Mindfulness meditation is effective, healthful—and available to you wherever you are.
Earlier this year, researchers at the Georgetown University Medical Center published a study in which people with anxiety disorders had lower levels of both inflammatory molecules and stress hormones after participating in an eight-week mindfulness meditation course. The study is only the latest in decades of research connecting mindfulness meditative practices with lowered stress and anxiety and better overall health.
But what exactly is mindfulness? If you aren’t currently enrolled in a class or reading a mindfulness book like Jon Kabat-Zinn’s classic Full Catastrophe Living, you can still bring more mindful practices into your daily life starting today. The best part of mindfulness is that it costs nothing, requires very little time and only asks one thing of you—your full attention.
To get you started with positive, mindfulness-based habits, note these three keys of the practice:
1. Mindful Breathing
“Just breathe.” When someone says this to you at a stressful moment, it can feel insulting, if not impossible. But the fact is, whether or not you’re thinking about it, you are drawing and exhaling breaths every moment of your life. Mindfulness asks us to pay attention to those breaths. Don’t judge them for being too shallow or uneven or tight—just notice them.
2. Mindful Presence
You may have heard the phrase, “stay in the present moment” in conversations about mindfulness and thought, “easier said than done!” But pursuing the present moment, simply by scanning the space you’re in and noticing the details you can see, smell, hear and touch, is a way to keep your mind calm and focused on the here and now.
3. Mindful Actions
Mindfulness doesn’t only come from the mind—it is something you can practice with your whole body. Walking, either through a crowded grocery store or down a quiet path or sidewalk, is an opportunity to notice the feeling of your left and right legs propelling you through the world. Eating in a way that notices and savors different textures, temperatures and flavors in your food can help you tune into your body’s hunger and satiation cues. Taking a mindful approach to your everyday actions will imbue everything you do with more meaning, intention and, ultimately, peace.