things you can touch.

Do you feel the ground beneath your feet? Or the tag on your shirt, scratching the back of your neck? The weight of your legs on the seat of your chair?

Identify 4 things you can touch. Then name them, out loud.

4. Acknowledge 3 things you can hear.

This one can be somewhat tricky, especially if you’re used to tuning out a noisy workplace.

It can also be difficult to separate things you can hear from thoughts that feel particularly loud in your mind.

Noticing your thoughts without judgment is an important skill. But for this exercise, you’re focusing solely on the external sounds you can hear.

So, whether it’s a ticking clock, or the rumbling of your stomach, or the sound of the dishwasher running through a cycle…

Identify 3 things you can hear. Then name them, out loud.

5. Acknowledge 2 things you can smell.

If you’re in a sterile environment, such as a cubicle at work, you may need to move outdoors or to a more stimulating location.

Do you smell the pavement after a rain? The scent of something cooking nearby? Your own hairspray or cologne?

Identify 2 things you can smell. Then name them, out loud.

6. Acknowledge 1 thing you can taste.

Is your mouth still minty fresh with the taste of toothpaste or mouthwash? Or does it taste like your last sip of coffee or the soup you ate for lunch?

Identify 1 thing you can taste. Then name it, out loud.

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Mindful Goal-Setting
25 Mindfulness Ideas to Try This Year
Unplug Your Way to Emotional Wellness

Ready to learn more about mindfulness?