Mindfulness seems to be the latest fad in popular Western culture, but it is so much more than this. It is an essential component of overall well-being and is a significant part of many biological and spiritual approaches to wellness. Meditation is not the “hippie” “woo woo” stuff many people think about. It is a neurological exercise, and just as studying for a test or working out at the gym help you prepare for the challenges of life, mindfulness helps you prepare your brain for handling stress and rediscovering the calmness necessary for appreciation and good decision making.
Adopt the Habit: Why Mindfulness Meditation Is an Important Part of Wellness
Mindfulness meditation is one of the best things you can do for your brain (Kabat-Zinn, 2013; Larouche, Hudon, & Goulet, 2015; Ulrichsen et al., 2016; Verplanken & Fisher, 2014). It allows you to rest from the ongoing demands of life and the constant bombardment of worries in your mind and actually helps to improve brain function. One of the nicest things about mindfulness meditation is that it is 100% free and immediately accessible.
One of the fastest ways to get started is to just allow yourself to pause, take a breath, and notice that breath as it goes into your lungs and out of your lungs (Smalley & Winston, 2010). You may notice how that breath feels in your nose or your chest or your abdomen. Some people are able to notice how it feels in their fingers and toes since movement in one part of the body affects the motion of all other parts of the body. It’s that easy. Just breath in, notice what it feels like, and breath out.
Practicing just 1 mindful breath can be helpful if you need a pause, such as before responding to somebody who just said something stressful.
Mindfully noticing 3-5 breaths can help you calm down and focus before you have to do something that scares you or requires you to be in “ready” mode.
Ten (10) mindful breaths can start to change your brain by taking you slightly deeper into calm awareness and increasing your ability to focus even when there are distractions.
Adapt the Habit: Practice Mindfulness Meditation in a Way that Works for You
At first, you may have difficulty noticing all 10 breaths. You may want to start with just 1 and observe this 1 breath multiple times per day. As your skills improve, you will more easily increase the number of breaths in your exercises. Eventually, you will get up to those 10 mindful breaths per day.
If you eventually want to engage in deeper meditation and mental training practices, these daily 10 breaths with mindful awareness will help you start that journey. You can always do more than 10 breaths if you want.
Attach the Mindfulness Habit to Something You Already Do
If you already have a morning routine, such as using the bathroom as soon as you wake up, add the mindfulness habit to the routine you already have.
Likewise, if you have an evening routine, lunch routine, dinner routine, or even a pre-work routine, you can easily add 10 mindful breaths to any of those routines.
The more you attach these mindful breaths to your current routines, the sooner it will become a positive habit.
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Kabat-Zinn, J. (2013). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind to face stress, pain, and illness (Revised and updated edition). New York: Bantam Books trade paperback.
Larouche, E., Hudon, C., & Goulet, S. (2015). Potential benefits of mindfulness-based interventions in mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease: An interdisciplinary perspective. Behavioural Brain Research, 276, 199–212. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bbr.2014.05.058
Smalley, S. L., & Winston, D. (2010). Fully present: the science, art, and practice of mindfulness (1st Da Capo Press ed). Cambridge, Mass.: Da Capo Lifelong.
Ulrichsen, K. M., Kaufmann, T., Dørum, E. S., Kolskår, K. K., Richard, G., Alnæs, D., … Nordvik, J. E. (2016). Clinical utility of mindfulness training in the treatment of fatigue after stroke, traumatic brain injury and multiple sclerosis: a systematic literature review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in Psychology, 7. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00912
Verplanken, B., & Fisher, N. (2014). Habitual worrying and benefits of mindfulness. Mindfulness, 5(5), 566–573. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-013-0211-0