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How to practice mindfulness and find peace from within

August 26, 2022 - 16 min read

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What is mindfulness?

The benefits of mindfulness

Mindfulness and emotions

General tips for your meditation practice

How to practice mindfulness throughout the day

How to practice mindfulness for anxiety

How to practice mindfulness at work

Your mindfulness skills in action

The road ahead

In the world of self-help and wellness, you’ve surely heard of mindfulness. The Internet is rife with book recommendations and blog posts, each offering new perspectives on this practice. 

And it’s no wonder you’re curious about it. Research shows that it can reduce your stress, help you cope with anxiety, increase your focus, and improve your working memory

Mindfulness requires time, patience, and discipline — all of which can be difficult to find.

But there are several ways to practice mindfulness, so we’re sure you can find what’s best for you and your goals.

If you don’t know where to start, it’s OK. We’ve got you covered. Here’s our beginner’s guide on how to practice mindfulness.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and emotions without judgment. It’s also about accepting yourself, living in the present moment, and letting of past mistakes and current worries.

This practice has gone through many iterations throughout history, finding a place in cultures worldwide. You might associate it with Eastern countries like India, Chinese, and Japan. Some Indian Buddhist texts about mindfulness date back to a few hundred years B.C. And a little further East, the Chinese Daoist philosopher Daozi wrote about it as early as 500 B.C.  

But we can also find the concept in the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Prayer, for example, is one way Christians apply mindfulness to everyday life.

These days, mindfulness transcends cultural lines and is seen as a secular practice. 

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The benefits of mindfulness

Its popularity is a testament to its many benefits for your mental health and wellbeing. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), mindfulness can:

1. Reduce your stress. Mindfulness-based stress reduction can help you prevent burnout.

2. Help you stop ruminating. When you become aware of negative thought patterns, you can take steps to end them.

3. Improve your working memory. Working memory helps you temporarily remember information essential to your current task. Improving this area will make you more effective.

4. Give your more cognitive flexibility. You’ll be less reactive, more open to new information, and more capable of shifting your attention between tasks.

5. Help you focus. When your mind wanders, you become susceptible to distractions like social media. Mindfulness pulls you off of autopilot and lets you control your attention.

6. Make you want to help people. Mindfulness can make you more empathetic toward other people’s emotions and struggles.

7. Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Many therapists use mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) to help manage their patients’ depressive symptoms.

If you need help getting started, BetterUp is here. Our coaches can help you build healthy habits, conduct Inner Work®, and develop your self-awareness to supercharge your mindfulness practice. 

Mindfulness and emotions

Research also suggests that mindfulness can help you regulate your emotions. It accomplishes this by:

  • Reducing the intensity of distress
  • Helping you be more resilient
  • Fighting negative emotions and self-talk
  • Directing you toward your goals

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General tips for your meditation practice

Your mindfulness exercises will vary depending on your goals and desires. But some advice applies to all versions of this practice. Here’s what you need to know to practice mindfulness and some general tips to keep in mind:

1. Mindfulness is nothing without intention

You have to choose to be disciplined, self-aware, and mindful. You’ll inevitably struggle, so commitment is necessary if you truly want to improve.

2. You have to be clear about what you want

Do you want to show more gratitude, be more in tune with your needs, reduce your anxiety, or relate better to others?

The practice of mindfulness can do all of these things. You have to figure out what purpose it serves in your life. This improves the likelihood that you’ll commit.

3. Set goals for yourself

You won’t be able to meditate for 40 minutes on your first day, and that’s OK! Start small and work from there. Even five minutes is a good start.

How to practice mindfulness throughout the day

It’s crucial to make mindfulness a daily practice to see the benefits. Creating new habits is difficult, so here’s how to practice mindfulness in daily life.

1. Make it part of your daily routine

Find a regular time to do your mindfulness training. There are no rules here. You can do it in the morning, at night, or during your lunch break. It doesn’t matter, as long as you pick a schedule and stick to it. Add it to your daily to-do list so that you have to check it off each day.

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2. Find a technique that works for you

There are many ways to practice mindfulness. Some techniques might suit you better than others. Here are some methods you can try:

  • Sitting meditation. This involves sitting upright, paying attention to your breath, and trying to settle your mind.
  • Body scanning. Pay attention to how your body feels. Focus on physical sensations like the tingle in your toes, that slight pain in your back, or the wind against your skin. This will help connect you to your body and ground you in the present.
  • Journaling. When you write your thoughts on a page, you can re-examine them from a distance. This can help you identify thought patterns and behaviors that are working against you.
  • Guided meditation. Many apps, videos, and podcasts can guide you through a meditation session.
  • Walking meditation. Going out for a walk is a great way to clear your head and live in the moment.
  • Mindful eating. This involves focusing your attention on the taste of your food. This can be distracting enough to help you relax and improves your eating experience.

3. Create a dedicated mindfulness space

Find a quiet place in your home specifically for mindfulness. Whenever you enter, you also enter the right headspace for your practice.

If you don’t have room for something permanent, make sure you can easily convert an area when it’s time to practice. It'll have the same effect as long as you always use the same arrangement.

4. Be kind to yourself

Mindfulness meditation can reveal some uncomfortable truths. It takes bravery to tackle them head-on.

When you do, treat yourself like you would a friend. Remember that you’re more than your mistakes, and your flaws don’t define you.

You’re worthy of love, so start by loving and accepting yourself.

How to practice mindfulness for anxiety

You might find it scary to sit with your thoughts if you suffer from anxiety. 

While meditation can’t replace formal treatment, it can help you quiet your mind. It creates distance between you and your thoughts to limit their effect. You can also ground yourself in times of distress and change your response to stressful situations. You might even find a way to see your stress positively.

Here are some tips for meditating with anxiety.

1. Hold your thoughts without judgment

Much anxiety is rooted in fear and worry about the future. Try to name these feelings, but avoid interpreting them. You can acknowledge their existence without giving them power over you.

2. Focus on your breathing and exhalation

Fast breathing, an increased heart rate, and the release of stress hormones are evolutionary responses to danger. But if you’re not actually under physical threat, this response can interrupt your daily life. When you do breathing exercises, you remind your brain that it’s not in danger to calm your body and mind.

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How to practice mindfulness at work

You might think you're too busy to be mindful when you're working. But there are small things you can do to stay in the present:

  • Work on one task at a time. Devoting your full attention to a single task will help you stay focused.
  • Notice when you’re rushing. Mistakes happen when you move too fast.
  • Set an alarm to check in with yourself. Even a few deep breaths are better than nothing.
  • Be humble. Acknowledge your weaknesses and look for what others can teach you.
  • Focus on what you can control. There’s no use stressing over what you can’t change.
  • Develop a growth mindset. There’s always room for improvement. Keep looking for ways to grow as a person.
  • Improve your listening skills. Pay attention when people are talking. Try to stay in the present and hear the meaning behind their words.

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Your mindfulness skills in action

As you develop your self-awareness, you’ll notice some changes in your life. You might approach situations differently than you did before.

It all starts by acknowledging your thoughts, behaviors, and patterns. Then you can make conscious decisions about how to act on them.

Here are some examples.

  • You’re working on a task, and an employee alerts you to a problem. Instead of feeling annoyed at the interruption, you calmly turn your attention and listen closely.
  • Your friend is going through a bad breakup, so you listen to them as they talk it out. You ask meaningful questions based on your own learnings, but you don’t automatically compare everything they’re saying to your experience. 
  • After two hours of working, your focus wanes. Instead of powering through, you take a 10-minute break and resume with fresh eyes.
  • Someone gave you the feedback you didn’t like. Instead of getting defensive, you accept and learn from their advice.
  • A prospective employer rejected your job application. Instead of lashing out, you politely ask for feedback from the interviewer.

The road ahead

Mindfulness isn’t easy. Like going to the gym, it takes discipline to keep it up. 

But there’s a reason it’s popular. When done properly, it will change your life for the better. The more you meditate, the more you will become self-aware and break toxic patterns. You’ll also build a resilient mindset and be open to new experiences.

When you get into a groove, there’s no telling what you can do.

Now that you’re familiar with how to practice mindfulness, don’t stop here. The road to self-improvement never ends, and you can continue your journey with BetterUp. Our coaches will help you develop your mental fitness, connect with your inner self, and improve your life. 

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Published August 26, 2022

Maggie Wooll

Managing Editor

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