The Benefits of Mindfulness: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn about the benefits of mindfulness meditation: techniques & exercises for reducing stress & anxiety & improving mental health.

The Benefits of Mindfulness: A Comprehensive Guide

Mindfulness is a type of meditation that encourages you to be intensely aware of your feelings and emotions in the present moment, without judgment or interpretation.

Practicing mindfulness

involves breathing techniques, guided imagery, and other practices to help relax your body and mind and reduce stress. The core of mindfulness is more than just a meditation technique or being present; it's about being aware without becoming obsessed. Meditation is like a daily massage for the mind.

It helps you distance yourself from your thoughts and emotions, allowing you to observe them as if you were a third person. This distance can make the difference between plunging into anxiety and quickly recovering instead of drowning in a sea of emotional reactions. Mindfulness can be your sanity conservator. Martin Scorsese, Jerry Seinfeld, and others use personalized mantras or Sanskrit words to help them concentrate during meditation rather than simply following their breath.

The Five Minute Journal is based on positive psychology research and is designed as an efficient way to focus on the good, set intentions for the day, and reflect. Pat Flynn swears by it: “I do The Five Minute Journal every morning and it puts me in the right frame of mind to start the day.” Morning Pages is another technique that involves writing until you reach three pages. You don't have to make sense; just write whatever comes to mind. This can help you uncover feelings you didn't know you had.

Similarly, long walks can also have a magical effect on your creativity. To practice mindfulness meditation, sit comfortably with your head and shoulders relaxed, hands on your upper legs, and upper arms at your sides. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. Feel the rise and fall of your chest and the expansion and contraction of your abdomen with each breath.

Don't control your breathing; just follow its natural flow. Thoughts will try to divert your attention, but don't judge them; simply return to focusing on your breathing. Some people count their breaths as a way to stay focused.

Mindfulness meditation

involves deep breathing and awareness of the body and mind. You can practice mindfulness in daily activities and tasks as well as through meditation.

If you're interested in learning more about mindfulness techniques for treating depression, you can check out mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Melanie Denham, head coach of the Harvard women's rugby team, recently attended a mindfulness workshop to incorporate techniques into her players' training regimen to help them cope with expectations and performance pressures. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been shown to help alleviate depression, anxiety, and PTSD; its method involves perseverance, self-compassion, reflection, change, flexibility between different techniques and interventions. Mindfulness techniques can also help people who are not diagnosed with any mental health condition but suffer from occasional (or not so occasional) anxiety.