Mindful awareness offers a dose of stress relief
Most of the time, our thoughts are focused on the past and the future rather than on the present. And while technology may seem to make life easier, it also increases the demands on our time and attention. As a result, we are more stressed than ever before.
While there is no simple fix for stress, many adults find that meditation helps relieve the strain. In fact, 20 million Americans practice some form of meditation, and that number is rising.
Mindful awareness is one type of meditation that encourages us to pay attention to the present. Many people who practice mindfulness find that just stopping to connect with their inner lives and the current moment can bring a sense of peace, calm and renewed attention to their day.
How does mindful awareness work?
You can practice mindful awareness through simple meditation. It requires no special gear, gym membership, clothing or gadgets – just you and a (mostly) quiet place. Here are some ways you can practice mindfulness:
- Find a quiet place and time in your daily life. To truly reap the health benefits of mindfulness, make it part of your routine, instead of a once-in-a-while exercise.
- Get comfortable wherever you are.
- Focus. Concentrate on your breathing. Try to notice the breath in your stomach, chest and nose.
- Redirect. When your attention starts to wander, redirect it back to the sensations of breathing.
- Start small. Begin with five minutes of meditation a day and gradually increase that amount over time.
Benefits of mindful awareness
It’s not just about producing a sense of calm — though that is an important element. Mindfulness can also promote better overall health by reducing stress, anxiety, depression and chronic physical pain. It also can improve attention, concentration, self-awareness and positive emotions. In addition, some studies suggest meditation can even help lower blood pressure and boost the immune system.
Even if you don’t consider yourself the meditating type, try it for a few minutes every day. You may be surprised at the positive effect it has on your sense of happiness and well-being. Some have reported that mindfulness has enhanced their lives in numerous ways, including improving sleep, relationships with partners and children, reactions to stressful situations and patience.
Ways to try mindful awareness
At UCLA, our Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) helps people increase their attention and focus on present experiences. MARC offers:
- Classes, workshops, retreats and online resources to teach mindfulness practices
- A six-week program called Mindful Awareness Practices (MAPs) that is available to the public
- Free drop-in meditation classes at the Hammer Museum, UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica and on the UCLA campus
For more information about upcoming events as well as video and audio meditation downloads, please visit the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center.