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Use these mindfulness skills to boost your health and well-being

August 16, 2022 - 18 min read


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What is mindfulness?

How can the practice of mindfulness help you at work?

The 8 core skills of mindfulness

Apply mindfulness skills in your daily life

The therapeutic powers of mindfulness

Unlock your mindfulness coping skills

In 2013, Oprah Winfrey launched a mindfulness series with meditation guru Deepak Chopra. This unlikely pairing bridged the divide between spiritual leadership and American stardom — a testament to the popularity of mindfulness in recent years. 

And it’s more than just hype. Mindfulness skills are powerful mental health tools rooted in Buddhism and Eastern philosophy. Research shows that mindfulness can help reduce stress, treat anxiety, and combat depression.

Some psychologists have even worked it into their medical practices through Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (MBCT).

But you don’t have to wait for a prescription to practice mindfulness. There’s a wealth of information available online and in self-help books. There’s always something new to learn, and doing so can offer a reprieve from the stresses of everyday life.

Let’s begin by developing some basic mindfulness skills. These will set the foundation for your daily practice. Then, over time, you’ll see why people worldwide make mindfulness an integral part of their lives.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is about paying attention to your actions, surroundings, thoughts, and feelings. Then you can change what’s in your control.

On the surface, this seems like a simple concept. You already pay attention to things all the time. You cook meals, read the news, and complete your daily work tasks attentively. 

But when was the last time you noticed your heart rate? The tension in your lower back? Or your nervous foot-tapping under your desk? 

You might not have thought about it until now. While you were looking at other things, your brain was toiling away, causing all sorts of unintentional behaviors. You’re subconsciously multitasking all the time, which demands a lot of your brain. And chances are there’s much more underneath the surface.

It’s OK. Life gets in the way, and you have a long to-do list. That said, it’s important to check in with yourself frequently. Otherwise, you fail to notice what’s affecting your mental health and physical well-being.

What can mindfulness do for you?

When we spend so much of our lives on autopilot, it’s easy to lose sight of our inner selves. And doing so can have serious health consequences.

Let’s take chronic stress as an example. It’s a slow burn, with many sufferers hitting their breaking point before recognizing the issue.

Self-awareness and mindfulness activities won’t magically solve your stress. But it can make you aware of what’s stressing you, which will empower you to make positive changes in your life.

Here are some of the other benefits of mindfulness-based stress reduction:

  1. Improved quality of life
  2. Increased self-compassion
  3. Emotional regulation
  4. A positive state of mind
  5. Generosity toward others
  6. Better listening skills
  7. Improved self-management 
  8. Improved ability to cope with stress
  9. Reduced ruminating

You need to practice mindfulness regularly to see these benefits in your life. It might take a while for it to become a habit. But if you start with small goals, you’ll feel the benefits rather quickly.

Let BetterUp help you on your journey to mindfulness. We’re here to set goals with you and help you achieve them. We’ll cheer you on every step of the way.

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How can the practice of mindfulness help you at work?

After practicing mindfulness for a while, you might change how you approach things in your life. This can be especially helpful at work. With more mindfulness, you can:

  1. Improve your ability to focus on a task
  2. Be a better communicator
  3. Have better working memory
  4. Listen more intently to your colleagues
  5. Better adapt to adversity
  6. Improve your conflict resolution skills
  7. Develop your critical thinking

The 8 core skills of mindfulness

We can break down mindfulness into two categories of skills: “how skills” and “what skills.” Let’s take a look at both.

Mindfulness “what skills”

These skills refer to what mindfulness entails. It’s a to-do list for properly examining your inner self. Let’s take a look at what you should start with: 

  • Clarify your intentions. Mindfulness works best when you have a clear goal in mind. Be intentional about what you hope to achieve, learn, or transform about yourself. You might hope to be a better partner, more resilient, or more patient. Write down your goal and reaffirm it regularly.
  • Develop your meta-cognition. This means learning to pay attention to various parts of your body and identifying negative emotions and thoughts. It’s about using your “mind’s eye” to look inward and observe patterns. Over time, you can use this skill to break unconscious behaviors or negative thought patterns.
  • Strengthen your self-regulation. It’s important to be aware of your emotions to avoid being overwhelmed. Check-in with yourself frequently. One way to do this is by filling in the blank: “Right now, I am feeling [blank].” This will help settle your mind as you look inward and address it accordingly.
  • Stabilize your attention. Mindfulness requires discipline and focus. You may not be able to sit still for long at first. But like exercises, you can start with small goals and work up from there. Try meditating for five minutes each day, then gradually extend your sessions. This will help train your focus.

Mindfulness “how skills”

Mindfulness “how skills” describe how you should approach your meditation practice. These are less concrete than “what skills.” They’re about your state of mind as you explore your inner self.

They involve:

  • Being non-judgmental. Through your mindfulness, you might discover uncomfortable truths. Pay attention to them and accept that they exist — no more, no less. 
  • Taking one thing at a time. Mindfulness requires you to limit your distractions and focus only on one task. Depending on the type of meditation, that task will vary. Mindful breathing involves focusing only on your breath. Body scanning means paying attention to only physical sensations. 
  • Focusing on improvement. Staying focused and exploring your inner self is hard work. It’s normal for your mind to wander. You just need to bring your attention back to the task at hand. Every time you do, you’ll improve your mindfulness skills.
  • Be kind to yourself. Failure is a part of mindfulness. Treat yourself as you would a friend when it happens: offer comfort, support, and encourage yourself to try again.

Apply mindfulness skills in your daily life

Making mindfulness a habit will help you stay on track. Here’s how you can be mindful every day.

1. Set goals for yourself

Mindfulness is a muscle. And just like your physical health, you can set goals for your mindfulness skills.

Use the SMART method when doing this. And make sure to start small, then gradually stretch yourself with each mindfulness session.


2. Make it part of your routine

Carve out time in your schedule to practice mindfulness every day. You can do it in the morning, at night — just whenever you can do it consistently. Putting it in your calendar is a good way to keep yourself accountable.

3. Create a mindfulness space

In your home, designate an area solely for mindfulness practice. When you enter, it’ll help put you in the right headspace.

If you don’t have room for something permanent, find a way to easily convert an area when it’s time for a session. If you always use the same arrangement, it’ll have the same effect as something more permanent.

4. Pick a mindfulness technique that works for you

You might gravitate to some exercises more than others. Pick one that you enjoy and can do consistently. You can try:

  1. Sitting meditation. Sit upright, close your eyes, and focus on deep breathing.
  2. Body scanning. Pay attention to how your body feels.
  3. Journaling. Put your thoughts on a page and review them.
  4. Guided meditation. Use an app, podcast, or another person to direct your meditation.
  5. Mindful eating. Close your eyes and focus only on the taste of your food
  6. Walking meditation. Leave your electronics at home and go for a walk. Pay attention only to your surroundings.

The therapeutic powers of mindfulness

Increasingly, therapists are using mindfulness principles to address mental health disorders. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) seeks to help patients:

  • Identify, understand, and accept their feelings
  • Learn how to manage them
  • Make positive changes in their everyday life

Mental health professionals often use DBT skills to leverage the effects of mindfulness and address extreme depression, substance abuse disorders, or eating disorders. 

And, much like regular mindfulness, this treatment works best for people who are:

  • Committed to making a positive change in their lives
  • Ready to work hard in therapy
  • Willing to focus on the present and future rather than the past
  • Open to doing group sessions in addition to one-on-one therapy

If you think DBT could help you, try finding a mental health professional trained in this treatment method.

Mindfulness exercises from DBT

DBT is similar to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but it also uses group work and mindfulness exercises to enhance treatment.

Here are some exercises they might ask you to do that you can try at home:

  • 15-minute challenge. For this exercise, sit or lay down in a comfortable position. Close your eyes and let the tension in your body dissipate. Focus on your breathing, then your body, then on to your thoughts. After 15 minutes of non-judgmental mindfulness, you can stop. Set a timer to help you stay focused.
  • Mindfulness bell. Here, you’ll be asked to listen for a cue. When you hear it, focus on the sound until it fades away. This will help ground you in the present moment.
  • Focus on the center. This exercise requires you to focus on the center of a shifting color pattern. You can let your mind wander freely, noticing whatever comes your way. But by staring at the middle, you keep yourself in the present.
  • Leaf observation. This is arguably the simplest of the bunch. Find a leaf, and hold it in your hand. Give it your full attention for five minutes. Notice the colors, texture, and patterns. Observe how it moves with the breeze. This will help align your thoughts with the present moment.

Unlock your mindfulness coping skills

Mindfulness training requires time, patience, and practice. You have to be ready to open your heart to new experiences. 

It’s not always easy. Building new habits is tough, and you’ll inevitably fail once or twice. But that’s part of the process. Mindfulness skills aren’t just about completing the act. They’re about how you continue after making a mistake. This is the key to developing a mind that is both calm and resilient.

BetterUp can help you integrate your new skills at workWe can show you to be a better listener, develop your resilience, and forge better connections with your colleagues. Together, we can make your life better.

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Published August 16, 2022

Erin Eatough, PhD

Sr. Insights Manager

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