May 22, 2024
Survivorship Support

Intro to Mindfulness

What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a term that gets thrown around a lot in everyday life. It’s not uncommon to hear friends, clinicians, and advertisements encouraging us to be more mindful. Pretty much any article about stress relief will encourage readers to engage in mindfulness practices. But what actually is mindfulness and how do you know if it might work for you?

Two core principles of mindfulness include awareness and attitude. Awareness refers to the practice of noticing what you are experiencing in the present moment. This is done by paying attention to the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that are coming up for you moment to moment.

It is not expected that your mind will focus only on one thing. Mindfulness simply asks you to notice where your attention goes. When your attention strays away from what is happening in the present moment (to the past or the future), mindfulness suggests that you gently practice being aware of what is happening. As this process unfolds, it is important to bring an attitude of curiosity and acceptance to the experience while trying to minimize judgment.

Mindful practices

So why does everyone seem to love mindfulness so much? Mindfulness is a practice that has evidence for helping people manage stress, anxiety, and other challenging emotions. The word practice is important, because mindfulness is a skill that is learned over time, and can feel uncomfortable or even unpleasant in the beginning.

Even if you are not feeling stressed and overwhelmed, mindfulness can help improve awareness and foster a sense of openness to the experiences of everyday life. It rarely requires more than a quiet place to sit still, and a mindfulness exercise can be as short as a few minutes.

Mindful exercises can take many different forms. Everything from taking a walk and focusing on the experience of your five senses, to enjoying your favorite meal in an intentional way. There are also more formal types of mindfulness exercises. Because mindfulness practice can take many forms, and preferences can be very individual, we encourage you to be curious about what feels right for your mind and body.

Box breathing

Want to try a brief exercise now? Let’s start with a simple breathing exercise called "Box Breathing."

Box breathing takes just a few seconds and is a great skill to use if you notice yourself feeling overwhelmed during the day.

The Box Breathing Technique
  • To start, find a comfortable seat and close your eyes if you feel comfortable.
  • Then, breathe in for four seconds, hold your breath for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and then hold for four seconds.
  • You can repeat this exercise as many times as you like.

    As you repeat the exercise, pay attention to the thoughts and sensations you are experiencing. What is it like to approach them with curiosity and without judgment?
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