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Mindfulness

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness means paying full attention to something. It means slowing down to really notice what you're doing.

Being mindful is the opposite of rushing or multitasking. When you're mindful, you're taking your time. You're focusing in a relaxed, easy way.

Mindfulness happens naturally sometimes. Let's say you're getting ready to take a foul shot in basketball. You carefully position your feet at the line. You look up at the hoop and feel the ball in your hands. Taking your time, you bounce the ball a couple of times. You tune out all the other sounds and take your shot. Swoosh — yes! Nicely done.

That calm focus, that way of paying attention to what you're doing, taking your time, taking it easy& — that's you being mindful! And being mindful just helped you take your best shot.

Why Do People Need Mindfulness?

Being mindful helps you:

  • pay attention better
  • be less distractible
  • learn more
  • stay calm under stress
  • avoid getting too upset about things
  • slow down instead of rush
  • listen better to others
  • be more patient
  • get along better
  • feel happier and enjoy things more

If this sounds like a superpower, it is! Being mindful helps people in just about every part of life. Learning how to be mindful when you're young gives you a chance to get really good at it and use it always.

How Does Mindfulness Work?

You need to practice mindfulness to get good at it. Training the mind takes practice. The more you practice, the better you get.

If you practice mindfulness exercises, being mindful can come naturally when you need it in your everyday life. This can help when you're stressed, when you have to do something difficult, or when you have to focus your attention. It's a lot like learning to play the piano. Each time you practice, you're training yourself to play a little bit better.

When you practice mindfulness, you're training your attention. Research shows that practicing mindfulness can improve attention for just about everybody — including people with ADHD, or who think they have trouble paying attention.

How Do I Get Started?

Anyone can practice mindfulness. It's easy to do, and it just takes a few minutes a day.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Sit in a relaxed, comfortable position. Pick something to focus your attention on, like a word you repeat in your head or your breathing.
  2. Let's say you decided to focus on your breathing. Breathe normally while you simply pay attention to your breath. If you want, you can close your eyes. As you breathe in and out, just notice each breath. Pay attention in an easy way — on purpose, but not forced.
  3. Notice when your mind wanders away from paying attention to your breath. Maybe you start thinking about what's for lunch, or whether you remembered to bring your soccer gear, or that funny joke someone told at recess. That's your mind wandering and getting distracted. It's natural, minds do that all the time!
  4. Whenever you notice your attention has wandered, gently remind yourself to pay attention to breathing again. That's how you train your attention.
  5. Keep breathing, keep relaxing, keep paying easy attention to your breathing. Can you feel the place where the air tickles your nostrils? Do you notice how the breath gently moves your body? Can you pay attention to your belly or your chest moving as you breathe? Keep bringing your attention back to the breathing every time your mind wanders. Try to do this for 5 minutes.

That's it! There are lots of other ways to practice mindfulness, like eating mindfully or even mindful walking. Try picking different things to focus on to help you practice training your attention.

Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: November 2017