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Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
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What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness means paying full attention to something. It means taking your time to really notice what you're doing.

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! That's mindfulness in action.

Why Do People Need Mindfulness?

Mindfulness helps you do your best at things. It helps you:

  • pay attention better
  • be less distracted
  • learn more
  • stay calm under stress
  • avoid getting upset too easily
  • slow down instead of rush
  • listen better to others
  • be more patient
  • get along better
  • gain self-control
  • get tasks finished
  • feel happier and enjoy things more

How Does Mindfulness Work?

Training the mind takes practice. The more you practice mindfulness skills, the better you get at being mindful.

If you practice mindfulness skills, being mindful begins to come naturally when you need it in your everyday life. This can help you feel calmer when you're stressed, or more focused when you have to do something difficult or complicated.

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

How Do I Get Started?

Mindfulness skills are easy to practice and just take 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 decide 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 after math class. 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 guide your attention back to your breathing again. That's how you train your attention.
  5. Keep breathing, keep relaxing, keep paying easy attention to your breathing. 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 that help you practice training your attention.

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