Mindfulness is the process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment. It can be developed through the practice of meditation and other similar exercises.
Studies have shown that stress and worry contribute to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, and that mindfulness-based practices are effective in the reduction of both stress and worry.
There are several meditation exercises designed to develop mindfulness. One method is to sit on a straight-backed chair or sit cross-legged on the floor or a cushion, close your eyes and use the rhythm of breathing to promote mindfulness, by bringing attention to either the sensations of the breath entering and leaving the nostrils, or to the movement of the abdomen when breathing in and out. In this meditation practice, do not try to control your breathing, but try to simply be aware of the natural breathing process/rhythm. When engaged in this practice, the mind will often run off to other thoughts and associations, and if this happens, simply notice that the mind has wandered, and in an accepting, non-judgmental way, return to focusing on the breath.
Other meditation exercises to develop mindfulness include body-scan meditation where attention is directed at various areas of the body, noting body sensations that happen in the present moment. Engaging in yoga practices, while attending to movements and body sensations, as well as walking meditation are other methods of developing mindfulness. You can also focus on sounds, sensations, thoughts, feelings and actions that happen in the present.
Meditators are recommended to start with short periods of 10 minutes or so of meditation practice per day. Through regular practice it becomes easier to keep your attention focused on your breathing for longer periods.
As a starting point you might like to try the sample exercises available from the menu at right.