Take Care: Learning mindfulness as a skill

Sarah Fischer, PhD

“Take Care” is a series of wellness-themed educational articles that run occasionally in UNMC Today. The articles are intended to remind us of the need to make self-care a priority.

Mindfulness is an extremely powerful tool that’s accessible to you at any time, in any place. Mindfulness practice has been shown to: 

  • Boost the mental health and quality of life in recovering breast cancer patients. 
  • Reduce negative rumination and improve tolerance of negative emotions. 
  • Improve responses to daily stress, as well as improve implicit and explicit emotion regulation. 
  • Improve ability to cope with chronic pain. 
  • Improve mental health, wellness and performance in the workplace. 

You may have heard about mindfulness; it’s become more common for mindfulness to be included in discussions about wellness. 

But what is mindfulness? What does it actually look like?

Mindfulness practice comes in many forms, including mindful meditation, mindful spiritual practice and prayer, mindful movement, such as yoga or tai chi, and simple everyday mindfulness practice in your spare moments. 

At its core, mindfulness is nonjudgmental observation and description of your internal and external experiences, allowing yourself to fully take in an experience and participate in it fully. So often we tend to move through life without paying attention, or we even try to avoid certain emotions, thoughts or experiences. 

Through mindfulness practice, we learn to accept things as they are without judgment, which allows us to make more effective choices for what to do next. In short, the key components of mindfulness are: 

  • Allowing yourself to be fully immersed in the experience.
  • Observing your experience without judgment, bias or assumption.
  • Describing your experience to yourself in a factual, nonjudgmental way.
  • Not pushing away or holding onto the experience; letting it be what it is, nothing more or less.

Mindfulness is a skill, and it takes practice to be able to live mindfully. Many of us have spent a lot of time in settings that tend to value efficiency and practically over a holistic experience, so for many people mindfulness feels very different from what they’re used to. 

However, consistent mindfulness practice can help you deal with stress more effectively, change how you think and help you manage physical pain. So, the practice is worth it.  

Below are a few links with exercises to get you started. You also can download a mindfulness app developed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, called Mindfulness Coach, on Android and Apple. Mindful breathing and mindful listening are a great introduction to mindfulness: