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What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is paying full attention to the present moment. It means taking your time to really notice what you're doing.

Mindfulness happens naturally sometimes. Let's say you're getting ready to take a foul shot in basketball. You carefully position your feet at the line. You look up at the hoop and feel the ball in your hands. Taking your time, you dribble the ball once or twice. You tune out all distractions and take your shot. Swoosh — yes! That's mindfulness in action.

Why Do People Need Mindfulness?

Mindfulness helps you do your best at things. When you’re mindful, you:

  • pay attention better
  • are less distracted
  • learn more
  • stay calm under stress
  • get tasks finished

It also can improve your mood. It may help you:

  • avoid getting upset too easily
  • take your time instead of rushing
  • gain self-control and self-awareness
  • feel happier and enjoy things more

It can even help you in social situations. Those who are mindful:

  • listen better when others are speaking
  • are more patient
  • get along better with others

How Does Mindfulness Work?

Training the mind takes practice. The more you practice mindfulness skills, the better you get at being mindful.

If you practice mindfulness skills, mindfulness begins to come naturally when you need it in your everyday life. This can help you feel calmer when you're stressed, or more focused when you have to do something hard or complicated.

As you practice, you train your attention. Practicing mindfulness can improve attention for just about everybody — including people who have ADHD, or who think they have trouble paying attention.

How Do I Get Started?

Mindfulness skills take just a few minutes a day to practice. There are many different types of mindfulness exercises, such as meditation, mindful breathing, and even mindful eating.

To get started, try this mindful breathing exercise:

Step 1. Sit or lie comfortably and put one hand on your stomach, the other on your chest.

Step 2. Close your eyes and try to relax all your muscles, one by one, from the tips of your toes to the top of your head, especially the muscles in your face, neck, and jaw. You may be storing a lot of tension there.

Step 3. Breathe deeply and regularly for several minutes— and try to make your stomach (abdomen) rise and fall, not only your chest. This will help you deepen your breath.

Step 4. Pay attention to each breath. Try to turn all your thoughts to each inhale … exhale. As you breathe out, imagine the tension leaving your body with the breath.

Step 5. Notice when your mind wanders, and gently bring your focus back to your breath. Imagine letting go of each distracting thought like a balloon drifting away, or any other imagery that works for you.

That's it! Remember that there are other ways to practice mindful breathing too. Go ahead and try a few different mindfulness exercises to see which ones work best for you.

Reviewed by: Katherine S. Salamon, PhD
Date Reviewed: May 10, 2023

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