A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Care for your brain with meditation and mindfulness

Woman meditating outside - meditate holiday stress away

Taking time to meditate or practice mindfulness can lower your stress, help treat insomnia and potentially lower blood pressure.

Stay in the moment. It’s a cliché we’ve all heard, but turns out – this pearl of wisdom can have huge benefits for your health.

Research shows major benefits to practicing mindfulness and meditation — activities that help people focus on the present. Engaging in these activities can help people process information better and reduce anxiety and depression. Mindfulness and meditation may even improve physical health.

Start simple

Meditation falls under the broader category of mindfulness. Generally, meditation involves sitting in a comfortable position in a quiet environment and focusing on something simple, like the sensation of your breath moving in and out.

Meditation often is challenging for people just starting the practice.

“Starting with mindfulness, where you focus on the outside world, may be easier,” said Dr. Jennifer Michels, a psychologist at Marshfield Clinic.

Both practices help us escape the chaos of our conscious minds and place ourselves in the present. Training the brain to meditate is not unlike training the body to run. It takes time and repetition to improve.

Be mindful during everyday activities

You can practice mindfulness and experience its benefits during your daily routine:

  • Focus on the temperature, wind, sky, sounds and people as you walk from your car into work or a store.
  • Hone in on the taste and texture of food when you eat.
  • Think about the feel of hot water on your shoulders as you shower.

Focusing on specific aspects of your current experience brings you into the moment more easily, naturally reducing stress.


“We find that mindfulness and meditation shift neural activity in the brain to areas associated with stress reduction or calming,” Michels said.  “It gets us out of our own heads, and it brings us into the moment.”

People who practice meditation and mindfulness show better abilities to handle stress and regulate emotions and behaviors, Michels said.

Meditation may help with insomnia, and some research suggests it helps people lower blood pressure. Even two- or three-minute sessions of mindfulness can be beneficial.

“With how stressful our lives can be, if we don’t have deliberate things we do for brain health, we may continue to see high rates of burnout, psychiatric conditions and general emotional distress,” Michels said. “I think there is a reasonable likelihood we’re going to wake up 10 years from now with standard recommendations encouraging people to intentionally take care of their brain, just like we recommend routine physical exercise.”

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