Medically reviewed by Mary Lucas, MSCIS, MPhil, RN
Last updated 10/22/2021
We’ve all been there: you have a hectic schedule, so you just rush through your day trying to cross as much off your to-do list as possible.
You’re so busy, you don’t even notice much around you — you’re just focused on what’s next.
But paying attention in the moment and being more present in your everyday life can have huge benefits. It’s a practice called mindfulness.
And there’s even some pretty interesting scientific data that says it may help your physical and mental health.
To help you learn more about it, we’ve created this guide.
As we mentioned before, mindfulness is all about living in the moment. The concept comes from Buddhist meditation, but it has grown into it’s very own thing.
There are really two key words to think about when it comes to understanding the concept of mindfulness: awareness and acceptance.
With the former, awareness, it’s all about staying aware in the moment of everything from physical sensations to your thoughts, and your surroundings.
The latter, acceptance, should be centered around being okay with whatever thoughts pop into your head and not judging them.
This idea of being fully aware but non-reactive is different from how most of us approach our day-to-day lives.
Often, we are so familiar with our surroundings, we may stop noticing them all together.
Many people are also in the habit of reacting quickly to thoughts that pop into their head, which can cause us to live from a limited perspective.
When you’re more aware of the world around you, you are better able to enjoy it. But what are the other benefits?
Before we fully dive in, you should know that most research that has been done is tied to mindful meditation (more on that soon!), which is a specific way to practice mindfulness.
Now, onto some of the benefits!
In a review of 47 different studies, researchers found that going through mindful meditation programs was effective at reducing stress and depression.
Mindfulness may also improve your immune response, which means it may help prevent you from getting sick. Yes, really.
Another study found that people who participated in an eight-week mindfulness training program had more flu antibodies than those who hadn’t after both groups got the flu vaccine.
One study from 2015 that involved participants between the ages of 55 and 75 found that mindful meditation could mitigate the cognitive decline associated with aging.
A study looked at people with prehypertension who were not receiving any treatment.
One group of people was assigned to participate in a mindful meditation program along with their drug treatment, while another group was taught progressive muscle relaxation along with their drug treatment.
Those who participated in mindfulness had significantly greater reductions in their systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Surprise, surprise. There’s also a link between mindfulness practice and sleep.
A small study of 54 people who were dealing with insomnia found that mindful meditation seemed to aid in their being able to sleep.
Specifically, that folks who practiced mindfulness strategies spent significantly less time awake at night, experienced lower ratings of pre-sleep arousal and logged drastically lower scores on the Insomnia Severity Index.
Most interesting is that at three- and six-month follow-ups, these reductions were sustained over time.
Now that you know that mindfulness is all about awareness and acceptance, it’s time to try to incorporate mindfulness into your everyday life.
You may need to try a few different things before figuring out what will work for you. Luckily, we have a number of suggestions.
Make it a point to acknowledge the little things in life.
For example, the next time you’re sipping a new beer, pay special attention to how it tastes. Is it extra hoppy? Are there any fruity notes you can pick up on?
Paying close attention can help you appreciate things more.
Being more in tune with your body is another way to practice mindfulness. Do a scan of how your body feels from the crown of your head to the tips of your toes.
Do you feel any tension in your shoulders? Take deep breaths until you notice it dissipates.
Notice the way your feet feel on the ground. Do you feel firmly rooted in place? Or are you wavering?
Paying attention to these details keeps your present in your body and helps you tune into how you feel.
Trying new things can force you into mindfulness.
For example, if you always take the same route to work, you probably go into autopilot the minute you start your commute.
So, try switching things up. Take a new route and you’ll be amazed by just how much you’re forced to pay attention to.
But this rule doesn’t just apply to switching up your routine. Trying new foods or buying clothes in a material you’ve never worn before triggers mindfulness, too.
In all likelihood, you’ve heard before how beneficial meditation can be. Well, mindful meditation can be particularly helpful.
A 2013 study on healthy subjects with no mood disorders found that 20 minutes of mindful meditation may decrease anxiety by reducing overall brain activity.
Here’s how you can try mindful meditation:
Find somewhere comfortable to sit — preferably on the floor or in a chair.
Breath in and out through your nose, slowly. Deep breathing can be very calming.
Focus on that breath as it enters and then leaves your body.
If other thoughts enter your mind, acknowledge them and then release them — returning your focus back to your breath.
In addition to this, you can try walking meditation. Find a serene pathway you can walk down. As you walk, tune into how your body feels as it walks and what’s around you.
To stay dedicated to it, it’s a good idea to try and set aside 10-20 minutes a day for some type of mindful meditation practice.
If you find yourself struggling to do it on your own, you can download a mindfulness app to help guide you.
The benefits of mindfulness are great. From helping you deal with anxiety and banishing negative thoughts to being good for your heart, there are a ton of positive things that come from mindfulness.
If you can incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily life, you’ll learn to appreciate all that it can do for you.
For some, this may mean setting aside time to do mindfulness meditations each morning, for others it could be about paying more attention to the thoughts that enter your brain.
Whatever it is, it’s worth giving a few things a try and seeing what fits into your life the best.