What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on February 12, 2024
3 min read

Mindfulness meditation combines the concepts of mindfulness and meditation. When you are mindful, you remain present in the moment. You are aware of what’s going on around you while staying connected to your inner thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness keeps you from overreacting or getting overwhelmed in stressful situations.

Meditation allows you to explore the inner workings of your mind. The practice also involves exploring different sensations produced by actions like breathing or inhaling scents.

Applying mindfulness meditation means suspending judgment and approaching the world with curiosity. When you meditate, you do so with an attitude of kindness and openness to yourself and others. You can meditate anytime, anywhere you feel comfortable and at peace.

Mindfulness meditation requires mental discipline, wakefulness, and intention. It teaches you to look at your thoughts and emotions objectively, without interference from your unconscious reactions. It’s about noticing what’s happening without trying to change it. This can be helpful to people working through difficult emotions.

The following are some of the benefits you may gain through mindfulness meditation:

Improving cognitive abilities. Mindfulness meditation can improve brain function by boosting activity in the left side of the brain and the cerebral cortex. It can help you manage stress more effectively, allow you to regulate your emotions, and make you feel more in control.

Reducing depression symptoms. Mindfulness meditation can be combined with cognitive therapy to prevent relapse in people with chronic depression. Negative thought patterns can keep you persistently dwelling on what you see as your shortcomings. Through mindfulness meditation, you can learn to balance these negative thought patterns with more positive ones.

Reducing binge eating. Since mindfulness meditation improves awareness and self-control, it can help treat binge-eating disorders. The practice of mindfulness meditation helps people to recognize and avoid harmful eating behaviors.

Coping with chronic pain. Some people successfully use mindfulness meditation techniques to ease pain and achieve more active lifestyles.

While many individuals benefit from the practice of mindfulness meditation, it doesn’t replace other medical or mental health treatments. It’s a good idea to check with your doctor or mental health professional about adding mindfulness meditation to your new or existing treatment plan.

To start practicing mindfulness meditation, you don’t need expensive equipment or a specific religious or spiritual discipline. You only need to commit to the practice itself. Some people prefer to have someone guide them or be with them during the experience.

You can ask your doctor to recommend good mindfulness meditation programs. If you need treatment for mental health or substance abuse issues, such programs may be helpful. The coordinators can often modify the practice to suit your needs.

Mindfulness meditation typically involves the following techniques: 

  • Mindful breathing is the practice of focusing on your breathing without changing its rhythm.‌
  • Body scanning puts you in tune with sensations and feelings in your body. You can start by bringing your attention to the top of your head, work down to your feet, and then move back up in the opposite direction. ‌
  • Mindful eating forces you to slow down while eating meals and to pay more attention to the smells, textures, and flavors of food. ‌
  • Mindful movement helps you to pay attention to your body and everything around you while you are moving. You can practice moving mindfully during yoga, when shifting from pose to pose. ‌
  • Positive loving meditation shifts your focus to viewing yourself in a positive light. You then practice adopting the same positive attitude towards family and friends and, eventually, everyone you encounter. ‌ 

Below are some steps you can follow when you are starting out with the practice of mindfulness meditation: 

  •  Find a quiet, peaceful environment to sit in a comfortable position.‌
  •  Close your eyes and relax while taking a deep breath. Focus on how your chest rises and falls as the breath goes in and out of your body. ‌
  •  Notice how your stomach expands and contracts with each breath. Let your breath flow naturally without forcing it in and out. 
  •  Whenever thoughts pop into your head to distract you, simply notice them, and then turn your attention back to your breath.  

To get started, try meditating for a few minutes each day. Gradually build up to two 20-minute sessions per day to enjoy the full benefits of mindfulness meditation.