How to Practice Mindfulness to Improve Your Health | Chris Kresser
Interested in becoming an ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach? Enrollment is open now and closes September 30th Learn More

How to Practice Mindfulness and the 20 Ways It Will Transform Your Life

by Lindsay Christensen, M.S., CNS

Published on

How to Practice Mindfulness
Meditation is one way to practice mindfulness. iStock/PeopleImages

Mindfulness practices are taking the world by storm, and for a good reason. In our hectic, hyper-technological world, mindfulness is quickly becoming a necessity not only for maintaining sanity, but for helping us stay productive, creative, and physically and mentally well. Read on to learn 20 ways in which practicing mindfulness will revolutionize your health and well-being and how to incorporate it into your daily life. 

Practicing mindfulness carries big benefits for your overall health and well-being. Check out this article from Lindsay Christensen for 20 ways a regular mindfulness practice will transform your life. #optimalhealth #healthylifestyle #wellness

What Is Mindfulness?

We hear the term “mindfulness” thrown around frequently, but what does it actually mean? While a consistent definition of mindfulness has long eluded the scientific, medical, and lay communities, researchers are attempting to develop a concise definition.

In short, mindfulness refers to the practice of being aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment in the present moment, rather than projecting your thoughts into the past or future.

This present-centered state of being is accompanied by a non-judgmental attitude. Ultimately, mindfulness is a skill that must be cultivated over time; it is not something that you can learn in a single weekend or seminar. However, this is also part of the joy of mindfulness, the fact that you can continually engage in it and grow throughout your lifetime! (1)

Our modern-day world is characterized by a decidedly non-mindful state of being. The numerous digital distractions vying for our attention, our tendency to fill our schedules to the brim, and the mindset that busyness equates success has many of us living in a state of frenzied, disjointed, constant activity. Mindfulness is the perfect—and, in my opinion, necessary—“antidote” to modern life. In essence, mindfulness can help correct the evolutionary mismatch between our ancient biology and the current environment.

An Evolutionary Perspective on Mindfulness

Chris has spoken at length about evolutionary mismatch, the concept in evolutionary biology that our genes (our hardwired genetic programming), physiology, and biology are at odds with our modern environment. According to the evolutionary mismatch hypothesis, this disparity between our biology and the inputs from our modern environment is a primary driver of chronic disease. Interestingly, the human need for mindfulness in the contemporary world is also connected to the evolutionary mismatch hypothesis. In fact, I would argue that mindfulness is as essential as eating a Paleo-template diet and living an ancestral health lifestyle for correcting evolutionary mismatch and living a life free of chronic disease. 

Emerging research indicates that the modern human need for mindfulness has its roots in our evolutionary history. The human brain is equipped with powerful “neural software” designed to run a variety of “programs,” such as those for language, problem-solving, and social interactions. These programs help us remember the past, plan for the future, and think critically about our actions, and have had untold benefits for our species as a whole. Our sophisticated neural software has made us who we are today. However, it also has some downsides.

First and foremost, the human cultural evolution facilitated by our brains has outpaced our biological evolution, creating an evolutionary mismatch. While our cultural evolution has produced many attractive and highly useful inventions, including the computer and the internet, these items also come with significant health costs. The non-stop stream of information blasted into our brains via the internet and social media, and other novel stressors and stimuli in our environment differ vastly in quantity and intensity compared to the environmental inputs experienced by our hunter–gatherer ancestors for 99 percent of human history. (2) Our neural software is not suited to handle this type of chronic, intense stimuli; as a result, the software produced maladaptive output such as anxiety, rumination, fractured attention, and an inability to concentrate. (3)

The fight-or-flight stress response induced by our modern-day environment activates an ancient, evolutionarily conserved pattern of gene expression called the “conserved transcriptional response to adversity” (CTRA). According to evolutionary biologists, intermittent activation of the CTRA likely played a beneficial role for our ancestors by linking the fight-or-flight response with the expression of pro-inflammatory genes that provided protection against bacterial infections from wounds. This was advantageous because, back in the day, the primary activators of the fight-or-flight response were being stalked by a dangerous predator, injured during a hunt, or harmed in battle. Conversely, the CTRA offers little benefit in the modern world, where stress is unrelenting. In fact, activation of the CTRA in the modern world is associated with chronic inflammatory diseases that ultimately reduce our fitness and survival. (4)

Even though our modern stimulus-rich environment clearly has downsides, I suspect that very few of us (myself included!) would prefer to live without the internet, social media, smartphones, and the other incredible products of modern-day human ingenuity. Fortunately, emerging research indicates that positive psychological processes, such as mindfulness, can attenuate the CTRA, allowing us to healthfully live in the world without suffering all the adverse consequences of our contemporary environment. (5)

Mindfulness thus represents a powerful tool for correcting evolutionary mismatch and optimizing our long-term health, without forcing us to retreat from modern-day life.

20 Ways Mindfulness Will Change Your Life

Over the past few decades, scientific research on the health benefits and mechanisms behind mindfulness has grown exponentially. Some of the critical components of mindfulness examined in the scientific literature include present-moment awareness, beginner’s mind, non-judgmental attitude, non-reactivity, and acceptance. These aspects of mindfulness exert a profound influence on our brains and bodies and have the potential to change our lives for the better. 

1. Increase Your Focus and Productivity

In today’s tech-heavy, open-plan workspaces, focusing can be a challenging endeavor. Between the incessant “pings” coming from our online communication platforms and email inboxes to chatty colleagues, it can seem nearly impossible to get work done. One way in which mindfulness can aid us immensely in our daily lives is by helping us better navigate the numerous demands on our attention at work, increasing our focus and productivity. 

How does mindfulness enhance focus and productivity? By broadly training the brain to focus and sustain attention, mindfulness practices such as meditation can improve attentional control in other areas of life, including work! Ten minutes of daily meditation has been found to enhance attentional focus, or the allocating of mental resources to essential tasks, according to electroencephalogram measurements. (6) This finding suggests that meditation may improve the self-regulation of attention in mentally demanding settings such as the workplace. Mindfulness may also increase psychological well-being in workplace settings, decreasing perceived stress, and the ability of teams to successfully work together.

Emotional intelligence, or the ability to be mindful of your own emotions and those of others, is increasingly valued in the modern-day workplace. Preliminary research indicates that mindfulness improves emotional intelligence; emotional intelligence, in turn, may improve workplace relationships by enhancing employees’ emotional regulation capacity. (7, 8) Mindfulness also boosts creativity, a critical skill for producing high-quality work. (9)

Excitingly, as little as 10 minutes per day of mindfulness practice may significantly reduce stress and enhance other qualities, such as resilience and mood, that are essential in the workplace. (10

2. Prevent and Recover from Burnout

Closely linked to performance in the workplace is a phenomenon called “burnout.” Burnout in the workplace is a growing problem, one that Chris has discussed at length in “How to Avoid Burnout at Work and Stay Motivated on the Job.”

Burnout is defined as a state of emotional, mental, and physical exhaustion caused by excessive and prolonged stress. It is frequently triggered by chronic work-related stress. The World Health Organization classifies burnout as an “occupational phenomenon,” though it is not considered a disease. (11) The features of occupational burnout include:

  • Overwhelming exhaustion
  • Feelings of cynicism
  • Detachment from your job
  • A sense of ineffectiveness or failure

Left untreated, burnout may lead to chronic health problems such as heart disease, insomnia, and substance abuse. (12, 13)

Research indicates that mindfulness may be a useful prophylactic intervention for preventing burnout as well as a possible adjunct treatment for existing workplace burnout. (14, 15) Mindfulness practices have been found to successfully reduce burnout among healthcare providers, and preliminary research suggests it may also help prevent burnout in teachers. (16, 17, 18) Mindfulness may aid in the prevention and treatment of burnout by increasing positive emotions, decreasing negative emotions, and reducing overall stress.

3. Improve Your Sleep

Sleep is absolutely essential for your long-term health, and the health consequences of insufficient or poor-quality sleep are sobering. Mindfulness practices may improve sleep quality by modulating the autonomic nervous system, reducing the worry and rumination that keep many people up at night. (19) In one clinical trial, mindfulness meditation was found to be as effective as the pharmaceutical sleep drug Lunesta for inducing sleep! (20) Adding a quick mindfulness session to your bedtime routine may be the ticket to experiencing deeper, more restorative sleep.

4. Dampen Inflammation

Many of the chronic diseases we face as a society today, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, are rooted in chronic inflammation. While diet, sleep, and physical activity are essential interventions for reducing inflammation, mindfulness should also play an integral role in inflammation-reduction protocols.

Mindfulness has been found to attenuate activation of NF-κB, a protein complex that controls cytokine production and the transcription of DNA. NF-κB is upregulated when the sympathetic nervous system is activated by stress; in states of chronic inflammation, it may remain continuously activated. (21) Meditation has been found to reduce the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines triggered by NF-κB activity, a finding without profound implications for the management of chronic inflammatory diseases. (22) By modulating the CTRA, which we discussed earlier, mindfulness also reduces inflammation triggered by adverse life events such as trauma.

5. Improve Your Immune Function

Without a well-functioning immune system, it is exceedingly difficult, if not impossible, to optimize your health. Here, too, mindfulness can help us. Mindfulness decreases unproductive inflammation, such as the inflammation characteristic of chronic inflammatory diseases, which “distracts” the immune system from imminent threats. Mindfulness thereby improves the immune response to harmful agents such as pathogens; this may explain why meditation may reduce the incidence of colds and the flu. (23, 24, 25)

6. Better Your Gut Health

If you struggle with gut issues despite following the “perfect” diet or having undergone extensive gut-focused treatment, mindfulness may be the missing piece of your health puzzle. The brain and gut are intimately linked via the gut–brain axis, a bidirectional network of neurons and signaling molecules that connect the central nervous system with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Stress has a profound impact on GI health via the gut–brain axis, reducing gut microbial diversity and increasing barrier permeability. (26) Research also suggests that the HPA axis, the body’s primary stress response system, is directly linked to the gut microbiota! (27)

By beneficially modulating the stress response, mindfulness may profoundly impact gut health and potentially aid in the treatment of GI conditions. Inquisitive scientists have begun to explore the potential benefits of mindfulness interventions for gut disorders such as IBS. In clinical research, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) has been found to improve the quality of life and disease severity in individuals with IBS. Yoga, a form of mindful movement, also alleviates IBS symptomatology. (28, 29) Mindfulness may improve gut health by reducing stress-induced changes in the gut microbiota. However, to my knowledge, this mechanism has yet to be investigated, so it remains a (plausible) theory. Another possible mechanism of action is that mindfulness tones the vagus nerve, the primary nerve connecting the GI system with the central nervous system. (30)

7. Improve Disordered Eating

Eating disorders and disordered eating behavior take a massive toll on health and are associated with significant reductions in quality of life and increased morbidity and mortality. (31) According to the emerging field of psychoneuroendocrinology, disordered eating appears to be rooted at least in part in a dysfunctional stress response. Experts in this field argue that eating disorder treatments should aim to reduce chronic stress and stress responsivity in patients; one way to accomplish this is through mindfulness practices. (32)

Mindful eating, a form of mindfulness practice centered around food and mealtime, is inversely related to dysfunctional eating behaviors such as binge eating. Mindfulness has also been found to help prevent disordered eating in adolescents, a population that is extremely susceptible to eating disorders. (33, 34)

8. Alleviate Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is pervasive in our society. Unfortunately, the conventional medical approach to chronic pain relies heavily on drugs or surgery, both of which come with significant adverse effects. For thousands of years, Buddhist monks have known that meditation reduces the sensory evaluation of pain. Science is beginning to reveal the mechanisms behind the meditation/pain-reduction connection, with exciting implications for how we approach pain management in the future.

Studies of longtime meditators indicate that these individuals experience decreased activation of pain pathways in response to painful stimuli, such as submersion of a hand or limb into icy-cold water. (35) The mindfulness cultivated by a long-term meditation practice appears to dampen pain perception by inhibiting ascending nociceptive information, that is, pain signals originating from the part of the body that is in pain. (36) Interestingly, meditation reduces pain independently of opioid pathways, which are the target of the notorious opioid drugs. So far, mindfulness has been investigated for its pain-alleviating effects in people with chronic back pain and fibromyalgia, with promising results. (37) While not recommended as a standalone treatment, mindfulness may be a beneficial adjunct therapy for people dealing with pain daily.

9. Support Your Health If You Have an Autoimmune Disease

Psychological stress is a well-recognized trigger for the onset of autoimmune disease. (38) While interventional studies on mindfulness and autoimmune disease are few and far between, several lines of research suggest that mindfulness practices may improve certain aspects of autoimmune disease. In one randomized controlled trial, mindfulness was found to enhance the quality of life and psychological symptoms in individuals with lupus. (39) Preliminary findings also suggest that mindfulness-based interventions may improve mental health in people with rheumatoid arthritis. (40) While we await more research in this field, it can’t hurt to start a mindfulness practice now if you are dealing with autoimmune disease.

10. Support Your Cardiometabolic Health

The concept of a connection between mindfulness and heart health was first proposed by Dr. Herbert Benson, a Harvard-trained cardiologist, in the 1970s. While initially ridiculed for his idea, research has since validated his theory, and the American Heart Association (AHA) has gone so far as to state that: (41)

“… meditation may be considered as an adjunct to guideline‐directed cardiovascular risk reduction by those interested in this lifestyle modification.”

This is a pretty impressive statement, coming from an organization as conservative as the AHA!

Mindfulness likely supports cardiovascular health through several mechanisms. First, it may reduce high blood pressure, a critical risk factor for cardiovascular disease. (42, 43)

Mindfulness also improves risk factors involved in the progression of metabolic dysfunction that leads to cardiovascular disease, including fasting blood glucose, hemoglobin A1c, and C-reactive protein. (44, 45, 46, 47)

11. Promote a Healthy Pregnancy

The harmful effects of stress on pregnancy and the postpartum period cannot be overstated. Anxiety during pregnancy has a significant impact on maternal health and infant and child health. Psychological stress is also linked to an increased risk of miscarriage. (48, 49)

Mindfulness interventions implemented during pregnancy and in the postpartum period have been found to alleviate stress and anxiety while improving maternal and child health outcomes. (50) Mindfulness training during pregnancy relieves fear and pain before and during childbirth. (51) Prenatal yoga, a form of mindful movement, is associated with a reduced frequency of labor induction, less use of analgesics during delivery, and fewer cesarean sections. (52)

12. For Kids: Buffer against Bullying

More than one out of every five children and adolescents are bullied in school, an alarming phenomenon that has far-reaching health repercussions. (53) In addition to the acute embarrassment and shame triggered by childhood bullying, victims often suffer long-lasting decrements in health caused by hyperactivation of the HPA axis, altered brain function, and changes to the immune system. Some of these adverse effects may carry over into adulthood. (54, 55)

Mindfulness is one strategy showing preliminary promise both for the prevention of bullying and for reducing the impact of bullying on victims. Mindfulness training may stop children on the trajectory toward becoming bullies by increasing empathy and teaching them how to take the perspective of others. (56) Increasing mindfulness in children may also protect against the adverse health effects of bullying by increasing resilience. (57) The Inner Explorer program, based on the well-established practice of mindfulness-based stress reduction, is a non-profit company that teaches mindfulness to children in schools; the company also has an Inner Explorer mindfulness app for families. The Inner Explorer program is intended to reduce bullying by helping children cultivate resilience and compassion, and regulate their emotional responses, thereby decreasing the reactive behavior that can lead a potential bully to lash out.

13. Improve Academic Success

The benefits of mindfulness for youngsters extend beyond protection against bullying; mindfulness practices may also support children’s academic performances. Mindfulness may optimize academic achievement by improving children’s focus, reducing negative behaviors such as rule infractions and absenteeism, and reducing stress. (58)

14. Decrease Stress and Increase Resilience

Most people accept chronic stress as a normal part of modern-day life that must simply be tolerated. However, as we discussed earlier, the CTRA significantly impacts our health. Abundant research indicates that mindfulness, practiced over time, supports the development of a healthier, more balanced stress response, increasing our resilience to stress. (59, 60)

15. Boost Mental Health and Mood

Mindfulness has repeatedly been found to support emotional regulation, an outcome that may improve mood in people struggling with anxiety and depression. In healthy individuals, meditation significantly reduces negative mood and depression compared to “sham meditation,” an intervention that is designed to resemble meditation but lacks the rigorous design of meditation interventions. (61) A combination of yoga and meditation has been found to reduce the severity of major depressive disorder (MDD). It may even improve mental health in people with treatment-resistant MDD (MDD that doesn’t respond to medications). (62, 63)

16. Aid Recovery from Addiction

In the past few decades, mindfulness-based interventions have been explored for the treatment of a variety of addictive behaviors, including smoking, drinking, opioid abuse, and the use of heroin and cocaine. (64) Mindfulness may aid recovery from addiction by targeting dysregulated neurocognitive processes underlying addiction, including neural loops involved in self-regulation and reward processing. Mindfulness also fosters adaptive cognitive control, or the self-monitoring of our own behavior, thus helping people recognize their addictive behaviors as they are happening and break the vicious cycle. 

According to researchers, we should consider mindfulness as an integral part of a “recovery-oriented lifestyle” rather than a short-term intervention intended to “cure” a given addiction. (65) Dr. Judson Brewer, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist specializing in the treatment of addiction, carried out a clinical trial of a comprehensive mindfulness program effective for smokers and found that mindfulness could aid in smoking cessation. (66) His Craving to Quit app incorporates mindfulness interventions used in the clinical trial and makes them readily accessible to the general public.

17. Improve Romantic Relationship Satisfaction

Our modern-day culture of distraction poses a serious but underappreciated threat to the health and sustainability of romantic relationships. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen couples out to dinner, even on Valentine’s Day, each staring at the phone in their hands rather than talking with each other! This practice of snubbing one’s partner to look at one’s phone is (frighteningly) so common that it now has its own terminology—“phubbing”! (67)

Mindfulness may be a powerful tool for combatting our culture of distraction and for cultivating deeper, more meaningful relationships. Several studies have explored the implications of mindfulness in the context of romantic relationships. Higher “trait mindfulness,” or a person’s self-reported baseline level of mindfulness, is associated with higher relationship satisfaction and lower emotional stress responses in conflict situations. (68) Mindfulness may also lead to better communication and increased acceptance of one’s partner, including less-desirable traits. (69) Furthermore, one study found that self-administered mindfulness interventions may boost the quality of romantic relationships, particularly in people with a low baseline level of mindfulness! (70) In short, mindfulness may be a powerful yet extremely affordable and accessible way to improve the quality of your romantic relationships.

18. Promote Healthy Aging

Could mindfulness improve the way you age? Emerging research suggests it might! By attenuating age-related changes in brain function and inflammatory markers, mindfulness practices may promote a healthier body and brain during the aging process, helping you age with grace.

Older adults exhibit characteristic changes in their brains, including impairments in attentional control, or the ability to focus on the task at hand, and changes in neuronal integrity associated with brain degeneration. (71) Preliminary research suggests that mindfulness practices may attenuate age-associated cognitive decline by strengthening beneficial neural connections and reducing brain inflammation. (72, 73)

Mindfulness is also associated with reduced cellular aging and telomere maintenance (telomeres are the protective “caps” on the ends of your DNA that break down with age, increasing the potential for DNA damage). These findings suggest that mindfulness slows aging at the cellular level! (74)

19. Reduce Loneliness and Increase Social Connection

Loneliness is one of the most critical risk factors for poor health and overall mortality over one’s lifespan. (75) At first glance, mindfulness may seem an unlikely intervention for reducing loneliness, since it cultivates an introspective attitude. However, emerging research suggests that mindfulness can reduce loneliness and increase social connection, albeit through some unexpected pathways.

One study found that a two-week smartphone-based mindfulness app reduced loneliness and increased daily social contact. (76) However, it accomplished this feat not by directly increasing participants’ social interactions with other people, but by reducing their internal psychological perceptions of loneliness. While it is hard to pinpoint the exact psychological changes that happened in each participant because mindfulness elicits different experiences for different people, it appears that mindfulness helps people feel more “at home” with their own thoughts and feelings, reducing their perception of loneliness. However, the mindfulness intervention may also have worked by increasing participants’ internal resources for eliciting change, increasing their prosocial behavior out in the world. (77)

In the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program, students learn everything they need to know to work as successful health coaches—including how to practice mindfulness. By cultivating their awareness, focus, and other “being” skills, coaches are better able to tune in with their clients while maintaining a compassionate, empathetic perspective. This allows them to build the strong, empowering client-coach relationships that are essential for a client to successfully change their behavior and reach their health goals.

Are you interested in learning more? Click here to find out what else the ADAPT Health Coach Training Program has to offer.

20. Recover from Trauma

Trauma is unfortunately quite common in our world and can stem from a variety of experiences ranging from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans to trauma caused by chronic illness. Mindfulness interventions are increasingly being explored as adjunct therapies, alongside medication and therapy, for the resolution of trauma.

Research indicates that MBSR reduces neurocognitive and psychiatric symptoms in veterans with PTSD. (78) Mindfulness may also decrease the adverse effects of childhood trauma and potentially prevent trauma-related poor health outcomes in adulthood. (79)

Neuroscientists suspect that mindfulness may aid trauma recovery by restoring connectivity between large-scale brain networks such as the default mode network and the central executive and salience networks, which are thrown off-kilter by traumatic experiences. (80)

Given the abundance of research on mindfulness and its utility in the treatment of various health conditions, it is no wonder that it is rapidly evolving from a wellness pursuit to a potential medical treatment. While we don’t have all the answers yet as to why mindfulness supports health, this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act. The existing evidence is very encouraging. Mindfulness is an accessible, affordable, and safe practice for people interested in managing specific health conditions or simply optimizing their health.

The Science behind Mindfulness

The breadth of health effects of mindfulness is truly astounding. But how does mindfulness beneficially impact so many areas of our lives? There are several potential mechanisms.

Mindfulness Rewires the Brain and Increases Neuroplasticity

Research indicates that mindfulness practices, such as meditation, modulate the “wiring” of the neurons in the brain. Existing connections are strengthened, while neglected connections are degraded. Part of this rewiring process is mediated by neuroplasticity, a phenomenon by which the nervous system reorganizes itself in response to learning and new experiences. Meditation and other contemplative practices appear to boost neuroplasticity notably in two brain networks, the default mode network and the interoceptive network, which helps the body sense and respond to internal cues that may be physical or emotional in nature. (81) Improved “wiring” of the brain and neuroplasticity may exert downstream beneficial effects on a variety of body systems, including the gut and endocrine system. (82)

Mindfulness Changes Gene Expression

How our genes are expressed has a pivotal impact on our health. Whereas epigenetic factors such as an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and poor sleep adversely impact gene expression, mindfulness beneficially changes gene expression. Notably, mindfulness practices reduce the expression of pro-inflammatory genes, many of which are involved in chronic diseases. (83) Fascinatingly, even a single session of mindfulness practice (in the case of this study, yoga) induces rapid changes in gene expression in immune cells, which may translate into improved immune function at a genetic level. (84)

Mindfulness Modulates the HPA Axis

The HPA axis is the body’s stress-response system. (85) Chronic stress can result in either hypo- or hyper-activation of the HPA axis, with a host of downstream adverse effects on health. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and yoga, may balance dysfunctional HPA axis activity by decreasing inflammation, which in turn increases cortisol, and by increasing expression of the anti-inflammatory glucocorticoid receptor. Increased expression of the glucocorticoid receptor provides more binding sites for the stress hormone cortisol, removing excessive cortisol from the circulation and promoting HPA axis homeostasis.

Mindfulness Increases Interoceptive Awareness

Interoceptive awareness is the awareness of body states and sensations. A growing body of research indicates that higher interoceptive awareness promotes a more balanced perception and acceptance of bodily sensations and emotions, better integrating the mind and body and promoting whole-body health. (86)

How to Practice Mindfulness and Incorporate It into Your Life

If you are interested in starting a mindfulness practice, there is no shortage of options available for you. None of these practices require considerable time or financial commitment; in fact, most of them can be integrated into existing elements or routines in your life, such as eating, your bedtime routine, and family time, for no cost whatsoever!

Practice Meditation

Meditation is the golden child of the mindfulness movement, and for a good reason. It has an abundance of scientific research to back up its health benefits and is easy to integrate into your daily life.

It is hard to simply define meditation, as there are many different forms and traditions of meditation. However, to put it simply, meditation is a way of experiencing your feelings and sensations without judgment, in the present moment. Two examples of meditation that are well-studied in the scientific literature include:

  1. Transcendental meditation
  2. Mindfulness meditation

Generally speaking, meditation can involve either narrowly focused attention, such as in breath awareness and body scan meditations, or broadly receptive attention such as loving-kindness meditation, in which attention is extended to the greater world. Different meditation practices may offer slightly different benefits; for example, an eight-week body scan meditation intervention was found to significantly increase interoceptive awareness, while Buddhist Vipassana breath meditation improves emotional regulation. (87)

Getting your meditation practice started, and keeping up the momentum, is half the battle! Here are a few tips for starting your meditation practice:

  • Schedule your meditation session into your day, just as you would a work or family obligation.
  • Meditate at the same time every day, in the same space. This routine will help make meditation a habit.
  • Start small with 10 minutes of meditation per day. There’s no need to force yourself to sit for an hour of meditation each day, at least not at the beginning of your practice.
  • Be kind to yourself—if you find your mind wandering during your meditation session, don’t chide yourself for getting “off track.” Follow the flow of your meditation session and let go of the need for perfection.

Meditation apps can be beneficial for starting and maintaining a consistent meditation practice. A few that I recommend include:

If you have any doubts or concerns about meditation, I highly suggest that you check out Chris’s article, “The Top 5 Myths about Meditation.” You may need to experiment with a couple different types of meditations (or different meditation apps) before settling on the one method or app that works best for you.

Incorporate Mindful Movement into Your Routine

Another way to incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine is through mindful movement, or the combination of a mindfulness practice with gentle physical activity. Examples of mindful movement include walking meditation, tai chi, qigong, yoga, and simply walking in nature. Hiking is my favorite form of mindful movement, with yoga coming in a close second. Mindful walking has been found to significantly reduce negative emotions, so the next time you need to give your brain a breather but don’t feel like meditating, consider going out for a walk! (88)

Practice Mindful Eating

Yes, even eating can be turned into a mindful experience. Mindful eating refers to the practice of maintaining a present-moment awareness while eating. It helps you tune into your hunger and satiety cues, and over time, may help you identify and resolve dysfunctional eating patterns such as bingeing. (89) Mindful eating strategies include:

  • Avoiding watching TV or interacting with digital devices while eating
  • Savoring the flavors and other sensory attributes of the food you’re eating
  • Chewing your food thoroughly
  • Sitting down to eat with family or friends

I’ve recently been experimenting with a mindful eating app called Eat Right Now, created by Dr. Judson Brewer, the same neuroscientist who created the successful mindfulness program for smoking cessation.

Use Mindful Parenting Techniques

Practicing mindful parenting is a wonderful way to not only bring mindfulness into your own life (if you are a parent) but to actively participate in cultivating a new generation of mindful individuals. Mindful parenting refers to the practice of bringing conscious attention to parent-child interactions, rather than getting hijacked by emotions. It involves letting go of distractions and judgment and parenting with a soft, open mind. Mindful parenting may reduce the “auto-pilot” mode many parents enter when dealing with the stresses of raising children. It may also reduce overwhelm and encourage more positive behavior in children, including less anxiety, depression, and acting out, according to research. (90, 91)

Practice Mindful Communication

Mindful communication is transformative not only in parent-child interactions but in interpersonal relationships and encounters throughout your life. Mindfulness supports successful communication by teaching you to truly listen to others and better understand others’ feelings, motivations, and needs, essential factors for facilitating meaningful communication. (92) To learn more about mindful communication, also referred to as “nonviolent communication,” I recommend that you check out the book Choosing Peace.

Whether you are a mindfulness newbie or a longtime meditator, I hope this article inspires you to start and continue your mindfulness practice! Cultivating mindfulness will serve you well in nearly every aspect of your life, and is a powerful strategy for supporting resilience, health, and happiness in our modern-day world.