Mindful Awareness

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What is mindful awareness?

Mindful awareness, or mindfulness, means paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.

Why is mindful awareness important?

  • Most of the time, we operate on autopilot.
  • Our actions can be driven by our immediate feelings (e.g., irritability) and old habits (e.g., overworking).
  • We don’t see clearly how our thoughts, feelings, and actions influence our lives.
  • Mindful awareness is sort of like watching your life in slow motion. You begin to notice things you hadn’t seen before. And from there, you can make new choices.
  • It also helps us experience our lives more fully and savor the good moments.

Mindfulness exercises

Noticing your breath. Simply watch your breath, following its rise and fall in your body, in and out.

Noticing your five senses. Move through your five senses slowly, one at a time, noticing sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

Watch your mind. Watch your mind like you’re watching a movie in a theater. Notice what comes up: thoughts, images, words, sounds, memories.

Notice your sensations and feelings. Observe the sensations in your body. Gently watch them without trying to change them.

Informal mindfulness practices

You can cultivate mindful awareness during any activity:

washing the dog
taking a shower
doing the dishes
being with a loved one

spending time in nature
exercising
playing with your kid
attending a meeting

exercising
having sex
having a conversation
writing an email

Just pay attention to your five senses as you do these activities and take notice when your mind tugs you away.

Things to know

Mindfulness vs. relaxation. People often feel relaxed when they practice mindfulness, but it’s not the goal. Think of it as a pleasant byproduct.

Regular practice. Consider setting aside a regular time to practice.

Getting distracted. You will frequently get pulled away into your thoughts. That’s totally normal. Just notice this and turn your attention back.

It’s a journey. Mindfulness isn’t a destination — it’s an ongoing journey. It’s not a skill you develop to perfection. It’s a lifelong practice.

Printable version

Printable worksheet