9 Mindful Habits for Well-Being

A simple guide to help you build well-being into your routine.

Cultivating and protecting our well-being is deeply personal. It requires us to check in with ourselves regularly and be open to whatever we may need to feel less stressed, more fulfilled, and generally at ease. In this guide to well-being, you’ll explore nine habits to integrate into your daily life that will serve as helpful tools in sustaining emotional wellness.

Meditation 

What is Meditation? 

Meditation is exploring. It’s not a fixed destination. Your head doesn’t become vacuumed free of thought, utterly undistracted. It’s a special place where each and every moment is momentous. When we meditate we venture into the workings of our minds: our sensations (air blowing on our skin or a harsh smell wafting into the room), our emotions (love this, hate that, crave this, loathe that) and thoughts (wouldn’t it be weird to see an elephant playing a trumpet?).

Mindfulness meditation asks us to suspend judgment and unleash our natural curiosity about the workings of the mind, approaching our experience with warmth and kindness to ourselves and others.

Meditation does not take any single form. Instead, meditation is a term that describes an array of practices designed to cultivate well-being. Most of these practices fall within three broad categories:

  • Focused-attention meditation. The aim here is to train the mind’s capacity for concentration and awareness of the present moment by focusing on a single point of attention (such as the breath). If you are new to meditation, this is a good place to begin.
  • Open awareness meditation. Rather than focusing on a specific object of attention, in this form of meditation you keep your field of awareness open, allowing you to simply observe your thoughts and thereby become less reactive to emotions and sensory experiences. This is a more advanced practice, as it requires a certain level of mental stability to watch thoughts, emotions, and sensations move through the mind without getting hooked by them.
  • Loving-kindness meditation. The aim of this practice is to cultivate deep compassion for all beings, starting with oneself and then extending compassion to friends and family, to people you find difficult, and eventually to all beings. 

Why Should I Meditate?

At last count, more than 6,000 peer reviewed scholarly articles have been published that examine the benefits of meditation. This vast body of neuroscience research has found that the regular practice of meditation leads to the following benefits:

  • Increased resilience. Meditation is associated with a reduction in activity in the part of the brain (the amygdala) that reacts to stress. This enhances our ability to stay calm and responsive in the midst of stressful situations.
  • Increased focus. Meditation activates additional circuits in the brain that allow for sharper and more efficient concentration.
  • Decreased mind wandering. Meditation reduces moments when our attention wanders away from what is happening here and now.
  • Enhanced pain tolerance. From a practical standpoint, mindfulness for pain relief could be a cost-effective option that doesn’t rely on potentially harmful or addictive drugs, and that doesn’t appear to have a plateau point.
  • Enhanced immunity. Meditation has been found to reduce markers of inflammation in the body and to strengthen the response of the immune system.

Try This 10-Minute Guided Meditation for Beginners

A 10-Minute Meditation for Beginners—Barry Boyce

  • 11:10
  1. First, feel your bottom on the seat, and your feet on the floor or the ground, flat, touching the earth. Your eyes can be open or closed, head tilted slightly down. Your shoulders are relaxed, your hands are resting on your thighs and your upper arms are parallel to your torso. Just take a moment to feel that posture. 
  2. Now we’re going to use the breath as an anchor for our attention. We don’t concern ourselves with trying to adjust the rate of the breath, we just come with whatever breath we have.
  3. One of the first things we notice naturally as we try to pay attention to breath coming in and out is our mind is filled with thoughts. It’s like a waterfall of thoughts. And in mindfulness practice, just notice the thought. Touch it, and go back to the breath.
  4. No matter what’s been going on in the session, you don’t need to evaluate it, just let it go. As the session ends, open your eyes, and enjoy what’s coming next.

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Photo of a woman wearing a red top and leggins meditating indoors with her eyes closed and legs criss-crossed.
Meditation

Interested in Meditation? Here Are the Basics 

Meditation is a core mindfulness practice that you can customize to meet you where you are, bring your attention to the present moment, and engage in more compassion and connection. Here’s what you need to know to get started. Read More 

  • Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp
  • May 21, 2021

Inquiry 

What is Inquiry?

Beneath every stressful emotion sits a thought—a thought that may or may not actually be true. Once you question the validity of the thought, the accompanying stress in the mind and body starts to fall away. That’s the basic insight of inquiry.

The practice of inquiry invites us to shift our ordinary way of being in the world. It’s based on cognitive reappraisal—a form of cognitive behavioral therapy used to change the meaning of a situation that causes us distress or unease. In essence, cognitive reappraisal is a way of combating stress and building resilience by shifting the lens through which we view the world.

The simple act of questioning the thoughts that shape our reality (especially when they create stress, anger, or frustration) has the power to unwind the web of beliefs holding the set point in place. It opens the door to living a life with more compassion, ease, and openness to new possibilities.

How to Embrace Inquiry and Let Go

The practice of inquiry goes back far beyond the methods of modern psychology. We can trace this practice back to ancient Greek philosophers like Socrates and Epictetus. It also shows up in a number of ancient spiritual traditions.

Using different words, each of these philosophies makes a similarly surprising and thought-provoking claim: Well-being and inner clarity don’t arise from amassing new beliefs and knowledge. This state of being arises from questioning the mind and letting go of what we think we know.

Try This 5-Minute Inquiry Practice to Notice, Shift, and Rewire

A 5-Minute Inquiry Practice—Nate Klemp

  • 4:57
  1. Start by closing your eyes. Let your body sink into your seat. Take a few breaths and release anything that you’re carrying with you into the practice. Try to feel at ease yet alert, and focused on the present moment.
  2. Notice if there are any events, conversations, or tasks coming to mind that are causing you stress. Pick one of these. Then, take a moment to imagine yourself in this future situation. Notice where you are. See who’s there and what’s happening. Do you feel irritated, anxious, stressed, overwhelmed? Remember, there’s no need to change your experience. Let yourself feel whatever is arising. Let the thoughts, emotions, or sensations come and go.
  3. Now, let’s begin to shift. We’ll do this by viewing this same situation from a different perspective. Think of someone in your life who might actually enjoy this situation, or maybe they just find it easy. How would they view this future situation? What would they feel?
  4. Then, let this alternative perspectives sink in. Imagine yourself back in that future situation once more, but this time experience it from this alternative view. Notice how it feels from this perspective.
  5. When you feel ready, come back to the room. You can open your eyes. Notice any changes in your state and as you go throughout your day. If you find yourself worrying about this future situation, try shifting to this alternative perspective and see what happens.

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Presence

How to Make Presence a Habit

Presence is meditation in motion. It is the practice of bringing mindfulness into the activities of everyday life. We can practice the art of being here, now, while waiting in a long grocery store line, changing a baby’s diaper, or sitting in traffic.

Presence involves a simple yet incredible shift—from the ordinary state of mind wandering to bringing our attention to the experience of what is happening right now. You can make this shift anytime, anywhere.

There are other benefits, too. Presence doesn’t simply change the quality of being, it can also transform the quality of what you do—leading to greater creative flow, meaningful relationships, and increased productivity at home and at work. Through developing the habit of presence, we get in touch with the fundamental wonder of what it is to be alive, and even the most ordinary moments become extraordinary.

Why is Being Present Important?

Attending to the present moment enables us to take advantage of the full range of possibilities that exist in each moment. This means we can spontaneously adapt to even the most challenging situations. If you’re stuck at the airport with a long delay, you can let your mind swirl with thoughts about the past and future: I should have taken the earlier flight or I am going to be so late and tired. Or you can experience the power of the present moment and take advantage of the new possibilities available to you as a result of the delay: go for a brisk walk through the concourse, read for pleasure, eat a meal, or catch up with friends on the phone.

When we spend the day traveling through the past and future, we tend to get trapped in a host of negative emotions, from anxiety to irritation to resentment. When we manage to enter the razor-thin moment of presence, something amazing happens: anxieties and resentments dissolve. We experience more ease, calm, and peace. In short, we experience more well-being.

The science on this is clear. Spending more time in the present moment leads to greater happiness.  A Harvard University study conducted in 2010 by Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert, for example, revealed that happiness is inversely related to mind wandering—the amount of time that we spend time traveling through thoughts about past and future. 

Killingsworth and Gilbert discovered that most of us spend a lot of time mind wandering—distracted from the present moment. In fact, the average person spends 47% of the day mind wandering: thinking about something other than their present activity.

Try This 10-Minute Guided Meditation to Fully Experience the Present

A 10-Minute Meditation to Fully Experience the Present—Jay Vidyarthi

  • 12:39
  1. Start by finding a comfortable position. I like to think of myself as embodying my intention for the practice in the way I hold my body: I intend to do nothing, but with a sense of presence, awareness, and relaxation.
  2. Take a breath or two to let go of whatever came before this practice, and whatever may come after. You may close your eyes, or keep them open, finding a spot to focus your gaze.
  3. When you’re ready, let go of any kind of intention to change anything about what you’re experiencing in this moment. Drop the resistance and let it happen. If you find yourself naturally gravitating to another practice you do—paying attention to the breath, or sounds, or saying an affirmation—let that be a part of your natural state in this moment. 
  4. You may also notice yourself feeling uncomfortable. Maybe you’re tired, drowsy, or getting bored already. Maybe you’re caught up in racing thoughts about all the challenges we’re facing. Whatever it is you’re noticing, in this practice, there’s no need to fight any of it. Just let it happen, in a radical act of self-acceptance.
  5. Maybe you notice some external experience, like your neighbours are banging on the wall, or your roommate or spouse is speaking loudly in the other room. Embrace that as part of the meditation, and accept it as part of your experience in this moment. This is exactly what it’s like to be you in this moment. All we’re doing here is dropping the fight and accepting completely, just to see what happens. Bring a sense of curiosity. What happens when you fully do nothing, and let things be as they are?
  6. Often when we’re trying to take a break, that idea of taking a break can be pretty effortful. We can find ourselves trying really hard to relax, to stop thinking, to enjoy something. But is that really a break?
  7. In this practice, we are not trying to do anything. Maybe you are thinking. What happens when you just let that happen? Maybe you’re not enjoying this meditation, or you find yourself confused. You can let it happen. 
  8. Sometimes our self-care routine—whether it’s exercise, mindfulness, or something else—becomes an entry on our task list that we’re trying to check off in our already overwhelmed lives. That can be a useful framing, but sometimes it can take over and we lose track of being present without striving to change something. Let’s refresh our intention, start again, and spend this time truly just being here, without any attempt to change anything about what we’re experiencing. For this next minute, anything you’re experiencing is OK exactly the way it is.
  9. Take this last moment to let go of the practice. At your own pace, see if you can carry forward whatever insight you discovered into whatever’s coming next in your day. A sense of balancing on the tightrope between striving to be better, to do better, to help yourself, to help others, to take care of yourself, to get that task done—with the sense of just being OK with the way things are. Especially in challenging situations, this can be a very difficult line to walk.

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Engagement

Engagement, Presence, and Flow

Our ordinary state is one of mind wandering—a state in which our attention drifts between the present moment and thoughts about past and future. When we practice presence, we begin regularly shifting our attention back to the present moment whenever this happens.

Turning attention into engagement is similar. Think of it as “directed presence” or as cultivating presence in the midst of the activities we engage in both at work and at home. Psychologists have a name for this state of full engagement. They refer to it as, “flow.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, one of the first psychologists to carry out research on this experience, talks about it in his book Flow. He describes flow as “the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it.”

On its surface, engagement sounds a lot like presence, and they are in fact closely related. By definition, you can experience presence any time, anywhere: lying on the beach, walking to your car, or sitting in traffic. It can be either passive or active. Engagement, on the other hand, is a purely active state that arises in specific conditions: when we use a skill we have developed to overcome some sort of challenge.

Why is Engagement Important?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research illuminates the connection between flow and well-being. In one study, his team had 250 “high-flow” and 250 “low-flow” teenagers keep a record of their mood at specific times throughout the day. When the team examined the responses, the low-flow teens spent the bulk of their time in a state of disengagement, and were said to either be hanging out at the mall or watching television. The high-flow teens, by contrast, were more likely to spend their time developing hobbies, academic interests, and athletic abilities.

How did these two groups score on measures of happiness? It turned out that the high-flow group outperformed the low-flow group on every measure of psychological well-being, except one. Seligman writes, “The exception is important: the high-flow kids think their low-flow peers are having more fun, and say they would rather be at the mall doing all those ‘fun’ things or watching television.” 

The only disadvantage of experiencing flow, was the feeling of missing out on short-term pleasures. Pleasures that fail to produce long-term happiness. Two helpful conclusions can be drawn from this research. First, engagement cultivates happiness and well-being. The more we live in the state of flow, the more we grow and experience meaningful success. 

Secondly, flow doesn’t always come naturally. We often have to resist the temptation of short-term pleasure to get there. When we do, we set the stage for this exquisite experience of total absorption in the task at hand.

Try This 20-Minute Guided Meditation for Resting in the Flow

A 20-Minute Meditation for Resting in the Flow—Ed Halliwell

  • 20:17
  1. Settle into a posture for sitting meditation, feeling the connection of your body to the floor, cushion, or seat. At any time during this practice, especially if you feel disconnected or disembodied, come back to this sense of groundedness, anchoring your experience.
  2. Begin paying attention to breathing, noticing how each breath is a unique experience, not the same as the previous one or the next. Notice how the breath happens without you controlling it—your breath is happening within you; “you” are not choosing to breathe. Know, too, that all of the automatic processes of the body—oxygenation of the cells, blood flow, heartbeat, and so on—are happening in the same way. As best you can, relax into this experience.
  3. Open awareness now to the whole body. As sensations rise into consciousness and pass through, recognize that they are all impermanent, continually transforming in intensity, location, and quality. Let them be experienced, moment by moment, and allow them to pass through, as best you can, without attachment or rejection. Recognize too that the physical constituents of your body are in flux—skin is being shed, cells are growing and dying, some neural connections are strengthening, others are weakening.
  4. Now bring awareness to thoughts. With a friendly interest, observe the patterns of thinking that are running through the mind, like clouds passing across the sky of the mind, making up its weather. Like the weather, these patterns are always changing, depending on atmospheric conditions. Realize that the thoughts you had a year ago, five years ago, a decade ago—each of which may have seemed extremely important back then—are now merely memories, and that thoughts appearing in the mind right now will share that fate.
  5. Finally, open up your mindfulness to every aspect of conscious experience—sensations, sights, sounds, tastes, smells, and thoughts. Let go into the space within and around you, remaining alert and present to whatever comes. Allow the play of experience to happen by itself, resting in the flow, moment by moment. When you notice attention wandering to a particular place, acknowledge the wandering and open out to the whole panorama of experience once more.

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How to Loosen Your Grip and Find Your Flow 

With all of life’s challenges, it can be difficult to find your flow and go with it. But when we are able to cultivate our presence in the midst of daily activities, we can fully experience the joy of each act. Read More 

  • Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp
  • May 17, 2021

Gratitude

What is Gratitude?

Practicing gratitude can be a game-changer: it has far reaching effects, from improving our mental health to boosting our relationships with others. Living your life with gratitude helps you notice the little wins—like the bus showing up right on time, a stranger holding the door for you, or the sun shining through your window when you wake up in the morning. Each of these small moments strings together to create a web of well-being that, over time, strengthens your ability to notice the good.

What Are the Effects of Practicing Gratitude?

According to Rick Hanson, an expert on positive neuroplasticity, the brain is “like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” Traumatic experiences—car accidents, heartbreak, or intense fear—carve deep grooves in the neural structures of the brain.

The brain’s Velcro-like attachment to bad experiences reinforces the negativity bias of the brain. Recent research, however, has also found there is an easy antidote to this negative spiral: gratitude. Even though our brains are naturally attracted to negative memories, gratitude allows us to amplify the positive—to create more powerful positive memories and, in turn, lasting changes to the brain.

In fact, research conducted by Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, has shown that gratitude “broadens and builds” the brain’s capacity to overcome negative states. In the absence of gratitude, the mind closes in on a small handful of possibilities. Gratitude expands the field by “widening the array of thoughts and actions that come to mind.” If you feel frustration while sitting in traffic, for example, gratitude helps broaden your experience. You can begin to notice the changing leaves on the trees, relax into your breath, or use the delay as an opportunity to really listen to your favorite music or audiobook.

This shift isn’t merely psychological. Evidence from neuroscience suggests that this practice extends deep into the neural pathways of the brain. Dr. Richard Davidson, neuroscience researcher, notes, “From everything we know about the brain circuitry underlying these components it’s a good bet that well-being therapy [the expression of gratitude for self and others] strengthens the prefrontal cortex.”

As psychologists continue to explore the mechanisms behind gratitude, one thing is clear. Gratitude offers extensive benefits of well-being.

4 Ways Gratitude Contributes to Well-Being

  • Increased optimism. Research demonstrates that the practice correlates to an increase in the experience of positive emotions and reduction of negative ones.
  • Reduced stress and anxiety in times of crisis. In studies following the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and elsewhere, Fredrickson found that the practice of gratitude diminished the intensity and frequency of traumatic memories.
  • Enhanced physical health. Gratitude helps lower blood pressure and the quality of our sleep. Researchers have found that by practicing gratitude, we get more sleep, fall asleep more easily, and feel better when we wake up.
  • Improved relationships. Researchers Robert A. Emmons and Michael E. McCullough theorize that gratitude within relationships can create a kind of “upward spiral.” As we become more grateful for our friends and family, we treat them with more kindness and respect.

Try This 10-Minute Guided Meditation to Notice, Shift, and Rewire 

So how can you integrate this practice into everyday life—standing in line at the grocery store, waiting for your plane to take off, or waiting for a doctor’s appointment?  

The key is to Notice-Shift-Rewire. Simply notice when you feel upset or irritated. Use these emotions as your reminder to take a step back and shift out of your ordinary habits.

Once you notice that you’re caught in a stressful emotion, shift by asking a reframing question like, “How does this situation support my learning and growth?” This question might open new possibilities. It might even lead you to feel excited, instead of overwhelmed, by the challenge.

The final step is to rewire. Take 15 seconds to savor this alternative perspective. Remember that this simple practice is activating new neural pathways in the brain. So see if you can stay with the experience to strengthen this new habit.

A 10-Minute Meditation to Notice, Shift, and Rewire—Priti Patel

  • 10:43
  1. Begin by finding a comfortable seat, your eyes can either be closed or open with a soft gaze for this practice. Be sure that you’re sitting comfortably and to the best of your ability, see if you can sit with a straight spine. To find that perfect point of balance, you might sway back and forth as well as side to side until you find your ideal seat. Feel your body settle.
  2. Now, take a few slow breaths. Let go of any attempt to control or shape the breath. Let it move in and out naturally. Allow yourself to relax and let go of any tension or stress. Feel a sense of relaxed alertness, grounded yet present.
  3. Start by noticing. Notice your current state of mind. What’s the current tone of mood? How are you feeling right now in this moment? See if you can simply notice with no judgments of good or bad.
  4. Now, let’s shift by taking an inventory of all that you have in your life to be grateful for. Feel gratitude for the people and circumstances that led you to this moment here today. Offer gratitude to your parents and your grandparents. Feel gratitude for the opportunities you’ve had in life, education, travel, and work experience.
  5. Consider the health of your mind and body. Offer gratitude for the health of your body. Feel grateful for your mind and intellect. Feel your appreciation for the talents and skills you have. Now, consider your gratitude for the people in your life. Offer your gratitude to your immediate family members. Feel gratitude for your extended family. Feel appreciation for your coworkers and friends. Extend gratitude toward the mentors in your life who helped you grow into the person you are today.
  6. Now, consider your gratitude for the earth. For water, food, and the air that you breathe in every single day. And now, simply choose the one thing that you feel most grateful for in this moment. Relax every muscle in your body.
  7. Let’s go deeper into the experience of gratitude through a short visualization. Begin by bringing to mind someone in your life who you care for deeply. A parent, a spouse, a child, or a close friend. Imagine them in your mind’s eye. And recall a moment when you felt a particularly strong sense of connection with this person. This moment could be recent or in the distant past. Allow your mind to go back to this sacred moment of connection. Remember where you were. Picture the scene, the location, the people, the time of day, anything else that you see.
  8. See if you can go back to what you were feeling in that moment. Love, presence,  contentment, or true connection. Notice any sensations or emotions that arise in your mind and body. And see if you can let go of any judgments. Good or bad. Try not to analyze. Simply allowing whatever you are feeling to come and go.
  9. Focus on one aspect of this moment that you feel particularly grateful for. The person. The setting. Your emotional state. And let this experience of gratitude flood your entire mind and body. Take just a few more breaths. Continue to focus on this one quality of gratitude.
  10. Let’s rewire the benefits of this practice. Savor this experience of gratitude for just 15 seconds. Really let it sink in. When you’re ready, open your eyes fully. Slowly come back into the room. Move any parts of your body that might feel stiff.
  11. And as you go through the rest of your day, consider expressing your appreciation for the person you chose in this practice. It could be a text, an email, a card, or simply a mental wish for them. Then notice how this expression of gratitude changes your day.

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How to Make Gratitude a Daily Habit 

It’s easy to focus on what we want rather than what we have. But when we shift our awareness to the present moment, we begin finding moments of gratitude in everyday life. Read More 

  • Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp
  • May 17, 2021

Compassion

What is Compassion?

Empathy gives us the ability to understand the viewpoints and feelings of others. While empathy is important, it falls short of compassion. You can understand the feelings of a friend, a relative, or an acquaintance while still feeling bitterness or resentment toward them. Compassion adds love and caring to the equation. It arises when we combine our ability to empathize with others with a heartfelt sense of love.

Compassion has no boundaries. It goes beyond extending loving-kindness to your inner circle of friends, family members, and other loved ones. Compassion is the art of loving all beings—even those who would seek to do us harm. It’s also about opening to love ourselves, even those dark and hard to reach corners of our being.

Like gratitude, the practice of compassion is something all of us have encountered. You have no doubt experienced it from others directed toward you: in a moment of crisis or following the death of a loved one. You have also likely experienced this state of empathetic love toward others and at times toward yourself.

We all understand the importance and benefits of compassion. Yet in the midst of everyday life, compassion can be difficult to access. While you are standing in an hour-long line at the Department of Motor Vehicles, for example, it’s often unnatural and outside of our normal habit patterns to feel caring for the people ahead of you in line or for those working the counter.

While we are juggling the many demands of life, it’s just easy to forget compassion. We often overlook the needs of others, not out of any feeling of ill will but because we are just too busy or distracted to make a connection. This is the challenge that we all face in building the habit of compassion. While we may want to feel more compassion for others, the busyness of our schedules—and our own minds—distracts us.

The Power of Compassion

It turns out that practicing compassion is a way to rewire the very structure of the brain for enhancing resilience and overall well-being.

Consider one of the most recent neuroscience experiments on compassion. Led by Helen Weng, researchers used functional MRIs to measure the brain activity of participants viewing images of human suffering. Participants were given thirty minutes per day of training in compassion meditation, and the researchers took measurements at the beginning of the study and two weeks later.

They found that the brain activity of the subject group had shifted radically. As they observed, “Those who had undergone training in compassion meditation showed striking changes in brain function, particularly in the amygdala.” The amygdala is the section of the brain that controls our fight-or-flight response. Reduced activation in this region indicated that compassion meditation had enabled participants to feel less distress. The subjects also displayed increased altruistic behavior and increased activation in the regions of the brain involved in social cognition and emotional regulation.

It’s easy to get lost in the details of these scientific studies. But the big insight here is that by practicing compassion meditation for a short time—as little as two weeks—you can positively change your brain. With continued practice, this leads to experiencing an ongoing state of compassion in your life and creates a powerful virtuous cycle. Compassion helps you live with a more positive outlook, which in turn helps you become more loving and empathetic toward others. Finally, you may be pleasantly surprised to find that as you become more caring in your interactions with others, people become more caring and kind toward you. 

Try This 15-Minute Loving-Kindness Meditation to Boost Compassion

A Loving-Kindness Meditation to Boost Compassion—Emma Seppälä

  • 13:40
  1. Close your eyes. Sit comfortably with your feet flat on the floor and your spine straight. Relax your whole body. Keep your eyes closed throughout the whole visualization and bring your awareness inward. Without straining or concentrating, just relax and gently follow the instructions.
  2. Take a deep breath in. And breathe out.
  3. Keeping your eyes closed, think of a person close to you who loves you very much. It could be someone from the past or the present; someone still in life or who has passed; it could be a spiritual teacher or guide. Imagine that person standing on your right side, sending you their love. That person is sending you wishes for your safety, for your well-being and happiness. Feel the warm wishes and love coming from that person towards you.
  4. Now bring to mind the same person or another person who cherishes you deeply. Imagine that person standing on your left side, sending you wishes for your wellness, for your health and happiness. Feel the kindness and warmth coming to you from that person.
  5. Now imagine that you are surrounded on all sides by all the people who love you and have loved you. Picture all of your friends and loved ones surrounding you. They are standing sending you wishes for your happiness, well-being, and health. Bask in the warm wishes and love coming from all sides. You are filled, and overflowing with warmth and love.
  6. Now bring your awareness back to the person standing on your right side. Begin to send the love that you feel back to that person. You and this person are similar. Just like you, this person wishes to be happy. Send all your love and warm wishes to that person.
  7. Repeat the following phrases, silently:

May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain. 

May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.

May you live with ease, may you be happy, may you be free from pain.

  1. Now focus your awareness on the person standing on your left side. Begin to direct the love within you to that person. Send all your love and warmth to that person. That person and you are alike. Just like you, that person wishes to have a good life.
  2. Repeat the following phrases, silently:

Just as I wish to, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live with ease and happiness.

Just as I wish to, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live with ease and happiness.

Just as I wish to, may you be safe, may you be healthy, may you live with ease and happiness.

  1. Now picture another person that you love, perhaps a relative or a friend. This person, like you, wishes to have a happy life. Send warm wishes to that person.
  2. Repeat the following phrases, silently:

May your life be filled with happiness, health, and well-being.

May your life be filled with happiness, health, and well-being.

May your life be filled with happiness, health, and well-being.

  1. Now think of an acquaintance, someone you don’t know very well and toward whom you do not have any particular feeling. You and this person are alike in your wish to have a good life.
  2. Send all your wishes for well-being to that person, repeating the following phrases, silently:

Just as I wish to, may you also live with ease and happiness.

Just as I wish to, may you also live with ease and happiness.

Just as I wish to, may you also live with ease and happiness.

  1. Now bring to mind another acquaintance toward whom you feel neutral. It could be a neighbor, or a colleague, or someone else that you see around but do not know very well. Like you, this person wishes to experience joy and well-being in their life.
  2. Send all your good wishes to that person, repeating the following phrases, silently:

May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from all pain. 

May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from all pain. 

May you be happy, may you be healthy, may you be free from all pain. 

  1. Now expand your awareness and picture the whole globe in front of you as a little ball.
  2. Send warm wishes to all living beings on the globe, who, like you, want to be happy:

Just as I wish to, may you live with ease, happiness, and good health. 

Just as I wish to, may you live with ease, happiness, and good health.

Just as I wish to, may you live with ease, happiness, and good health.

  1. Take a deep breath in. And breathe out. And another deep breath in and let it go. Notice the state of your mind and how you feel after this meditation.
  2. When you’re ready, you may open your eyes.

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Movement

What is Mindful Movement?

All kinds of terms these days describe mindful movement: working out, exercising, dancing, biking, hiking, and cross training. Don’t let yourself get distracted by the words. They all point to a common idea and practice—moving the body. Whether we walk, do yoga, run, bike, or swim is unimportant. What matters is that these activities shift us out of what Henry David Thoreau calls the “sedentary life.”

In this practice, however, we want to focus less on formal periods of exercise and more on micro-bursts of movement throughout the day. After all, we all know that exercise holds profound benefits for the mind and body.  However, the research on movement shows that peak mental and physical fitness isn’t just about exercise. It’s also about breaking up sedentary behavior with brief periods of movement as we go throughout each day.

Why Is it Important to Move Your Body?

Experts used to think that short thirty-minute bursts of exercise were all that mattered—that your activity level during the other hours of the day had no significant impact on well-being. But recent findings show that movement, or lack thereof, during our time at work, at home, and in the car has profound effects on health and well-being. This research has led some to suggest that “sitting is the new smoking” and surfaced in a Time magazine article entitled “Sitting Is Killing You.”

A study in the medical journal Lancet on over 1 million people found that exercising 60 to 75 minutes every day can eliminate the increased health risks associated with high sitting time.  However, this level of exercise is rare. And in cases where high sitting time was combined with high TV-viewing time, researchers found an hour of exercise only reduced but did not eliminate the increased risk. 

Sitting’s effects on our posture and rest of the body can be dramatic, too. As you sit, it’s typical for the shoulders to round and the head to be slightly forward which pulls on the neck and back. Hip flexors and chest muscles shorten and tighten and the lower body muscles weaken. Many people complain of back pain and extended sitting is a common culprit.

The ordinary habit of sedentary behavior is problematic for several reasons. First, the more we sit, the more we reduce the energy expenditure of the body. This means that we burn fewer calories and reduce circulation. Second, the numerous circulation, insulin production, enzyme processes, and mechanisms that suppress inflammation are all affected by sitting. And, not surprisingly, the more we sit, the more we tend to eat. In studies of TV watching, the number of hours spent sitting correlates with an increase in caloric intake.

The good news is that by taking more breaks, walking more, and sitting less, we can easily reverse these effects.

How to Make Mindful Movement a Habit

Movement is a physical act, yet the key to building this habit of regular movement is all mental. It involves developing the moment-to-moment awareness to catch yourself each time you have been sitting for an extended period and then shift your physical and mental state by moving in some way.

Here are a few strategies:
  • Stand up: During a call or meeting just stand up for 10-15 minutes
  • Walk: Take a brief stroll around your home or office
  • Stretch: Get up and stretch out your shoulders, neck, or hamstrings
  • Dance: If you want to have some fun with this, put on your favorite song and dance for a few minutes
  • Watch and Move: Use guided stretch and recharge videos

Try This 10-Minute Daily Walking Meditation

A Daily Walking Practice—Mark Bertin

  • 9:16
  1. As you begin, walk at a natural pace. Place your hands wherever comfortable: on your belly, behind your back, or at your sides.
  2. Now for a few minutes, expand your attention to sounds. Whether you’re indoors, in the woods, or in a city, pay attention to sounds without labeling or naming, or getting caught up in whether you find them pleasant or unpleasant. Notice sounds as nothing more or less than sound.
  3. Shift your awareness to your sense of smell. Again, simply notice. Don’t push or force yourself to feel anything at all, just bring attention to the sense of smell, whatever you discover.
  4. Now, move to vision: colors and objects and whatever else you see. Patiently coming back each time something grabs your attention, or even if something needs addressing, like avoiding an obstacle. Staying natural, not overly rigid, not daydreaming and drifting, but with sustained awareness.
  5. Keep this open awareness of everything around you, wherever you are. Nothing to do, nothing to fix, nothing to change. Fully aware, and walking.
  6. In the last moments, come back to awareness of the physical sensations of walking, wherever else your mind found itself throughout the practice. Notice your feet again touching the ground. Notice again the movements in your body with each step.

When you’re ready to end your walking meditation, stand still for a moment again. Pausing, choose a moment to end the practice. As you finish, consider how you might bring this kind of awareness into the rest of your day.

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Relationships

Why Are Healthy Relationships Important?

When it comes to well-being, relationships might just be the most important practice to master.  Just think about what sustains you when life gets rough. Think about what will matter most when you look back on your life. For most of us, the answer is simple. It’s not work, money, or status. It’s the care and connection we share with our friends, family, and coworkers. 

In fact, researchers in positive psychology now argue that well-being and relationships work together to create a kind of upward spiral. Healthy relationships sow the seeds of well-being. They strengthen your immune system, allow you to live longer, and make you more resilient to stress. Yet the opposite is also true: Well-being strengthens our relationships. Those who feel healthy, happy, and content in their lives make better friends, coworkers, lovers, and life partners.

Try This 20-Minute Connection Practice

A Meditation to Foster a Deeper Sense of Connection—Bob Stahl

  • 20:46
  1. Begin by checking in. Begin by taking a few moments to arrive and settle in by bringing your awareness into your mind and body. Acknowledge how you are feeling and let it be.
  2. Gently shift to mindful breathing, being aware of breathing in and out. There’s no need to manipulate the breath in any way—just breathing in and out, normally and naturally.
  3. Shift attention to where you’re seated. Begin to feel the connection of your body on the chair, cushion, bed, or mat, and feel its connection to the floor. Reflect on the connection of the floor to the building you are in and its connection to the earth farther below.
  4. Let your awareness expand to include the earth below you. Feel that sense of being held by the earth below you, and just allow yourself to be held by the earth. You are in a safe space and you can breathe in and out with ease in your body and mind.
  5. Feel how the earth rises up to hold and embrace you. There is nothing more you need to do, nowhere you have to go, and no one you have to be. Just being held in the heart of kindness and letting be.
  6. Bring to mind someone you would hold this way. Reflect on your loved ones being held in the same way—with safety and ease of body and mind. Reflect on how the earth holds all beings, whether they are acquaintances, strangers, or difficult ones—with no bias, no discrimination, no separation.
  7. Reflect on how this earth holds all beings, forsaking none—whether they be small or large. Reflect on how this earth does not exist in a vacuum, that it is connected to a solar system and vast universe. We all are interconnected. Our bodies and the earth, the sun and the stars, are composed of the same matter—the same basic particles, joined in different ways. Feeling into that sense of connection and interconnection that we are all made of stardust. Feeling that sense of being home within your body and mind with a true sense of belonging and connection.
  8. Return your attention to the breath. Just breathing in and out, feeling the grace of this universe—no isolation nor separation, feeling that sense of connection and interconnection and being at home in your being. Nothing more you need to do, go, get, or push away. Imperfectly perfect as you are, resting in the heart of this universe.
  9. Let well-wishes form. May all beings here and everywhere dwell with peace.

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Over-the-shoulder photo of a couple on a video call with nine people.
Well-Being

Why Relationships Are Key to Well-Being 

Authors and mindfulness experts Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp dive into the research on how building strong connections with others helps us stay healthy and happy. Read More 

  • Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp
  • July 30, 2021

Contribution

How to Make Contribution a Habit

Where compassion is a state of being, the inner experience of extending empathy and love to all beings, including yourself, contribution is compassion externalized.

The act of contribution takes many different forms. You might donate your time at a local senior center. You might set aside a certain amount of money each year for charitable giving. Or you might engage in small random acts of kindness. Whether it’s giving up your seat on a crowded bus or helping the person in front of you on an airplane hoist a carry-on into the overhead bin, each day there are countless opportunities to contribute to the lives of others. But in the midst of our ordinary mind wandering, we often miss these moments

Why is Making Contribution a Habit Important?

Over the last thirty years, researchers have amassed an overwhelming amount of empirical evidence that proves that the act of contributing to others—while working, volunteering, donating money, or even thinking about doing good—provides powerful physiological and neurological benefits.

David McClelland, a behavioral psychologist at Harvard, conducted one of the earliest studies in this area. That study revealed that simply thinking about contributing to the lives of others enhances our immune system. McClelland presented subjects with a short film on Mother Teresa’s work with orphans in Calcutta. He then observed what is now known as the “Mother Teresa Effect”: by watching the example of someone like Mother Teresa, subjects showed significant and lasting increases in immunity.

Subsequent studies have confirmed the powerful ripple effect that contribution has on individuals. Studies of cardiac patients and patients with multiple sclerosis show that when these patients spend time supporting other patients their levels of depression decline, and they tend to live longer.

The benefits of contribution can also be noticed in the brain. Recent neurological imaging studies by Jorge Moll show that contribution generates a helper’s high, an effect that can be observed in the brain. In one study, researchers examined the effects of having subjects make a donation to a charity. This act can be seen activating the mesolimbic pathway—a part of the brain that enables us to experience the dopamine-mediated pleasure that arises from eating and sex.

Try This 15-Minute Compassion Practice for Opening the Heart

A Meditation for Opening the Heart—Sharon Salzberg

  • 15:49
  1. Imagine you’re encircled by people who love you. Sit comfortably, eyes open or closed, and imagine yourself in the center of a circle made up of the most loving beings you’ve met. There may be some people in your circle who you’ve never met but have been inspired by. Maybe they exist now or they’ve existed historically, or even mythically.
  2. Receive the love of those who love you. Experience yourself as the recipient of the energy, attention, care, and regard of all of these beings in your circle of love. Silently repeat whatever phrases are expressive of that which you most wish for yourself, not just for today but in an enduring way. Phrases that are big and open, something like: May I be safe, be happy, be healthy. Live with ease of heart. May I be safe, be happy, be healthy. Live with ease of heart.
  3. Notice how you feel when you receive love.  As you experience yourself in the center of the circle, all kinds of different emotions may arise. You may feel gratitude and awe, or you might feel kind of shy, like you would rather duck down and have all of these beings send loving-kindness to one another and forget about you. Whatever emotion may arise, you just let it wash through you. Your touchstone is those phrases: May I be happy. May I be peaceful… or whatever phrases you’ve chosen.
  4. Open yourself up to receiving love. Imagine that your skin is porous and this warm, loving energy is coming in. Imagine yourself receiving. There’s nothing special that you need to do to deserve this kind of acknowledgement or care. It’s simply because you exist.
  5. Send loving care to the people in your circle. You can allow that quality of loving-kindness and compassion and care you feel coming toward you to flow right back out to the circle and then toward all beings everywhere, so that what you receive, you transform into giving. You give the quality of care and kindness that does actually exist in this world. That can become part of you, and part of what you express or return. When you feel ready you can open your eyes or lift your gaze to end the session.

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Adapted from Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing by Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp, PhD.

About the author

Eric Langshur

Eric Langshur has been committed to health and wellbeing innovation for over fifteen years and today is an author, sought-after public speaker, entrepreneur and investor. Eric has dedicated his career to modeling a values-based leadership that leans on caring for people by investing in developing their potential. Eric is the co-author of The New York Times bestseller Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing.

About the author

Nate Klemp

Nate Klemp, PhD, is coauthor of The 80/80 Marriage: A New Model for Happier, Stronger Relationship. He is a former philosophy professor and a founding partner at Mindful. He is also coauthor of Start Here, a New York Times bestselling guide to mindfulness in the real world. Nate received his BA and MA from Stanford University, and his PhD from Princeton University.

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