Mindfulness: A Science-Based Practice for a Happy Mind

Imagine if you read this advertisement:

Amazing Breakthrough!

Scientists have discovered a treatment that improves your quality of life. It reduces your anxiety, rumination, and stress. And it increases your focus, memory, and immune function. On top of that, it’s all-natural and costs nothing!

Would you be interested? If so, I’ve got good news for you.

This “treatment” exists. It’s called mindfulness practice.

What is Mindfulness?

According to leading mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn1:

Mindfulness is the awareness that arises from paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgmentally.

As you’ve surely noticed, the human mind has a natural tendency to wander off into planning, remembering, and daydreaming.

So, you can easily get caught in a trap where you’re constantly lost in thoughts about the past and the future.

Mindfulness can help you break out of that trap so you can be fully present in the here and now.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

The research on mindfulness has exploded in recent years.

As I write this, there are more than 16,000 scientific papers on the topic.

And the benefits that many of these studies have found are pretty amazing.

As I mentioned in the introduction, some of those benefits are:

  • Less anxiety.2
  • Reduced rumination.3
  • Decreased stress.4
  • Deeper focus.5
  • Better memory.6
  • Increased immune function.7
  • Improved quality of life.8

And those are just a few examples.

If you go looking, you can find scientific support for a staggering amount of mindfulness benefits.

How to Practice Mindfulness

You can practice the skill of mindfulness in two ways: formal and informal practice.

Formal Practice

This is a recurring block of time that you set aside to practice mindfulness meditation.

You can think of your formal practice as a mental gym where you prepare your mind for everyday life.

Mindfulness meditation is one of those skills that take a minute to learn but a lifetime to master.

To get started, all you have to do is:

  1. Set an alarm in 10, 5, or even just 2 minutes.
  2. Sit in a comfortable position with your back straight.
  3. Close your eyes if that feels comfortable.
  4. Pay attention to your breath as it goes in and out.
  5. When you notice that your mind has wandered, gently return your attention to the breath.
  6. End the practice when the alarm goes off.

That’s all there is to it!

You focus on your breath, your mind inevitably wanders, and you gently bring it back.

Each time you catch your mind wandering, it’s like a “rep” in your mental gym that strengthens your mindfulness muscle.

Informal Practice

This is where “the rubber hits the road.”

It’s where you bring the skill you’re developing in your formal practice into everyday life.

You can apply mindfulness to anything you do, but in the beginning, picking just one habit for your informal practice can be helpful.

Here are some examples:

  • Waking up. Pay attention to your breath, thoughts, and feelings before you get out of bed.
  • Brushing your teeth. Concentrate fully on the sensations of the brush going from one side of your mouth to the other.
  • Eating breakfast. Pay full attention to the smell, taste, and texture of each bite of food.
  • Doing the dishes. Feel the sensations of the warm water on your hands and watch the formation of the suds.
  • Walking. Pay attention to the feelings of your movement and the sights in your surroundings.

Over time, you can add more habits to your informal practice and infuse more mindfulness into your everyday life.

Final Words

You live your entire life in your mind, so it makes sense to train it.

Mindfulness practice is the best way I know of to do that.

It helps you deal more skillfully with your thoughts, feelings, and sensations.

And as we’ve seen, that leads to significantly better health, well-being, and performance.

So, if you haven’t tried mindfulness practice yet, I highly encourage you to give it a go.

It might just change your life forever.

Footnotes

  1. Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn
  2. Examining the Protective Effects of Mindfulness Training on Working Memory Capacity and Affective Experience
  3. Effects of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction onMedical and Premedical Students
  4. The Impact of Intensive Mindfulness Training on Attentional Control, Cognitive Style, and Affect
  5. The Effect of Mindfulness-Based Therapy on Anxiety and Depression: A Meta-Analytic Review
  6. Meditation, Mindfulness, and Cognitive flexibility
  7. Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation
  8. What Are the Benefits of Mindfulness? A Practice Review of Psychotherapy-Related Research