An Exercise in Mindfulness


By Chasz Hodgson
2022 UBC PharmD Candidate

Recently, the concept of mindfulness has gained plenty of interest as a form of self-development. Whether it be yoga, relaxation therapy, tai chi, or sound healing, the foundational principals of mindfulness are being put to work all around us. In the western world, we often feel tense, stressed, and distracted from the weight of our busy lives.

This is where mindfulness comes in.

To put it simply, mindfulness is the practice of staying present in the current moment. However, if you have ever tried to meditate, you may have quickly realized that staying present is not as simple as it sounds. We have all experienced a wandering mind, whether it presented as thinking about a response while another is talking, thinking about what we are going to have for dinner while reading a book, or daydreaming while driving down the highway. Although having our attention float away from the task at hand may be relatively harmless, it can impact our daily lives in many ways.

Because our attention is needed in so many areas of life in the modern world, anyone can benefit from practicing mindfulness. As we all must have noticed at some point in our lives, losing focus can negatively impact our relationships, learning, and performance. In some situations, losing mindfulness can even be dangerous, such as while driving a car or operating machinery or power tools.

Over the past few decades, a lot of research has been conducted exploring the benefits of meditation and mindfulness. For example, mindfulness training has been shown to help alleviate anxiety in both children and adults.3,4 Mindfulness has also been demonstrated to aid in the treatment of depression.4 Studies have even demonstrated that engaging in mindfulness techniques can help increase levels of happiness and acceptance in those that have been diagnosed with a terminal illness.5 Over anything else, meditation and mindfulness have a direct correlation with stress reduction.6 These are only a few specific examples of how mindfulness training has benefited people dealing with distress.

So, how does one practice mindfulness anyways?

The practice of mindfulness is a very broad concept, but the central idea is that we bring our attention to what is happening around us and within us in this very moment, the moment of now. There are a seemingly infinite number of possible techniques one can pursue to attempt to increase awareness and practice mindfulness. In fact, the practice of mindfulness comes from meditation, an ancient practice that originated in India approximately 7000 years ago. Although meditation is the most classical form of practicing mindfulness, there are many other techniques that one can utilize in their daily life outside the realm of deep meditation.

Mindfulness Apps

For a modern-day spin on this, there are a huge number of apps designed to assist in mindfulness and meditation. These apps vary in function and specifics, but the core idea is very similar across them all. Some exercises are meant to improve concentration and energy, while others may be aimed at inducing sleep and relaxation. Whatever area of mental health you wish to improve, there is a smartphone app that may be able to help! These are a list of five apps that interested me the most. Some are free, while others are the best paid apps on the market. Every app listed can be tried for free with no commitment, so you can try them all and chose the one that resonates with you.

1. Headspace (iOS, Android) – website

  • Free 14-day or 7-day trial.
  • Includes hundreds of meditation sessions designed to help reduce stress and anxiety and improve focus and sleep.
  • Each exercise is only 10 minutes in duration.
  • Perfect for those who do not wish to commit to a course or that want to try meditation occasionally.

2. Calm (iOS, Android) – website

  • Free download, subscription optional.
  • Free 7-day course that introduces mindfulness meditation and offers both guided and unguided sessions.
  • Great for those who benefit from guidance and want to follow along over multiple days.

3. Stop, Breath & Think (iOS, Android, web app) – website

  • Free download, subscription optional.
  • Includes over 55 personalized meditations, customizable meditations, a breathing timer, and other tools and instructional videos.
  • Encourages the user to check in frequently to work a few minutes of mindfulness into the daily routine.
  • Perfect for those who feel like they do not have time to practice mindfulness.

4. Insight Timer (iOS, Android, web app) – website

  • Free download, subscription optional.
  • Over 80 000 guided meditations and over 10 000 lessons on stress, healing, relationships, sleep, etc.
  • Good for those who know the area that interests them the most and what they wish to get out of practicing mindfulness.

5. Smiling Mind (iOS, Android, web app) – website

  • Completely free with no subscription options.
  • Hundreds of meditation sessions and programs to chose from, including ones for children, healthcare workers, and those who do not speak English.
  • Sessions are between 2 to 15 minutes, with some longer sessions up to 45 minutes for advanced meditators.
  • Great for introducing children to meditation or for an easy-to-digest introduction to meditation for adults.

Meditation Exercise

Although the apps are great for introducing mindfulness and meditation, some people still prefer to put technology away when attempting to find moments of inner awareness. For those of you who want to try mindfulness without the use of an app, here is a basic meditation exercise to get you started.

  • First start by putting away all distractions, if you wish, and find a quiet place where you can sit down comfortably.
  • Some people prefer to sit cross legged on a pillow so long as it is comfortable.
  • If you would like, you may set a timer for the desired duration (5-15 minutes to start) and set the timer out of sight and out of mind.
  • Invite yourself to close your eyes, sit tall, and breath.
  • You may begin to notice the breath, rising and falling, slowly and deeply into the diaphragm.
  • Let any thoughts you are having and any sensations you are experiencing simply wash over you without entertainment.
  • Continue to pay attention to how it feels to breath deeply, and any time you notice your mind wander, bring it back to the breath.

Congratulations! By paying attention to your breath, your thoughts, and your surroundings for even just a moment, you have completed a meditation exercise.

Whether we download an app with guided exercises, find some time each day to breathe, or simply practice active attention in our daily life, the pursuit of mindfulness has a valuable place for each of us to grow our awareness and reduce our stress. Remember, there is no destination on the journey to developing the skill of mindfulness, for you are already here, now.



  1. Semple R, Reid E, Miller L. Treating Anxiety with Mindfulness: An Open Trial of Mindfulness Training for Anxious Children. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy. 2005;19(4):379-392.
  2. Desrosiers A, Vine V, Klemanski D, Nolen-Hoeksema S. Mindfulness and emotion regulation in depression and anxiety: common and distinct mechanisms of action. Depression and Anxiety. 2013;30(7):654-661.
  3. Victorson D, Hankin V, Burns J, Weiland R, Maletich C, Sufrin N et al. Feasibility, acceptability and preliminary psychological benefits of mindfulness meditation training in a sample of men diagnosed with prostate cancer on active surveillance: results from a randomized controlled pilot trial. Psycho-Oncology. 2016;26(8):1155-1163.
  4. Chiesa A, Serretti A. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction for Stress Management in Healthy People: A Review and Meta-Analysis. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2009;15(5):593-600.
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