In 2024, stopping to smell the roses isn’t exactly our default setting. For many of us, our daily “meditation” looks something like inhale, answer emails, exhale, read the news, inhale, sprint to make it to my exercise class on time, exhale, meal prep. With so many distractions flying across our screens and calendars that are practically overflowing, it’s never been more important to hit pause and retrain the mind to appreciate what’s right there in front of you. 

Meditation is the practice of attending to the mind through physical and mental techniques. This wellness hero’s history dates all the way back to as early as 5,000 BCE. Meditation has been found to stave off stress, anxiety, and depression, aid those struggling with addiction, improve mood and quality of life, and, well, the list goes on and on. 

Just like there are many types of yoga, there are also many traditions of meditation, including Kundalini, Vedic, Zazen, transcendental, and—of course—mindfulness. 

“When it comes to mindfulness, the ‘textbook’ definition that I return to again and again is from Jon Kabbat-Zinn, who developed Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR),” says meditation teacher Adreanna Limbach. “[Kabbat-Zinn] says that, ‘Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we’re paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.’” 

Non-judgment is the crucial ingredient, adds Limbach. When we practice mindfulness, we don’t need to focus on what is good, bad, right, or wrong, and we definitely don’t need to tell ourselves that we “suck at mindfulness” if our to-do list suddenly bulletins across our minds. “We’re letting our opinions, preferences, and agenda all relax a little bit, which honestly, is a relief,” says Limbach. “Mindfulness is a way of receiving our experience in an open, lighthearted way. There’s a buoyancy to it. It’s sort of a gas, once we’re able to drop into it.”

This “buoyant,” soft practice slows the world around us, creating time and space to be grateful and appreciative for all that we have. “Take a warm mug of coffee on a cold, rainy morning, for instance,” says Limbach. “If we’re practicing mindfulness, we can hear the soft pelting of rain against the window and feel the chill at the tip of our nose. We can feel the smooth ceramic mug radiating warmth against our palms. We might smell the earthiness of the beans and feel our toes nuzzled in cozy socks.” 

The same logic applies to listening to someone you love, according to Samantha Snowden, meditation and mindfulness teacher at Headspace. “When we listen mindfully, bringing our full attention to what others say and how they are, we begin to see the whole person in front of us and naturally begin to care more about each relationship in our lives,” she explains. In short: mindfulness can give us a chance to celebrate something as small as a cup of coffee and something as profound as a great conversation. Name another practice that can do that.

3 Ways to Meditate for Mindfulness and Appreciation

We could all use a little bit more gratitude. Below, Limbach, Snowden, and Neeti Narula, meditation teacher and creator at Melissa Wood Health, offer their go-to practices for stoking the flames of appreciation—wherever you are.

Practice 1: Honoring Our Efforts Meditation

Not quite ready to shut your eyes yet? Snowden has a prompt that you can use as a meditation or a journaling exercise that will help you cultivate gratitude. “Taking this time to honor your efforts shows you all of the ways you show up in the world, reminding you of your resilience, generosity, diligence, and care,” says Snowden. “This is an empowering practice as we don’t have to wait for others to validate us, we can offer this reassurance to ourselves.”

Woman Meditating Outside

The exercise. “To start, bring to mind all of the big and small efforts you make in a day. These include external efforts like brushing your teeth, making breakfast, and transporting yourself and loved ones as well as internal efforts like being patient or regulating your emotions when it’s hard,” she says. As you list out your efforts, whisper or think “thank you” to yourself, placing a hand on your heart as you do. 

As time passes, you may also offer this exercise to someone else in their life. Honor their daily efforts and say, “Thank you.” For example, “Thank you for making such delicious meals,” or “Thank you for walking the dog when I had a busy workday.”

Practice 2: Five Senses for Mindfulness and Appreciation

Your five sense are always hard at work, but if you tune in and really listen to them, that’s a mindfulness practice, says Limbach. 

Woman Meditating And Practicing Breathing

The exercise: Close your eyes and pay attention to your breathing. What sounds do you hear? How close are they? What is the texture of the clothing on your skin? Can you smell anything? If so what is it? 

“Now open your eyes and take a moment to receive the shapes and colors of the room,” says Limbach. “What about this moment is particularly sweet, beautiful, or comfortable? Let your attention linger here for a few moments. It can really be as simple as that.”

Practice 3: Grounded Meditation

Let’s say you only have a moment while you’re in the waiting room at your doctor’s office or in the elevator at work. Rather than blowing these moments off as “boring,” let them mean something. “Mindfulness and meditation shine a light of appreciation on even the most seemingly mundane parts of our lives,” says Narula. “When we go through life with more appreciation for even the “boring” things, every single day feels special and fulfilling.”

Woman Meditating Outside

The exercise: Pause. Plant both feet on the ground. Notice: Are you standing on carpet? Hardwood? Tile? Dirt? How firm is the floor? Bring your attention to your breath. How does it feel to be right here, right now?

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