Mindfulness: What. How. And The Difference 5 Minutes a Day Will Make

Mindfulness: What. How. And Why We Should All Find the 5 Minutes a Day

What mindfulness can do is remarkable. Once the domain of Buddhist monks or the ‘alternative’, mindfulness has made its way into modern medicine and modern life, and the world is taking notice.

You don’t need anything special to start and you don’t need a lot of time. Five minutes a day is enough to make a difference. There’s no chanting or knotted poses, unless you want to, then go for it. For those who think it’s all a bit too offbeat, it’s basically sitting, breathing and observing – nothing offbeat about that.

Mindfulness: What Is It?

Mindfulness is the practice of observing thoughts, feelings and sensations with the indifference of an objective bystander.

The need to analyse, change or judge is sidelined which can be easier said than done.  The reality is that our attention very easily drawn away from the present. We often worry about what happened yesterday, what’s happening tomorrow, whether the iron has been left on or what’s for dinner. It’s this tendency to be drawn into the past or the future that lies at the core of so many disorders.

What’s All the Fuss About?

The changes that stem from mindfulness are not just because people relax. Mindfulness has been found to cause measurable physical changes in the body and the brain. Wait. What? Yep. By practicing mindfulness – five minutes a day is enough to make a difference – you can actually change your brain. 

In the first study of its kind, researchers at Harvard have established scientific proof that meditation can change the brain’s gray matter.

After 8 weeks of practicing mindfulness exercises for an an average of 27 minutes per day, MRI scans of participants showed that mindfulness:

  • stimulated a significant increase in the density of gray matter in the hippocampus, important for learning and memory;
  • increased the density of gray matter in other neural structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection;
  • decreased the density of gray matter in the amygdala – the part of the brain associated with anxiety and stress.

According to Harvard, mindfulness also:

  • relieves stress;
  • relieves depression;
  • relieves anxiety;
  • lowers blood pressure;
  • improve chronic pain
  • improve sleep;
  • improves capacity to deal with stress;
  • improves ability to form deeper connections with others.

According to the University of Massachusetts Medical School Center for Mindfulness, mindfulness can also help to:

  • improve the quality of life for patients with cancer;
  • improve the experience of various conditions and illnesses such as gastrointestinal disorders, HIV, and fibromyalgia;
  • alleviate asthma; 
  • alleviate hot flashes.

Mindfulness has also been found to boost immune function.

Sounds Brilliant. I’m In. So How Do I Do It?

Anyone can practice mindfulness but it might take a bit of practice. At first you might find it hard to stop your mind from wandering. That’s okay and it’s completely normal. It’s what minds do and they’ve been doing it for a while.

When you give your mind the opportunity to unwind – it’s going to unwind. There will be thoughts. feelings and things you didn’t even know were there. If it gets a bit much, your mind will go for a wander. Just bring it gently back to the moment – observe what you’re feeling and thinking – and don’t judge. Let it be. It’s all part of it and you’ll notice that the more you practice, the more you’ll be able to stay in the moment.

Now for how. Ready? Here we go:

  1. You can practice mindfulness anywhere but if you can, find somewhere quiet and uncluttered.
  2. It’s helpful to establish the duration at the beginning so you don’t get distracted thinking about when you should stop. Use a timer if you can (I use the one on my phone), but set the alarm to be something gentle – nothing too jarring.
  3. In the beginning, try for five or ten minutes. Eventually you can extend this to longer – 20 minutes perhaps eventually right up to an hour.  If you can, try for once in the morning and once again at night. If you’re busy, don’t worry, anything you can do will make a difference so don’t get too weighed down about how much time you ‘should’ be taking. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you do something.
  4. How you position yourself is up to you. The main thing is that you are supported, balanced and comfortable – but not too comfortable – you don’t want to fall asleep. Try sitting in a chair with your feet on the floor, kneeling, or sitting with loosely crossed your legs – up to you.
  5. Close your eyes and pay attention to your breath. Notice the sensation of the air and follow it as it goes in and out of your body. When your mind strays, come back to this point. Observe your thoughts, feelings or sensations. Just notice. You don’t have to do anything with it. Undoubtedly your mind will wander to something other than the present moment – what’s for dinner, the deadline, or maybe the conversation from yesterday. When that happens, gently come back to your breathing. Don’t judge, analyse or try to change anything. Just come back to the moment.

With mindfulness, the more you practice the easier it will get. It’s a bit like cleaning out a wardrobe. It might get messier before you get to the calm. There’ll be things unwinding that you knew about and bits and pieces you didn’t know were there. That’s the way it’s meant to happen. Just notice them and let them go. Then come back. And enjoy. 

44 Comments

Sarah

Thank you for this article! I am a 19 year old girl with issues that can be traced back to my father. I moved out at 18, fresh out of high school, to get away from the toxic behaviors he brought. I was anxious and depressed for a long time, thinking that something was just wrong with me. After moving out, I realize the anxiety and pressure that was put on me was not my fault and I can be normal. I have grown up significantly (sooner than I needed to) and have grown out of my anxious life.However, being young with parents still together makes the cut from my father particularly hard. There are times where I will see him act not so terrible and second guess cutting him out of my life. This article was shared by one of my Facebook friends and I bookmarked it after reading it. I still come to tears sometimes after thinking about my father and our relationship, but articles like this help me realize how OK I will be when it has ceased.

Reply
Julie kent

Way being mindful has help me, I used to drive on autopilot, and was a poor driver, I am now far more aware of what I’m doing and I am a calmer driver. My memory has improved, my mood has evened out, rather than hi peaks and low troughs. Dealing with the public, I am less judgemental about customers, and because I’m happier, I’m finding people are nicer to me.
My advice is practice, it gets easier and the benefits are genuine.

Reply
Kaizer

For someone who has been on the fringes of meditation (the very outer fringes) this article has helped me understand what it really is all about and more importantly how simple it is. Thanks you

Reply
a j marr

here is a new interpretation of mindfulness you may find of interest

A New Interpretation of Mindfulness and a Simple Proof

Arguably the most influential non-religious movement to advance personal happiness and satisfaction in present times is the variant of meditation called ‘mindfulness’. Simply defined, mindfulness represents continuous non-judgmental awareness. But the converse of non-judgment, namely making judgments, may entail negative outcomes (perseverative judgments as represented by rumination, worry, or distraction) or positive ones (non-perseverative judgments on what to have for dinner or what route to take on the way home). Perseverative cognition is uniquely correlated with stress, anxiety, and depression, but non-perseverative thought (as well as thinking of nothing at all) is correlated with relaxation, positive affect, and feelings of happiness. Thus it may be concluded that the definition of mindfulness over-prescribes the type of cognitive operations that need to be curtailed in order to attain positive emotional outcomes. It follows that the definition of mindfulness must be attenuated to represent the avoidance of perseverative judgments alone. By no means does this invalidate mindfulness, rather it merely determines the type of judgments we should be mindful about, and allows one to be easily mindful all of the time rather than from time to time that is the practical result of avoiding all judgment, and significantly enhances the argument for its practice.

This definition of mindfulness complements the ‘perseverative cognition hypothesis’ which associates the debilitating aspect of stress with perseverative cognition alone. As advanced by the psychologists G. Brosschot and JF Thayer, “The perseverative cognition hypothesis holds that stressful events cannot affect people’s health, unless they think repetitively or continuously (that is, ‘perseverate cognitively’) about these stressful events. Stressful events themselves are often too short, as are the physiological responses to them. Therefore, the physiological responses during these stressors are unlikely to cause bodily harm. More importantly, many stressful events are merely worried about, or feared in the future, while they often do not happen or do not have the feared consequences. Nevertheless, the body reacts with prolonged physiological responses to continuous thoughts (perseverative cognition) about these stressors. Therefore, it is the perseverative cognition, and not the stressors that can eventually lead to disease. In scientific terms, it is said that perseverative cognition is a mediator of the detrimental effects of stress on one’s health.”

How Meditation Elicits Profound Relaxation

Meditative procedures work so distinctively well to counteract stress because they uniquely require the consistent avoidance of perseverative thought for a significant and continuous period of time, and you need to consistently avoid distractive, worrisome or ruminative thoughts for at least an hour for your muscles to fully relax. In other words, full or profound relaxation takes time. When your muscles do completely relax, you will feel a sense of pleasure or euphoria due to the release of endogenous opioids in the brain that is concomitant with profound relaxation. (Citation)

Since distraction is the preeminent cause of neuro-muscular activation or tension, it’s easy to prove this point. Simply avoid all distraction for a timed hour, and see if you can do that for two or three consistent hours a day, and merely record your progress over a few days. You will note that you will feel totally and pleasurably relaxed, a feeling that will extend into your otherwise stress filled day.

And the good thing is that you will be fully rested and have a natural ‘high’, and will not have to take a course on mindfulness, or meditation, or even for that matter read the link to the book that follows! It’s that simple.

Reply
Anne

Very useful information, I am ready to give it a try. Anything that can assist me now, I am willing. So much of what I have read about anxiety and IBS relates to me.
Thanks.

Reply
Sue F

Karen, I’ve just come across this article while reading your article on anxiety. I am sitting in my lounge room having a bit of a practice. There is a lovely breeze blowing and it is catching the wind chimes from the neighbour’s verandah. What a lovely way to spend a few minutes.

Reply
Kylie

Hi….I now live in Thailand and I spent 12 months living in a mindful community…..I loved it! Mindfulness has taught me to be less reactive in emotional situations……well most of the time! lol Thanks for sharing this great article.

Reply
Danielle Truini

Karen… Well Done. “Mindfulness” can be a difficult concept to put into words. I’ve seen it presented in a number of ways. You, however nailed it! Your explanation captured the essence of the practice, all while maintaining a simple and thorough explanation. You left no questions unanswered and even managed to entice the reader to give it a try.

Reply
Mike

This is a great article – I have a child who is now a freshman in college and one who is in first grade. both experience anxiety in their own ways. I have always told them “you’ll be ok”, “nothing to worry about” etc. My older daughter has found over the last 2-3 years that sitting in the presence of Jesus in the form of adoration and simply being quiet (mindfulness with a purpose) has immensely helped reduce anxiety, stress, & depression. No doubt some will see this post and scoff. I challenge those to simply give it an honest try and see if it makes a difference in his / her life.

Reply
Cathy Egan

I am a mature woman, and have a 42yr old daughter who is rebuilding her life, and a nearly 40yr old son who has been depressed for nearly 20 years. Son has been made redundant, and is soon to lose his present accommodation. I have recently been meditating for 20 minutes every day, and using being in the moment when either of my children are feeling at crisis point. I have been able to support them in loving personal ways, and seen them develop strengths they were unaware of. Instead of giving up when my son feels at rock bottom he is using this difficult time as an opportunity to change and grow. Instead of being stressed and worried, because I am meditating, I can support from a place of calm, and hopefully love. Love this site.

Reply
Hey Sigmund

Thank you Cathy! I’m so pleased that you have been able to find a way to move in strength through difficult times. I really know how hard it is watching people you love go through pain and loss – when it’s your children it can feel as though it wouldn’t hurt more if it was happening to you. It sounds as though this is a rebuilding time for both of them, but know that tough times don’t stay tough forever. You sound like a wonderful support. Much love and strength to you and your family.

Reply
nishtha

I like this article, I m a teenager & I do practice mindfulness.This article gives me more incentive 2 practice mindfulness meditation.

Reply
Paul

I am fighting depression, with anxiety present a great deal of the time. Doing something about it, researching tools to address it has helped a great deal as has heysigmund.com
Thank you so much, I really appreciate it.

Reply
betty

I am a kindergarten teacher who has recently had a string of extraordinary bad events. I am now left suffering from severe anxiety and are struggling to do anything normal at all. I am going to try mindfulness tonight and please can you pray that this could be the way out of my nightmare. I just want my life back

Reply
heysigmund

You will be in my thoughts tonight. Mindfulness does take time, so keep with it. If your anxiety is becoming debilitating, counselling might be worth a try. Anxiety is something that is very responsive to intervention. Anything you can do at home is also important. I’m so pleased that you’re trying the mindfulness but be sure to stay with it. I hope you find a way out of this too. Sending you my very best wishes.

Reply
Maree Smith

HeySigmund, I am so glad that I stumbled on to this article about anxiety. I have been a very strong and independent woman all of my life, but at 56 and many many years of difficult situations and heartache I have now found myself in the anxiety club along with my husband who has always suffered anxiety from childhood. Your article has helped immensely. Keep up the great work. I’m sure you help many more people than you realise. xx

Reply
laurie bernhard

I’m a school psychologist and sent your anxiety piece to a number of colleagues. One passed on the website/app for smilingmind.com.au which has a free mindfulness program which is for children and adults. I’ve now used it with two school populations (following an overview of your anxiety article). Looking forward to seeing how this goes.
Thanks for what you provide!

Reply
Anne

I’ve always found the idea of meditation a bit daunting because it somehow feels like you need years of training to do it properly! But the way you’ve described mindfulness makes it seem so much more approachable… and really it’s the same thing isn’t it?
I struggle with anxiety and have learnt about the benefits of mindfulness but your summary of why and how is the best I’ve read. Thank-you!

Reply
heysigmund

You’re welcome, and yes – mindfulness is just a form of meditation. Do you know, I used to think the same thing as you about meditation. Then I found mindfulness and I love it. It takes a bit of practice though so stick with it – it will be worth it!

Reply
Karen Dille

Thankyou so much for your article on mindfulness. I’m forever thinking to far ahead or thinking about the past. I will certainly use your mindfulness techniques.

Reply
heysigmund

You’re welcome! I’m so pleased you’re going to try the techniques. Stay with them – they might take some practice – but from someone who, like you, spends too much time thinking in the future or the past, I can tell you they really work. Would love to hear how you go.

Reply
Wayne

Ok sounds great but what are the thoughts you are talking about noticing. Meaning the difference between the ones we are supposed to allow ourselves to think of and then the ones that we are supposed to get back to our breathing. I am confused on this. Please explain. I have a mind that constantly wonders and jumps all around thinking of so many things all at the same time.

Reply
heysigmund

It can be a little bit confusing I know. The idea is to stay completely in the present. So just notice what’s happening to you in the moment. You’ll find if you’re thinking, you’re probably thinking about the past or the future. It’s important that you don’t judge yourself for wandering, just notice that you’ve done it then come back to the present. It will take a bit of getting used to to stay in the present, particularly if you’re one (like me) who quite likes to wander. Stay with it though and it will make a difference. Hope that makes a bit more sense.

Reply
Carol

Thank you. Your example explanation for young ones is nicely phrased (though for our family everyone is over 15 years old and very scientifically minded), the information is good and to the point. I like your explanation and info about mindfulness and it’s so very relate-able, simple to apply. I had not realized that I use some of this technique to dissolve headaches when I want to avoid medications, but I’ll be more mindful 🙂 of it now. Now, to help our teens who don’t really want my input….!

Reply
heysigmund

You’re welcome! Ahhh teenagers! For what it’s worth, mine rarely want my input too. I can’t tell you how many times my advice is met with ‘yeah. I know. What’s for dinner?’ Sheeesh! Fortunately, the advice in this article was one piece of advice my daughter lapped up (it doesn’t always happen that way!) which is why I wrote the post. I love hearing from people about how they are using some of the techniques – like mindfulness for your headaches. Here is a link – just in case – to the original ‘grown-up’ version I wrote about anxiety https://www.heysigmund.com/dealing-with-anxiety/ . Thank you for taking the time to make contact.

Reply
Julie

Such important information for each individual. And with all of these benefits, mindfulness also creates such an awareness of who we are. Thank you so much!

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Follow Hey Sigmund on Instagram

Today was an ending and a beginning. My darling girl finished year 12. The final year at school is tough enough, but this year was seismic. Our teens have moved through this year with the most outstanding courage and grace and strength, and now it is time for them to rest and play. My gosh they deserve it. 

It is true that this is a time of celebration, but it can also be an intense time of self-reflection for our teens. (I can remember the same feelings when my gorgeous boy finished so many years ago!) My daughter has described it as, ‘I feel as though I’ve outgrown myself but my new self isn’t ready yet.’ This just makes so much sense. 

There is a beautifully fertile void that is waiting for whatever comes next for each of them, but that void is still a void. At different times it might feel exciting, overwhelming, or brutal in its emptiness.

We also have to remember that this is a time of letting go, and there might be grief that comes with that. Before they can grab on to their next big adventure, they have to let go of the guard rails. This means gently adjusting their hold on the world they have known for the last 12+ years, with its places and routines and people that have felt like home on so many days. There will be redirects and shiftings, and through it all the things that need to stay will stay, and the things that need to adjust will adjust. 

To my darling girl, your loved incredible friends, and the teens who make our world what it is - you are the beautiful  thinkers, the big feelers, the creators, the change makers, and the ones who will craft and grow a better world. However you might feel now, the lights are waiting to shine for you and because of you. The world beyond school is opening its arms to you. That opening might happen quickly, or gently, or smoothly or chaotically, but it will happen. This world needs every one of you - your voices, your spirits, your fire, your softness, your strength and your power. You are world-ready, and we are so glad you are here xxx
When our kids or teens are in high emotion, their words might sound anxious, angry, inconsolable, jealous, defiant. As messy as the words might be, they have a good reason for being there. Big feelings surge as a way to influence the environment to meet a need. Of course, sometimes the fallout from this can be nuclear.
⠀⠀
Wherever there is a big emotion, there will always be an important need behind it - safety, comfort, attention, food, rest, connection. The need will always be valid, even if the way they’re going about meeting it is a little rough. As with so many difficult parenting moments, there will be gold in the middle of the mess if we know where to look. 
⠀⠀
There will be times for shaping the behaviour into a healthier response, but in the middle of a big feeling is not one of those times. Big feelings are NOT a sign of dysfunction, bad kids or bad parenting. They are a part of being human, and they bring rich opportunities for wisdom, learning and growth. .
⠀⠀
Parenting isn’t about stopping the emotional storms, but about moving through the storm and reaching the other side in a way that preserves the opportunity for our kids and teens to learn and grow from the experience - and they will always learn best from experience. 
⠀⠀
To calm a big feeling, name what you see, ‘I can see you’re disappointed. I know how much you wanted that’, or, ‘I can see this feels big for you,’ or, ‘You’re angry at me about .. aren’t you. I understand that. I would be mad too if I had to […],’ or ‘It sounds like today has been a really hard day.’ 
⠀⠀
When we connect with the emotion, we help soothe the nervous system. The emotion has done its job, found support, and can start to ease. 
⠀⠀
When they ‘let go’ they’re letting us in on their deepest and most honest emotional selves. We don’t need to change that. What we need to do is meet them where they and gently guide them from there. When they feel seen and understood, their trust in us and their connection to us will deepen, opening the way for our influence.
⠀⠀

#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #neuronurtured #anxiety #anxietyinchildren #childanxiety #motherhoodcommunity #parenti
When they are at that line, deciding whether to retreat to safety or move forward into brave, there will be a part of them that will know they have what it takes to be brave. It might be pale, or quiet, or a little tumbled by the noise from anxiety, but it will be there. And it will be magical. Our job as their flight crew is to clear the way for this magical part of them to rise. ‘I can see this feels scary for you - and I know you can do this.’ 
⠀⠀

⠀⠀

 #mindfulparenting #neuronurtured #parentingteens #neurodevelopment #braindevelopment #positiveparenting #parenting #parenthood #childdevelopment #parentingtip #adolescence #positiveparentingtips #anxietyawareness #anxietyinchildren #childanxiety #parentingadvice #anxiety #parentingtips #motherhoodcommunity #anxietysupport #mentalhealth #heyawesome #heysigmund #heywarrior
When our kids or teens are struggling, it can be hard to know what they need. It can also be hard for them to say. It can be this way for all of us - we don't always know what we need from the people around us. It might be space, or distraction, or silence, or maybe acknowledging and being there is enough. Sometimes we might need to know that the people we love aren't taking our need for space, or our confusion or anger or sadness personally, and that they are still there within reach.
⠀⠀
What can be easier is thinking about what other people might need. Asking this when they are calm can invite a different perspective and can give you some insight into what they need to hear when they are going through similar. Don't worry if you just get a shrug, or a disheartened, 'I don't know'. They don't need to know, and neither do we. The question in itself might be enough to open a new way through any sense of 'stuckness' or helplessness they might be feeling.
⠀⠀

⠀⠀
#parenthood #parenting #positiveparenting #parentingtips #childdevelopment #parentingadvice #parentingtip #mindfulparenting #positiveparentingtips #neurodevelopment #parentingteens
Give them space to talk but you don’t need to fix anything. You’ll want to, but the answers are in them, not us. Sometimes the answer will be to feel it out, or push for change, or feel the futility of it all so the feeling can let go, knowing it’s done it’s job - it’s recruited support, or raised awareness that something isn’t right.

Sometimes the feelings might be seismic but the words might be gone for a while. That’s okay too. Do they want to start with whatever words are there? Or talk about something else? Or go for a walk with you? Watch a movie with you? Or do a spontaneous, unnecessary drive thru with you just because you can - no words, no need to explain - just you and them and car music for the next 20 minutes. 

The more you can validate what they’re feeling (maybe, ‘Today was big for you wasn’t it’) and give them space to feel, the more they can feel the feeling, understand the need that’s fuelling it, and experiment with ways to deal with it. Sometimes, ‘dealing with it’ might mean acknowledging that there is something that feels big or important and a little out of reach right now, and feeling the fullness and futility of that. 

Part of building resilience is recognising that some days are rubbish, and that sometimes those days last for longer than they should, but we get through. First we feel floored, then we feel stuck, then we shift because the only choices we have we have are to stay down or move, even when moving hurts. Then, eventually we adjust - either ourselves, the problem, or to a new ‘is’. But the learning comes from experience.

I wish our kids never felt pain, but we don’t get to decide that. We don’t get to decide how our children grow, but we do get to decide how much space and support we give them for this growth. We can love them through it but we can’t love them out of it. I wish we could but we can’t.

So instead of feeling the need to silence their pain, make space for it. In the end we have no choice. Sometimes all the love in the world won’t be enough to put the wrong things right, but it can help them feel held while they move through the pain enough to find their out breath, and the strength that comes with that.♥️

Pin It on Pinterest