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What is Mindfulness and How Can it Help You?

woman holding umbrella looking upwards

When you hear the term mindfulness your mind might automatically jump to an image of someone totally zen and enlightened— maybe someone like Buddha or the Dali Lama. While these two may live mindfully, when you approach mindfulness with images of these experts, making moves to become more mindful in your daily routine may seem pretty daunting. In reality, mindfulness can actually be quite simple. With some intentionally allotted time and practice, can be easily worked into everyday life. You may be asking, “what is mindfulness, and how can it help you?”

What is Mindfulness

Mindfulness is essentially bringing awareness to what you are experiencing in the present moment and meeting that awareness with acceptance. This may sound pretty basic, but with the limitless obligations of work and relationships, and the endless distractions of social media and cellphones, it can be surprisingly easy to move through a day without taking time to check in with ourselves and really noticing what we feel.

By making the shift towards being more present and accepting the moment for what it is, you can not only more readily recognize when you’re feeling happy or content, but also potentially avoid negative and spiraling thoughts when you’re feeling hurt. You may also be able to act more intentionally and avoid automatic reactions by really taking stock of your feelings and experiences in the moment.

How to Practice

Here are a few small changes you can make to your day to help move towards living more mindfully.

  1. Try a Five Minute Body Scan
    The body scan is a great introduction into mindfulness meditative practice— an added plus is that it is both relaxing and can be done pretty much anytime or anywhere. The goal of the body scan is to simply allow yourself to notice and experience how each part of the body feels without judgement or feeling the need to change it. You can find a number of audio guided body scans to try here.
  2. Journal at the End of the Day
    Try to set aside a few moments of your day for journaling, whether it be in the ten minutes before bedtime or while you’re on the train to work. Allowing what you’re feeling and experiencing in the present to move through you into writing can provide insight into emotions we were previously uncertain about and potentially lead to an overall sense of calmness and acceptance.
  3. Mindfulness-based Walking:
    When you get ready for your commute home, consider walking one station farther than your usual subway stop to try a little mindfulness-based walking. Simply walk at a natural pace and notice each movement your body makes. If you’re mind starts to wander try to gently guide it back to the present moment by focusing your attention in on the sights, sounds, and smells around you. You can find a full guide to mindfulness-based walking here.
  4. When Emotions are Running High, Hit Pause
    Perhaps the most difficult times to utilize mindfulness are when we are feeling emotional, but this can be a great practice to help you act more intentionally in the moment. Next time your feelings are firing off try to take ten deep breaths and ask yourself, what emotions are you experiencing? What contributed to you feeling this way? After taking stock of what you’re feeling and why, it may be easier to approach the present situation with intention and focus.

Samantha Waldman (she/her) is a NYC-based psychotherapist and a Bridges Co-Founder. One of her passions in her work and education has been exploring biracial or multiracial identity, multiethnic identity, transracial adoption, and Asian-diaspora identity. Samantha received training at Teachers College, Columbia University, and currently works as a member of the Intuitive Healing Psychotherapy team and