How 12 Minutes a Day Can Change Your Life

Side view of handsome young man sitting at the window sill and keeping eyes closedWhat do you think of when you hear the word “meditation”?

Perhaps you imagine a Tibetan monk tucked away in silence in a centuries-old monastery. Maybe you envision a crystal-wielding flower child having a psychedelic experience in a Volkswagen van. Or perhaps you think of meditation as something people with incredible self-control and a very long attention span can do, but not you.

Contrary to what many people believe, having a mindfulness meditation practice is not just for the most spiritual, disciplined, or mentally focused among us. It doesn’t require a magical (some might say impossible) ability to clear your mind and keep it that way for hours on end. You don’t need to be a master yogi or even own a yoga mat. Mindfulness is not just for others—it’s for me, and it’s for you, too!

What Is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness, in its most basic form, is simply the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something. Researcher Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD, takes this definition a step further, helping us understand what it means to be conscious or aware of something. He defines mindfulness as the “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” When we notice what is happening within ourselves—our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors—at any given moment without trying to judge it or change it, we are practicing mindfulness.

Although mindfulness is a broad concept that refers generally to ways of being aware in the present moment, meditation is how we describe one specific type of mindfulness practice. Meditation involves turning your attention inward for a set period of time, typically focusing specifically on a certain theme or noticing your own physical or mental experiences. For instance, two common meditations involve noticing your breathing or mindfully scanning your body and becoming aware of any physical sensations you have. Meditation is often time-limited, with a planned beginning and end point.

The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

The benefits of a mindfulness meditation practice are numerous and well-documented. Research shows that practicing mindfulness can improve a person’s general sense of well-being and life satisfaction, helping people to cherish each present moment and weather the storms of life. Practicing mindfulness meditation is connected to reported improvements in physical health as well, and may help people sleep more restfully, decrease stress, relieve gastrointestinal concerns, reduce experiences of chronic pain, and lower blood pressure. Mindfulness has become an important cornerstone in the treatment of many mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsion, posttraumatic stress, and others.

It doesn’t take much time to potentially see improvements from meditating. Studies have shown that people can benefit from as little as 10 minutes a day of meditation. Another study pinpointed 12 minutes as the “magic” number to see desired results. By devoting just 10 to 12 minutes a day to a mindfulness meditation practice, research suggests you can change your life for the better.

How to Get Started with a Mindfulness Meditation

To get started in developing a daily mindfulness meditation practice, first try the foundational meditation of noticing your breathing. As you relax your body into a comfortable posture, begin to turn your focus inward and notice your breath, whether in your nose, throat, chest, or stomach. Don’t try to change your breathing in any way; allow it to come and go naturally and without judgment. Allow yourself to give your full attention to your breath as you experience it in your body.

One of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness meditation is that the point is to focus your mind without any internal interruption or distraction. This is not a reasonable expectation, as it is the nature of the human mind to wander.

From time to time, you may notice your mind wandering to some other thought or feeling. This is normal. Take a moment to simply notice where your attention has wandered. After a moment, gently escort your attention and awareness back to your breath. Continue focusing on your breath and gently bringing your awareness back to your breath for several minutes.

One of the biggest misconceptions about mindfulness meditation is that the point is to focus your mind without any internal interruption or distraction. This is not a reasonable expectation, as it is the nature of the human mind to wander. One of the primary purposes of this activity is to practice gently escorting your attention back to your breath. You aren’t doing it wrong if your mind happens to wander; you are succeeding by noticing your mind has wandered and then bringing your attention back to your breath as many times as necessary. This builds the “muscles” of your attention span in the same way lifting weights builds the muscles of your body.

The most difficult step in many journeys is often the first. Using this or one of the many other meditation resources available, take your first step toward a daily mindfulness meditation practice today. Who knows? You may discover that 12 minutes a day really can change your life.

References:

  1. Hurley, D. (2014, January 14). Breathing in vs. spacing out. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/19/magazine/breathing-in-vs-spacing-out.html
  2. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2016, January 11). Jon Kabat-Zinn: Defining mindfulness. Retrieved from http://www.mindful.org/jon-kabat-zinn-defining-mindfulness

© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Caroline Sweatt-Eldredge, MA, LPC, therapist in Houston, Texas

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • 13 comments
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  • Janice

    Janice

    November 17th, 2016 at 9:13 AM

    I think that 12 minutes a day sounds lovely
    now just to find those minutes in my day

  • Caroline Sweatt-Eldredge

    Caroline Sweatt-Eldredge

    November 17th, 2016 at 8:52 PM

    I think we all feel like that from time to time! :)

  • Marnie

    Marnie

    November 17th, 2016 at 10:27 AM

    I used to have those feelings like oh I can not find any time during the day for me to meditate or to do anything other than work or run the house.
    So I just started getting up a little earlier each day. I will not say that this is always the easiest thing to do but it got to the point that this was the time that I could carve out to be alone and do some things for e and even when the getting up early doesn’t feel like a fine idea, how I feel after that little bit of time that I take out for me makes it worth it in the end.

  • Caroline Sweatt-Eldredge

    Caroline Sweatt-Eldredge

    November 17th, 2016 at 8:53 PM

    I love to hear that you found a solution that worked for you! Happy meditating!

  • Julie

    Julie

    November 17th, 2016 at 5:11 PM

    Such a great article! I agree it can be difficult at first to find the time but when you think about it as just 12 minutes you can find those minutes easily: 5 less minutes on facebook, 5 less minutes of tv, 2 less minutes of checking email. Easy as that. This article also makes it less intimidating to meditate. It all seems more do-able worded this way!

  • Caroline Sweatt-Eldredge

    Caroline Sweatt-Eldredge

    November 17th, 2016 at 8:55 PM

    Such smart solutions! 12 minutes can feel a bit overwhelming at first, but many times when we examine how we are spending our time we discover minutes we didn’t know were available.

  • Leigha

    Leigha

    November 18th, 2016 at 11:12 AM

    So I don’t meditate per se like I think that you are talking about here, but I do make it a point to go for a 30 minute or more walk every day, longer when I can or when the weather is gorgeous lik e we are having today. This is my own little version of meditation and therapy because really all I do is go out and concentrate on the beauty that surrounds me rather than focusing on the stuff going on at home or at work, or even on the things that I tend to have very little control over. It is a nice break that I choose to give to myself every day.

  • Joanne

    Joanne

    November 19th, 2016 at 8:26 AM

    A workout for the mind. I love it!

  • Kellster

    Kellster

    November 20th, 2016 at 7:06 AM

    I have so many tough things going on in my life right now that it feels like it will take days and days, maybe years, of 12 minutes a day to make a difference!

  • madge

    madge

    November 21st, 2016 at 11:06 AM

    Even if I have to hide in the closet with the door locked I WILL be making this a part of my daily life.

  • jeff

    jeff

    November 24th, 2016 at 7:24 AM

    It is important from so many avenues to make yourself a priority in your own life. I get it that there are always going to be those times when it feels like this is the hardest thing on earth to do, but you have to. There is no one else who is going to do this for you, so why not try during that 10 or 12 minute s a day to refocus on the good things that you have in life, the things that you can contribute to others, and go out and make the world a much better place than what it is today.

  • Simone

    Simone

    November 27th, 2016 at 7:39 AM

    Being mindful can also bring a sense of pain too right?

  • martha

    martha

    November 29th, 2016 at 11:27 AM

    any thoughts/tips on how to avoid the many daily distractions?

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