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Practice mindfulness

Photo of a fig

If you're like most people, you spend a lot of time on auto pilot, and you're thinking about the past or anticipating the future. Meanwhile, the present slips by, barely noticed.

Practicing mindfulness can help you relax, but it's more than a relaxation technique — it's an attitude toward living.

When you're mindful, you keep your attention in the present, so you're totally absorbed in what you're doing and fully appreciate that moment. Each moment can feel timeless and drain away your tensions, fears, and pressures about time.

This exhilarating experience of timelessness is sometimes called a flow state, it can make you feel truly alive, positive, and productive.

Go with the flow

Your thoughts are like waves on the ocean. You can find relief from constant turbulence when you learn to observe and ride the waves.

  1. Sit comfortably, with your back, neck, and head straight but not stiff.
  2. Concentrate on one thing, for example, your breathing. Don't try to control or change your breathing. Just observe it as it is.
  3. When your mind wanders off, observe where it goes. Don't analyze or judge. Does it go to a memory, a worry, an ache, or a feeling?
  4. Using your breathing as an anchor, gently keep returning your attention to your breathing for 5 minutes. When you're ready, try being mindful for 10, 20, or 30 minutes.

Observing and accepting life as it is can help you become calmer, more confident, and better able to cope with what comes along.

Live in the moment, anytime

You can apply mindfulness to anything: eating, working, talking, running errands, or playing with your children. How? Break the rushing habit, so you can observe what you're doing.

Woman lying in the grassTake the long way. Try driving 5 to 10 miles per hour slower, or choose the longest grocery checkout line, smile, and practice waiting patiently.

Take a break from texting and repeatedly checking emails and messages.

Unplug for an evening. Spend an evening without watching television, playing video games, surfing the Web, or texting. Play a board game, take a walk, read a book or sit outside.

Allow yourself time to shift gears. Sit in the car for a few minutes. Take a moment of silence before eating. Let the phone ring several times before answering it. Let a few minutes pass before answering texts.

Schedule some protected, free time. And then do whatever your feel like doing, even if that's nothing at all.

Get your daily dose of pleasure. Enjoying a hot bath with a scented candle lit or listening to the rain falling can boost your mood and health.

Source: Adapted with permission from the Healthy Mind, Healthy Body Handbook (as published under the title Mind & Body Health Handbook), David Sobel, MD, and Robert Ornstein, PhD, 1996

Reviewed by: Andrew Bertagnolli, PhD and Craig Robbins, MD, July 2013
Additional Kaiser Permanente reviewers

© 2013 Kaiser Permanente