What Exactly Is Mindfulness Meditation and How Can I Try It?

woman meditating in bed

From healing crystals and energy work to recovery training and foam rolling, wellness and self-care have never been buzzier. You’ve likely heard of mindfulness meditation, but maybe you’re not sure exactly what it entails—or whether it could be beneficial for you. Here’s the deal.

What is mindfulness meditation? Developed by Buddhists more than 2,000 years ago, mindfulness meditation is basically a technique that helps you be present with whatever is happening. According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, a molecular biologist and meditation teacher, mindfulness is an “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” Proponents say that mindfulness meditation can contribute to stress reduction, improved sleep, heightened focus and increased creativity, just to name a few.

How do you do it? You could start with a guided program from the meditation app Headspace (Calm is another great option), which will lead you through quick ten-minute sessions that help you start becoming extra aware of your body and breathing while sitting in a comfortable position. If the idea of sitting still for ten minutes sounds like hell to you, ease into a mindfulness practice by trying mindful running, basically, running while making a concerted effort to clear your mind and focus on your breathing. Oh, and there’s mindful eating, too.

Does it actually work? Recent research is promising. According to a 2018 study published in BMJ Open, anxiety may increase the risk of developing cognitive conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. But study authors suggest that meditative practices like mindfulness (which has been shown to help control anxiety) could potentially reduce this risk. A small Harvard study in 2018 also found that people who meditated over an eight-week period had a striking change in the expression of 172 genes that regulate inflammation, circadian rhythms and glucose metabolism. And that, in turn, was linked to a meaningful decrease in their blood pressure.

Turns out sitting still doesn’t have to be lazy; it can actually be super healthy. 

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sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...