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Mindfulness As A Powerful Tool To Reduce Stress


"You can practice mindfulness anytime, anywhere, and with anyone by showing up and being fully engaged in the here and now."     

--Deepak Chopra, M.D.

Additionally, many athletes, musicians, artists, entrepreneurs, organizational leaders, and parents find that paying attention to our experience in the moment improves their performance, creativity, relationship quality, focus, and ability to navigate challenging emotions and circumstances. But it does take practice, so be patient and curious about what arises. 

Find out more about mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention purposefully to the present moment, to observe the moment without judgment. It can be practiced informally with specific techniques at various moments throughout the day, and it also can be used formally through certain types of meditation. Through mindfulness, we can notice our negative emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations as they occur, acknowledge them, examine them with curiosity, name and describe them without judgment, and then let them go. Simply paying attention to our experience, without judgment, creates space for it which in turn allows for a choice in how we respond to it.

What does the research say about the benefits of mindfulness?

"Until you have some capacity to be mindful, you have no choice but to be lost in every next thought that arises."

--Sam Harris, Ph.D.

If you are someone who can't quite get behind the idea of mindfulness, know that any activity (such as baking or knitting or walking) that is quiet and peaceful, where you can take a few deep breaths and be calmly focused, is also of great benefit.

Whether you are new to mindfulness or are more experienced, try out any of the following tools a few times, continue to practice them, see how it feels and whether it can positively and powerfully impact your life. For some people, it's a game-changer. 

Mindful Breathing Exercise: Conscious BreathinG (15 seconds)


This is a simple mindful breathing exercise -- also called 4-4-4-4 -- that psychotherapist and resilience expert Linda Graham describes as helping regulate the nervous system from a state of heightened arousal into a state that is calm and relaxed, and also engaged and alert: "The focused attention on the counting requires your higher brain to stay online, and keeping your higher brain online when you’re startled is key to being able to discern and choose what action to take."


"To practice, inhale to a count of four, hold the breath for a count of four, exhale to a count of four, and hold out the breath for a count of four.

Mindful Breathing Exercise: Box Breathing (1 minute)

Image by Allie

Psychotherapist Linda Graham recommends the Box Breathing Exercise in which we use the breath as a way to practice paying attention mindfully in the present moment: "When you are doing 'nothing' but breathing and paying attention to your breathing, you are doing 'something' helpful in calming your nervous system and training your nervous system to come to calm. You are learning to choose to do something that can reliably regulate your nervous system."

"Breathe naturally, gently, for five to 10 breaths. As you begin to breathe more calmly, slowly, gently, and deeply... mindfully pay attention to the sensations of breathing in (cool air through the nostrils or throat, the gentle expansion of the belly and chest) and breathing out with a longer exhale (warmer air flowing out, the relaxation of the belly and chest). Especially as you begin this practice, pause and repeat many times throughout the day. 

Pay Mindful Attention to Your Body Sensations

(5 minutes)

Enjoying Outdoor

Therapist Beverly Engel offers this Beginning Mindfulness Practice to help us notice and be aware of the present moment:

"This is a very non-threatening beginning exercise in mindfulness. You can’t do it wrong, so don’t worry about “getting it right.” 

  • "Sit comfortably and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and begin to notice what it feels like to be in your body. Just be aware of and be with the physical sensations in your body as they come and go.

  • You need not pay attention to any particular sensation but if you do notice a feeling or sensation, just feel it and let it go. Perhaps you feel a warmth in your hands or a tightness in your shoulders. If it is a pleasant sensation, feel it and let it go. If it is an unpleasant one, also feel it and let it go. Just notice whatever feelings or sensations arise. Take your time.

  • After about five minutes, gently open your eyes. You may or may not notice that you are more in the present or more connected to your body. The point of this beginning practice is to help you become familiar with the practice of mindfulness."

Observe Your Thoughts (5 minutes)

Creative Thoughts

Wellness Coach Elizabeth Scott recommends the following Observing and Labeling your Thoughts Exercise to practice mindful observation of our thoughts:

"Labeling your thoughts does two things: it raises your awareness of the kinds of things you think about, which is especially helpful if you are trying to change your habitual thought patterns to become more empowering and optimistic. It also allows your mind to engage somewhat, which can be helpful for beginners who are not used to simply observing their thoughts for long periods of time. It gives your mind something to do while still maintaining detachment. There are several different ways that you can label your thoughts:

  • Useful / Not Useful: You can simply label whether a thought is constructive or not. This is a very simple distinction that can cover virtually all thoughts. Just label them “useful” or “not useful,” and let them go.

  • Types of Thoughts: You can label your thoughts with greater depth by classifying them according to their function. Thoughts that can be labeled as “judgment,” “planning,” “fear,” and “remembering,” for example, may drift into your awareness. Label them, and let them go.

  • Physical Sensations: Another type of awareness that may drift in is body awareness—you may notice and focus on what you see or feel. Simply label things what they are as sensations: “hard,” “warm,” “itchy.” Acknowledge them and let them go.


There are other ways in which you can label your thoughts, but this provides you with a starting place. As you practice, you may find methods that work better, one of the above techniques may become a favorite, or you can rotate. Whatever works for you is the “right” way. Just remember that regular meditation builds resilience toward stress, so it's worth trying, and sticking with until you find a style that works for you. Get started, and see what benefits this practice brings."

Mindfulness For Kids

Image by Benjamin Manley

A Mindful Minute: How to Observe a Train of Anxious Thoughts


This mindfulness exercise is useful for children of all ages (and adults too) to imagine that stressful thoughts are like trains that come and go, and we can stand on the platform and watch them pass by. 

Find out more about mindfulness

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