Mindfulness is a way of focusing your mind and paying attention to what is happening around you and within yourself, right now. It’s a way of deliberately focusing on the present moment, without judgment, that allows you to fully engage with what is going on. Mindfulness helps you push aside the distractions of modern life—both internal (worrying about a possible future event or rehashing a past incident) and external (phone calls, emails, text alerts). This aids in reducing stress in both your personal and professional life, improving your overall health and well-being.
Want to learn more about mindfulness? Read our blog What is mindfulness?
While some people are naturally more mindful than others, everyone can improve their level of mindfulness by practicing mindfulness meditation. During mindfulness meditation, you focus your attention on your breath, and when you notice your mind wandering, you simply take note of the distracting thought without judging it and then return your attention to your breath. The act of noticing a passing thought and then redirecting your mind back to its point of focus exercises the part of the brain responsible for attention and emotional regulation. With consistent practice this part of the brain becomes stronger and enables you to better control your attention and moderate your emotional reactions throughout your day.
If you’re interested in improving your capacity for mindfulness and reaping these benefits, now is the best time to develop a consistent practice.
Getting ready to practice mindfulness
Mindfulness meditation has been summed up as three key elements: intention, attention and attitude.[i] The choice to meditate by paying attention to your breath is your intention. The act of meditating this way represents your attention. And the third component is the nonjudgmental and kind attitude you adopt when your mind wanders during meditation.
Good news! If you’ve decided to start a mindfulness practice, you’ve already taken the first step: intention. But before diving into the next phases, take some time to consider several things:
What are you hoping mindfulness will help you with? What would you like to change about your life? Are there specific situations you encounter on a regular basis that you think mindfulness could help you with?
Where would you like to practice? Alone at home, in a meditation group, or alongside a partner or friend? Walking meditation and writing meditation are other options to consider.
Formal vs. informal practice
Some people love formal sitting meditation, whereas others find more benefit from informal practices, for instance, by eating mindfully, or by giving others with their full attention during conversation. Look for an approach that suits you and feels good.
Beginning your practice
Decide when you want to practice and develop a consistent routine. For example, can you take a few quiet moments when you enjoy your morning coffee? Would you prefer to carve out some time late in the evening, before bed? Would you benefit from the calming influence of meditation mid-day or before eating lunch?
When you’re starting out, it’s best to start small with just a few minutes of practice a day. Similar to lifting weights, you will build up your strength over time and increase the length of your meditation sessions. To begin, find a 1 to 3-minute guided meditation—perhaps through an online video, podcast, app or try this brief guided meditation practice. Breath-based meditations or body scans are popular approaches to guided meditation.
Continue with the short meditations until you become comfortable and want to begin increasing the length of your sessions. Be sure to practice consistently, following the routine you decided on. It’s best to practice mindful meditation daily—or on most days—to reap the most benefits.
Be patient as you learn
Remember that mindfulness practice is a practice—something new that takes regular repetition to learn. Don’t judge yourself or your practice: developing new habits takes time and patience.
Be kind to yourself as you learn and let go of expectations about your practice. Some days your practice will feel very rewarding, and some days you will find that you are distracted and impatient. What is important is committing to regular practice and sticking to that routine. You can finish each meditation session by thanking yourself for making the commitment and taking the time to work on this new skill.
Keep it fun to help you stay motivated and remain consistent in your practice schedule. Mindfulness meditation requires discipline, but shouldn’t feel like another obligation or task on your to-do list. To keep it rewarding, you may want to chart your meditation sessions and set goals for regular practice by using a meditation, health or fitness app on your mobile phone or fitness tracker.
Social support from practicing in a meditation group or with a buddy can also be very motivating and help establish a regular routine. And participating in a class or workshop, whether online or in person, can both teach you how to practice mindful meditation and help you establish the habit.
SIGMA Mindfulness Coaching
Established in 1967, SIGMA has spent over 50 years developing and delivering science-based assessment products, and leadership coaching services. We bring simple, intuitive platforms and real-world applicability to our leadership suite of assessments, coaching, and mindfulness. Learn about our mindfulness workshops, retreats, and one-on-one executive mindfulness coaching, and ask us what mindfulness can do for you, your organization, and leaders.
[i] Shapiro, S.L., Carlson, L.E., Astin, J.A. & Freedman, B. (2006) Mechanisms of Mindfulness, Journal of Clinical Psychology 62(3), 373-386