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Getting Started with Mindfulness

Are you interested in starting a mindfulness program for yourself? If so, you're on the right track--research has shown that mindfulness helps to reduce rumination, decrease stress, improve memory, decrease emotional reactivity and increase relationship satisfaction. And those are just the mental health benefits! There is also plenty of research supporting the important impact mindfulness can have in other areas of your health journey.

So if you're ready, let's get started with a simple definition of what mindfulness really is. Mindfulness is a moment-to-moment awareness of one's experience without judgment. Most of the research that supported the effects above were done on mindfulness meditation, which is self-regulation practices that focus on training attention and awareness in order to bring mental processes under greater voluntary control and thereby foster general mental well-being and development and/or specific capacities such as calmness, clarity and concentration (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).

Here are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate mindfulness into my everyday life:

1. At the beginning and end of every day, spend a few minutes in silence with the simple question: "What's it like to be me right now?" The key is to notice how you're feeling without judgement. If you notice yourself judging or trying to change your current state, just notice that and bring your attention back to how you're feeling in the moment. It's normal to have your mind float off or become judgmental every once in a while. Just be kind to yourself with a redirect back to the question at hand--what are you feeling? What is it like to be you in this moment?

2. Spend a few minutes noticing all of your senses. What can you feel on your skin? (Your clothes, the temperature of the room) What can you hear? (Right now I can hear birds chirping outside my window and a sound machine that sits outside my office door). What can you see? Lead yourself through all your senses and notice (again, without judgment!) what each of your senses is taking in at the moment.

3. Guided meditations. Guided meditations are a great place to start if the self-led stuff is proving to be too challenging. There are lots of free and paid options online, so you can search to find what works best for you. UCLA has a meditation research department that has compiled some good options that you can explore here.

Do you have a favorite meditation practice? I'd love to hear what's working for you in the comments! If you'd like to explore mindfulness in therapy, give me a call! I love working with mindfulness in the therapy room out of my practice in Austin.

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