What Mindfulness Exercises Can Do For You

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  • What Mindfulness Exercises Can Do For You

    What Mindfulness Exercises Can Do For You

    If you’ve been dismissing mindfulness as just another feel-good, New Age fad, you’re missing out on an invaluable tool for improving your health and mental well being.

    Mindfulness is a practice in which you focus entirely on the present. Your current thoughts, feelings, and sensations are accepted without judgment. The benefits of mindfulness can be transformational — physically and mentally, in personal and professional relationships, and in your understanding and acceptance of yourself.

    Learn about accepting your imperfections »

  • What Is Mindfulness?

    What Is Mindfulness?

    In Buddhist writings, our minds are referred to as “monkey minds.” Just as monkeys screech and chatter as they swing from tree to tree, so do our minds chatter away, swinging from thought to thought.

    Mindfulness enables you to tame the chatter and manage your thoughts. You do this by focusing on the present and accepting your feelings and thoughts as you experience them.

    Mindfulness meditation differs from other forms of meditation in that it involves consciously focusing on the now. It means stilling all the random would-have, should-have, could-have thoughts. Instead, you experience the moment with total acceptance. Mindfulness can be achieved not just during meditation, but in daily life.

  • Learning Mindfulness

    Learning Mindfulness

    Classes on mindfulness are available in most communities. Yoga studios, YMCAs, community colleges, and meditation studios may offer them. Increasingly, psychotherapists are providing mindfulness training to patients.

    A number organizations offer online mindfulness classes for youth and adults, including:

    Also, the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Wisconsin has an extensive selection of free online videos that include mindfulness and related practices.

  • Getting Started

    Getting Started

    Below are several mindfulness exercises you can practice right now! It’s helpful to do them in a quiet, comfortable place with few distractions. Don’t be concerned if your mind strays; simply refocus.

    • Concentrate on your breathing. As you inhale and exhale, what parts of your body respond? How does oxygen feel streaming through your nostrils? Can you hear yourself breathe?
    • Pick up a piece of fruit. Look at it closely and note the texture of its surface. Can you see changes in the texture when you hold it up to light? Hold it to your nose. What does it smell like?
    • Eat the fruit. For  the first few bites, focus on the smell, texture, and flavor. What muscles in your body are used? What does swallowing feel like?

    As you practice mindfulness, begin to try to bring it into your everyday life. Work on being “in the moment” each moment of each day, in whatever situation you find yourself in.

  • Why Mindfulness is Important

    Why Mindfulness is Important

    Mindfulness can be very effective in relieving stress. This is important because our bodies are built to handle stress in times of crisis, but prolonged stress can take a toll on your physical and psychological wellness. Your entire body is affected by stress, but you are especially vulnerable to:

    • high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke
    • pain from muscle tension, especially in your neck, shoulders, and back
    • disruption of your digestive system and your sleep
    • headaches
    • mental disorders, particularly depression, and anxiety
    • skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, and acne flare-ups
  • The Myriad Benefits of Mindfulness

    The Myriad Benefits of Mindfulness

    The positive effects of mindfulness have been widely studied. According to theAmerican Psychological Association, mindfulness has been shown to:

    • reduce stress
    • boost memory
    • improve focus
    • increase emotional resilience
    • enhance self-insight and empathy
  • Mindfulness at Work and School

    Mindfulness at Work and School

    Mindfulness is used in schools, prisons, and even in the Marine Corps. Companies such as General Mills, Goldman Sachs, and Apple have embraced mindfulness. Why are they jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon? Because they’ve found it helps employees banish negative thoughts, enables their minds to focus better, enhances creativity, allows practitioners to view situations and issues with greater clarity, and gives them the ability to make better decisions.

    Educators, too, are finding that mindfulness has many benefits. After a five-week mindfulness program in Oakland, California, low-income students found it easier to concentrate. They were less stressed, more empathetic, and demonstrated greater self control.

  • Mindfulness—Growing in Popularity

    Mindfulness—Growing in Popularity

    The practice of mindfulness is surging in popularity. On average, participation by American adults in some form of meditation therapy rose 6 percent a year from 2002 to 2007, according to a study by the research group SRI International.

    It is said that we are more slaves of our mind than masters. With mindfulness, you can free your mind of negative thoughts, reduce stress, and take charge of your life.