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Mindfulness Meditation

Mindfulness is based on the idea that bringing more awareness to our everyday sensations can reduce stress. Throughout life, we tend to run on autopilot, letting thoughts flit through our mind without consciously taking stock. This creates a problem when those thoughts are negative, stress-inducing or overly ruminative. Mindfulness is the very opposite of this mindlessness. It encourages staying present in the current moment, observing any thoughts and sensations without judgment.

Mindfulness meditation thus involves simply sitting and observing the mind. You can start practicing mindfulness meditation for just five minutes at a time. Set a timer to prevent yourself from becoming distracted by how long it’s been.

To use the mindfulness method, first find a comfortable seated position on the floor; you can also use a chair if necessary. Straighten your posture so that it’s upright yet still relaxed. Close your eyes. Focus your attention on your breath. 

When you notice your mind wandering to other thoughts — as it inevitably will — take note of your mind wandering and then return your attention to the breath. Be gentle with yourself as you do this. When you’re ready to stop or when the timer goes off, just pause and then open your eyes.

The goal is not to quiet your mind or achieve peace, but to gently bring mindfulness to each and every thought, sensation or even judgment that may come into your awareness. In a sense, this is extraordinarily simple — but it’s also challenging. It can be difficult to return to observing the present moment rather than rolling along with your thoughts. 

Don’t beat yourself up when your mind wanders to other things, even if it does so incessantly. Make sure to notice when it happens and then continue observing whatever else comes.

Mindfulness meditation is most beneficial when it’s practiced consistently every day. As you continue your practice, you can gradually extend the length of your meditations. One of the goals of mindfulness is to bring the practice of awareness to all parts of your life, not only during your meditations.

Mindfulness meditation is particularly beneficial for those who struggle with anxiety or stress. If you tend to get caught up in your thoughts, judge yourself harshly, or feel stressed out often, mindfulness can help relieve your sense of worry and attachment. It’s also helpful for those with depression. Since mindfulness is a completely secular technique, it can be practiced by anyone regardless of spirituality.

Scientific researchers have done many studies on mindfulness meditation’s specific benefits on the brain. They’ve found that mindfulness meditation helps decrease activity in the part of the brain that causes your mind to wander wildly and ruminate. It reduces symptoms of anxiety, depression and pain — it’s about as effective as antidepressants, which is pretty amazing! This simple form of meditation can actually change the structure of your brain. (