Mindfulness changes the way we respond to things by strengthening the prefrontal cortex. Different types of practices activate our thinking centers in different ways, similar to muscle use with exercise. No matter the course, all forms of mindfulness practice strengthen the attentional circuits and reduce fight-or-flight responses.
When attention is strong, we can simply do what we are doing, moment to moment. If we are peeling an orange, we may notice the stickiness of the juice, the smell of the orange oil, and a host of other sensations. If the mind wanders, the instruction is, “Bring your attention back here.” Sometimes we continue to think about other things. The question is then, “Do you know where your attention is now?” Any instructions that bring the practitioner back to awareness of the present moment of experience is a mindfulness exercise.
Carving out a time to practice is key to integrating it into your life. For people just starting out, aim for five minutes a day. The first challenge is establishing a practice. After that a practice has been established, incrementally increase your time. No matter how skilled at mindfulness you become, you must remain committed to practicing for a prescribed period each day.