Girl Planting seeds

Mindfulness in the Day-to-Day

shutterstock_120292873By Ben Kligler, MD
If there is one thing we have learned (or at least should have learned!) from the past two and a half years, it’s that every day and every moment are precious and need to be appreciated. But in the day-to-day craziness of our lives, maintaining that type of attitude can be difficult—and often hours or days or even weeks can go by where we do not pick our heads up, look around, and pay attention to all the things in our lives we have to be grateful for.
The key to making that attention to the present more of daily life for me has been the concept of mindfulness or mindful awareness. Although much has been made recently of the benefits of mindfulness and other forms of meditation—and we will review some of those benefits here—less attention has been focused on what it means to bring that skill of mindful awareness into our busy, pressured lives.
The most recent data we have on how common the practice of meditation in the U.S. has become are from 2017—so the percentages are probably significantly higher now. But the data that we do have show that between 2012 and 2017, the percentage of adults in the U.S. practicing some type of regular meditation (which can include many different types, include mantra-based meditation techniques like Transcendental Meditation, Mindfulness Based meditation techniques, as well as spiritual meditation practices) more than tripled, from 4.2 percent to 14.2 percent.1 Some of this growth may be due to celebrities like Paul McCartney, Anderson Cooper and Oprah Winfrey speaking out about the benefits of meditation in their own lives, and some from the growing awareness among health professionals that this type of practice can be very helpful to their patients. Studies have now shown the numerous health benefits that can result from a regular meditation practice, including among many others: 
  • Reduction of blood pressure in people with diabetes, hypertension, and cancer2
  • Improvement in symptoms of anxiety and depression similar to those seen with psychotherapy and medication3
  • Improved sleep quality,4 associated with overall improvement in quality of life
At this stage, there really is no longer any doubt about the health benefits of a wide variety of daily or regular meditation practices including mindfulness-based techniques like Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and others.5 But what can be harder to study and quantify—and sometimes harder to actually practice as well—is the benefit of taking the concept of mindfulness and mindful awareness beyond the boundaries of something we do once or two a day for ten or fifteen minutes, and making it something we practice, to the degree that we are able, all day every day. In my experience, that shift is where we really see the greatest benefits of mindfulness, because that shift is exactly what allows us to move through every day with an appreciation of the present moment and of all the potential each moment can hold for us.

Here is a great place to start: a simple exercise for families from the website mindful.org6 —which you can do in 2-3 minutes either with your children or on your own. It comes from a tradition called “lovingkindness meditation” and you really won’t find a better place to start.
  1. To begin, find a comfortable sitting position. You can even place a hand on the heart. Allow your eyes to close or lower your gaze toward the floor.
  2. Bring to mind someone who you really respect and look up to, and who really loves you in return. 
  3. Notice how you feel as you bring this person to mind.
  4. Make a kind wish and send it their way. What would make them happy?
  5. Next, bring to mind someone else you love and care about: A family member, a friend, a beloved colleague. Just bring this person to mind, sending this person a kind wish.
  6. We’ll move from here to a more neutral person. Perhaps someone you don’t know very well: A parent you see occasionally in the pick-up line, a person who delivers your mail, or makes your coffee in the morning. Just bring this person to mind and imagine yourself sending them some kind of kind wish.
  7. Lastly, bring to mind someone who has frustrated you lately, someone who is a little difficult. Send this last person a kind wish—something nice for them in their life.
  8. Check in with your mind and body as you conclude this practice. Allow your eyes to open if they’ve been closed. Notice if there’s any shift.
Even Forbes Magazine has taken up the call for practicing mindfulness during the course of the day, based on the fact that worker stress decreases focus and productivity and costs employers billions of dollars per year.7 In my workplace, we take a 2-3 minute mindful awareness break at least 2-3 times during the workday—and I can say without a doubt that my team’s focus, productivity, and overall well- being are all improved by these brief breaks.
So think about giving this a try. Not to say working harder on that twice a day regular meditation practice isn’t also important—but at least for me something equally important has come from this practice of working into my day a number of very brief moments of pausing and breathing and opening my eyes to the present.

Dr._KliglerDr. Kligler is the Medical Advisor for The Deirdre Imus Environmental Health Center®. He is also the National Director of the Integrative Health Coordinating Center for the Veterans Health Administration and Research Director for the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. He was the founding  Director  of the Beth Israel Fellowship Program in Integrative Medicine, and teaches in the Beth Israel Residency Program in Urban Family Practice. Dr. Kligler is the author of Curriculum in Complementary Therapies: A Guide for the Medical Educator, and co-editor of Integrative Medicine: Principles for Practice, a textbook published by McGraw-Hill. He is also Co-Editor-in-Chief of the peer-reviewed journal Explore: The Journal of Science and Healing.


1 Burke A, Lam CN, Stussman B, et al. Prevalence and patterns of use of mantra, mindfulness and spiritual meditation among adults in the United States. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2017;17(1):316.
2 Intarakamhang U, Macaskill A, Prasittichok P. Mindfulness interventions reduce blood pressure in patients with non-communicable diseases: a systematic review and meta- analysis. Heliyon. 2020;6(4):e03834.
3 Goldberg SB, Tucker RP, Greene PA, et al. Mindfulness-based interventions for psychiatric disorders: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Clinical Psychology Review. 2018;59:52-60.
4 Rusch HL, Rosario M, Levison LM, et al. The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2019;1445(1):5-16. 
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