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Image of a rock in a sand garden.
Image of a rock in a sand garden.

Mindfulness Meditation

Many health experts recognize the powerful connection between the mind and body. Mindfulness meditation is the practice of nonjudgmental self-awareness to help improve mood and anxiety.

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is a form of present-moment awareness or simply living in the moment. When we are mindful, we are noticing what is happening in our bodies and the world around us as it is happening. In this way, we can be fully present in our lives. The opposite of being mindful is being on "auto-pilot." In a world of distractions, living in the present can be difficult. Mindfulness skills can be practiced through mindfulness meditation and used throughout the day to stay present and aware.

What is mindfulness meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of grounding yourself in the present moment through meditation and focusing on what you are sensing and feeling. In mindfulness meditation, we are not trying to change anything. We are simply becoming aware of what is going on without trying to judge it as good or bad. We are approaching experiences with a sense of curiosity and openness. Relaxation is often a natural by-product as we become familiar with practicing mindfulness meditation.

How to Meditate 


You can meditate anywhere. Ideally you will find a quiet space, but sometimes this is not feasible. The beauty of mindfulness meditation is that even in the midst of a busy space we can find an object of focus, an “anchor.”


This is our object of focus. Often this is the breath. However, there are a variety of other objects on which we can focus our attention — sound, emotions, thoughts or physical sensations. Using guided audio can be helpful.


Find a comfortable position in which you feel awake. While meditations can be helpful for sleep, to learn this skill we need to be alert and awake. You can close your eyes or leave them open. If you leave your eyes open, try to have a soft gaze a few feet in front of you.


Listening to guided audio can be useful for novice and advanced meditators. You can begin by using guided meditations from the Johns Hopkins Mindfulness Program or by exploring the world of meditations on the internet.


Be open to whatever arises without judgment. Note the wandering mind and gently bring your attention back to your anchor over and over again. It can be helpful to use the phrase "how interesting" to replace our frequent judgmental thoughts.


Meditation is hard work and requires practice. Think of it as building a muscle. Start with small time periods and build from there. The beauty of mindfulness is that each moment is an opportunity to begin again, to begin anew. 

Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

Many research studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can reduce stress, symptoms of depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance and pain, and it may contribute to an overall sense of well-being.

Decreased Stress and Anxiety

Anxiety is often related to thinking negatively about the future. A significant amount of empirical evidence has shown that mindfulness decreases our stress and anxiety because it trains our minds to focus on the present. Some research has even shown that regular mindfulness meditation practice can be as beneficial as antidepressant medication for anxiety.

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Improved Mood

Focusing on negative events of the past can perpetuate feelings of sadness and depression. Regular mindfulness meditation practice can improve our mood and decrease symptoms of depression. It can also prevent the recurrence of depression.

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Improved Focus

The mind has a tendency to wander. During times of stress, our mind may wander more to stressful experiences we are dealing with. This can certainly detract from our happiness. Mindfulness allows us to notice these moments of the wandering mind and to return to the present, thus improving our ability to sustain focused attention.

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Reduced Physical Pain

The practice of mindfulness meditation changes the way our brain processes pain. There is significant research that shows that even brief periods of mindfulness meditation can decrease pain severity and increase pain acceptance across a variety of pain-related illnesses.

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Improved Immune Function

We are continuing to learn about the impact of meditation on aging and illness. To date, research has shown that regular mindfulness meditation can decrease inflammatory markers in the blood and improve immune function.

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Decreased Blood Pressure

While we are still learning about this area, research studies have shown that in some individuals, regular mindfulness meditation can significantly reduce blood pressure.

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Decreased Rumination

It’s often easy for the brain to get stuck in a loop of thoughts. These may be thoughts about a stressful experience from the past or about the uncertainty of the future. Mindfulness helps us break this cycle and refocuses our attention on the present.

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Positive Brain Changes

Imaging studies have shown that regular mindfulness practice changes the neuronal pathways of the brain. Some research has shown increased activity, connectivity and volume in regions of the brain that are involved in memory, higher-ordered thinking and emotional regulation. 

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Myths About Mindfulness Meditation

There is no right or wrong way to meditate. We are building awareness of our experiences, whatever they may be. Below are some common myths surrounding mindfulness meditation.

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