Mindfulness is a popular wellness tool that can help people focus on the present moment as opposed to obsessing about the past or worrying about future.
Dr Michael Mosley recently revealed on his podcast, Just One Thing, that he had been taking 10 minutes a day to “do something that's been proven to improve sleep and memory, reduce pain and stress and boost my mood” – that thing was mindfulness, also known as mindful meditation.
Dr Mosley added that anyone can practice being mindful, regardless of where they are, what time of day it is or what they’re doing.
"Research has shown that regular meditation could even be a way to counteract age-related decline in the brain. It can improve working memory, and even change the structure and function of our brains," he said.
Dr Sara Lazar, an associate professor in psychology at Harvard Medical School who appeared alongside Dr Mosley on his podcast, also detailed a study that showed how beneficial mindfulness can be on the brain.
"They found that just eight weeks of meditation led to measurable increases in grey matter density in specific regions of the brain involved in regulating our emotions, learning and memory, which was pretty amazing considering this was just two months," Dr Lazar said.
So even just practising mindfulness for a short time can have an impact on the part of the brain that declines with age, in regards to our memory and attention.
How to practise mindful meditation
1. Stop being on autopilot
Because we’re all so busy, we tend to perform most tasks on autopilot. That means we are not present in the moment while doing various tasks either at work or at home. Our minds are elsewhere.
Try to be present in every task – whether it's washing up, cooking or eating. Focus only on the task in hand and the breathing and sensations that go with it.
2. Be aware of your breathing
Take 10 minutes a day to sit and focus on your breathing. With six breaths, or over the course of about 90 seconds, focus on how your body moves as you take each breath. Notice how your chest rises and falls, how your stomach moves in and out, and how your lungs expand and contract.
Try to think and focus only on the breathing but, if thoughts do come into your mind, acknowledge them calmly and let them pass. Whenever you are feeling stressed or need a calming moment or two, use the pattern of your breaths to anchor yourself.
3. Expand your awareness outwards
Once you start being aware of your breathing, let this awareness spread to other parts of your body and your surroundings more generally.
With your eyes remaining closed, attempt to bring attention to what you know you will find around you. Think about the colours, patterns, textures and shapes of what you see everyday. When you feel like you are fully aware of your surroundings and yourself, open your eyes slowly. Then as you go about your day, try to carry that feeling of awareness and mindfulness with you.
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