Life is unpredictable. Although we can’t control its curveballs, we can choose how we respond. Millions of people have used mindfulness to manage stress, depression, anxiety and other difficult emotions — from overwhelmed moms to NFL quarterbacks. Keep reading to learn more about it … and how to start!

Meditation vs. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment and your feelings, thoughts and physical sensations with curiosity — not judgment. It’s similar to meditation, but there are key differences between them. 

A practice that incorporates a variety of techniques, including mindfulness, to train attention and awarenessA quality or lifestyle
Usually formalUsually informal
Typically done while sitting or lying downCan be done while driving, walking, brushing your teeth or doing almost anything
Part of some religions, but compatible with almost any belief systemCompatible with almost any belief system

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Anyone can practice mindfulness. Even kids! Plus, research shows it has a ton of perks.

Mental and Emotional Health

  • Reduces stress and emotional reactivity
  • Improves memory, focus and concentration
  • Can help you cope with grief, loneliness, anxiety, depression and other difficult emotions

Physical Health

  • Boosts your immune system
  • Helps with chronic pain management
  • Lowers your blood pressure and risk of heart disease
  • Helps you resist cravings for unhealthy food, drugs, alcohol or tobacco

4 Easy Ways to Be More Mindful Each Day

Now, it’s time to put it into practice! Kick things off with one of these strategies.

woman looking out of window

Mindful Mornings

  1. Before you get out of bed, sit in a relaxed but alert posture.
  2. Take three deep breaths, then breathe normally.
  3. Set a goal or intention for the day. Try asking yourself questions like, “What’s one way I can take better care of myself today?” “What’s one quality I want to develop or strengthen?” “How would I like to respond to difficulties that arise?”
  4. Revisit your intention throughout the day.

woman eating salad

Mindful Meals

  1. Choose a quiet, distraction-free environment.
  2. Before you begin eating, take three deep breaths.
  3. Check in with your hunger level. Rate it on a scale of 1 – 10.
  4. Take your first bite. Chew it slowly, noting its flavor, texture and your enjoyment.
  5. Continue eating slowly and attentively, without distraction.

toddler girl practicing mindfulness with mom

Mindfulness Meditation

  1. Sit or lie down.
  2. Set a timer — or play some relaxing music or a guided meditation. Check out these exercises from our friends over at the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline — or go find your own! There are tons of free, guided meditations on Spotify, YouTube and other streaming apps.
  3. Focus on a single point like your breath, body or the sounds around you.
  4. If you notice your mind wandering, gently guide it back to your focal point.

two adult women on a walk

Mindful Movement

  1. Choose a physical activity you enjoy, like walking.
  2. Set an intention. Example: “I’d like to pay close attention to the way my feet feel as they strike the pavement.”
  3. Start the activity. If you notice your mind wandering, redirect it to your intention.

Like any other healthy habit, start small — and be consistent. The more you practice, the better you’ll feel. Plus, it’ll help you stick with your other healthy goals!

Want more healthy tools for your mind and body? Check out these tips for coping with stress and other tough emotions — without turning to unhealthy food!