Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present, aware of where you are and what you are doing at any given moment. Practicing mindfulness is returning, again and again, to the present moment, as it is, without judgment.

Although mindfulness is often practiced as a form of meditation, it can be trained in many ways other than sitting still and focusing on one’s thoughts. You can train mindfulness when walking in the park, listening to the birds and taking in what you see. You can practice it when waiting for an appointment by following your breathing, or when getting a coffee, noticing the warmth of the cup in your hands and tasting the first sip with full awareness.

By focusing on the here and now, you will automatically stop thinking about other – potentially stressful – things simply because your brain cannot do both at the same time. You step ‘out of your mind’ and anchor yourself in the present moment.

Here are a few simple steps for a mindfulness practice:

  • Get comfortable
  • Be present: pay attention to the present moment, without judgement
  • Focus on your body: scan it from top to toe in your mind’s eye
  • Focus on your breath: bring your attention to your breathing
  • Feel your breath: follow the sensation of your breath without trying to change or do anything to it. Notice when your mind has wandered. Make a note of it and return your attention to breathing
  • Be kind to your wandering mind: Do not judge yourself for whatever thoughts come up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.

That is the whole practice. Simple yet powerful. The key is to keep doing it, and the results will come. Begin with five quiet minutes a day and gradually aim for ten.

Mindfulness apps

  • MyLife (iOS and Android) – checks first with you how you feel, physically and emotionally, before recommending a suitable meditation
  • 7 Second Meditation (iOS only) – reminds you to take a short break and focus on the moment, and nothing else
  • Ten Percent Happier (iOS and Android) – great if you’re a straight talker who prefers no fuss