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'Pay attention to one aspect of your breathing'

Introducing our new column from renowned hypnotherapist Joseph Pond on how mindfulness can help make you healthier and happier.

Studying the Japanese written language can be maddening. It was as though I was studying a random pattern at the bottom of a kaleidoscope, and just when I thought I had it memorized, someone would bump my elbow, jar the pattern slightly, and a new character would emerge.

But I learned something important about how to learn.  See, the Japanese teach western adults the same way that they teach Japanese children, through constant repetition.

With kids, of course, this is no problem because they have 18 years of schooling in which to practice AND children are perfect mimics.  After all, they learn to be adults by copying us.

But we have skills that children don’t have.  We can organize our thinking in systematic and analytically creative ways.  We can build in challenges AND rewards.

This has important implications in the field of mindfulness.

The first course in mindfulness I ever took, 26 years ago, was taught as though we were all intending to become Buddhist monks.  I don’t think there’s been much improvement recently.

Beginners are taught to sit and be mindful of everything; to be fully present and fully aware.

This is a mistake.  I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me that they’ve given up practicing because it’s either too hard, or too boring.

In fact, last week I urged my readers to practice for just one minute a day, and a few people got back to say that even that was too hard.

So let’s turn it into a game.

This week, practice daily for at least two minutes.  Keep your eyes open so you don’t fall asleep and don’t attempt to be aware of everything.  Instead, pay attention to only one specific aspect of your breathing.

For example, note the air inside your nostrils, or the sound of your exhalation.  Narrowing your focus like this begins to build your mindfulness muscle in an achievable way.  BUT, if that is too boring or too easy, make it more of a challenge by bringing your awareness to something difficult to detect, e.g., the sensation of your shirt against one of your collar bones.

If you start making it fun, you’ll be more apt to keep with it long enough to get the benefits.

  • Joseph Pond is a clinical hypnotherapist, an acupuncturist, and a mindfulness instructor. He is co-founder of Hypnosis Explorers NI and sits on the National Board of NLP and Hypnotherapy. Reach him at

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