We hear the word mindfulness a lot these days, but what does it actually mean to be mindful? And how and why is mindfulness helpful in forestalling cognitive decline?

Mindfulness is a practice which began with the ancient Buddhists: the simple act of paying attention to what’s happening right here, right now instead of perseverating over the past or freaking out over the future, which are two of the main causes of stress. Stress not only wreaks havoc on our immune systems, it can cause inflammation in the brain which can lead to cognitive decline.

To combat stress, it really is as simple as “Be here now,” no matter where you fall on the hippy-to-straight-laced spectrum. For example, right now you are reading these words, taking them in. That fight you had with your loved one? It’s in the past. That mortgage or rent due in two weeks? That can be dealt with in the future. All of this static noise will simmer down to mental background if you stop giving it front stage space in your brain.

To that end, stop right now and think about the following:

  1. Where are you sitting/standing?

  2. How does it feel to be where you are right now? Is it too hot, too cold, just right?

  3. Notice your breath. Breathe in for four seconds, breathe out for four. Rinse, repeat.

  4. Look up from your screen, what do you see? How does it make you feel?

  5. Do a mental body scan, from your toes to your head, noticing each part along the way.

  6. Say to yourself, in your head or out loud, “There is only this moment, right now.”