Man taking a deep breath with the sky in the background

“I practice a mindfulness exercise almost every day before bed, and it has really made a difference in how I feel when I wake up the next morning.”

Practicing mindfulness can be really helpful for dealing with stress. It can also help with more significant health issues like depression and anxiety. 

A comprehensive review of studies that looked at mindfulness interventions for the treatment of depression found that it had a significant impact on the severity of symptoms.[1] 

Some guys may think mindfulness is a bunch of fluff. But it’s actually quite a practical skill and is used quite commonly in military training. It helps soldiers focus better on the job and cope with the stress, insomnia, and PTSD that can come from being in the military.[2]

Mindfulness is also becoming more and more commonly used among professional athletes. In the words of NBA superstar, Lebron James, it “…helps a lot for me personally with taking a lot of deep breaths, closing my eyes and just centering myself and listening to my inner self… That definitely is something that keeps me sane in the bubble [when the 2020 NBA playoffs were held in a single location due to COVID-19]” – That year Lebron won the 2020 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for leading his team to the championship.

So, What is Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is simply the practice of maintaining our attention on the present moment, with a heightened sense of awareness. This can be awareness of our surroundings, our internal physical sensations, our mood, or our thoughts. Mindfulness can include more formal practices like yoga or meditation, but it can also be used to describe a general awareness and outlook on life we can carry with us throughout our days.

The key to mindfulness is to bring our attention to the present and not judge ourselves in any way as we’re doing it. Mindfulness is kind of like taking the feeling we have when we’re ‘in the zone’ during sports or when we lose ourselves in the moment at a concert, and cultivating that kind of present state in our everyday lives. 

There are different ways to practice mindfulness, as described below. 

Formal Mindfulness 

If we want to “prescribe” ourselves mindfulness activities throughout our week to help fight depression, formal mindfulness practices can be a good place to start. These are structured activities like yoga, journaling, or meditation that help bring awareness to the present moment and give us a break from the negative thoughts that are tied to depression. 

For example, the practice of mindful journaling is much different than writing a to-do list or mapping out goals for the week. It involves exploring our thoughts and feelings in a stream of consciousness and truly reflecting. Some mindful prompts that we can start with are: ‘What do I need more of in my life?’, ‘In what ways am I resilient?’, and ‘What specific emotions am I feeling today, beneath the grey of the depression clouds?’. 

Expressive writing (the technical term for “journaling”) has been shown to reduce rumination and depressive symptoms.[3]

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is an example of a formal therapy approach incorporating mindfulness, which is backed by research.[4] It focuses on reframing our thinking to be more positive, compassionate, and adaptive, while incorporating mindfulness strategies, like meditation, into sessions and treatment plans.

Informal Mindfulness

To practice mindfulness more informally, we work on noticing when our minds stray from the activity at hand, and kindly remind ourselves to return our attention back to what we’re doing. This form is easy to work into our busy lives because it does not require adding more activities to our day. 

Take, for example, simply eating a meal. Imagine eating a bowl of pasta and trying to slow down and be mindful about it. We can pay attention to things such as the smell and texture, like noticing the warm noodles melt in our mouths. Paying attention to different flavours and ingredients, we can ask ourselves questions like what mix of herbs and spices are in it, or try to taste each individual vegetable like mushrooms, onions, or red peppers. Even noticing the sensations that begin as we start to feel full is part of mindfulness. And if our minds start to wander (which will happen), we return our attention to our meal and refocus on being in the moment.

Quick Tips:

  • Find someone to go to yoga classes with to hold yourself accountable every week, or pay for the class in advance so that you feel more committed to going.
  • Start small: Adding a new activity to our routine is easier said than done, so we want to set reasonable goals. This prevents us from getting too far ahead of ourselves. Fortunately there are lots of tips and strategies we can use to create sustainable habits
  • Try different types of meditation and journaling to see which work best.
  • Use your phone to set check-in reminders at a specific time every day to be mindful of your surroundings (try setting a 15-minute window for this).
  • Select one activity that you do every day to practice informal mindfulness, for example, when you’re brushing your teeth or driving to work.
  • An old-fashioned journal is great to use, but you can also try journaling in a notes app, which can remove the barrier of your journal not being with you at convenient times. If you’re worried about privacy, you can add a password to individual notes if you’re using an iPhone by tapping the three dots in the upper right corner and selecting the lock. If you use an Android, select the three dots in the top right corner, click edit, and then select the notes you want to add a password to. 

Additional Resources:

Next Steps:

Our Mindfulness For Men course includes simple daily practices, as well as step-by-step guided meditations that you can work on weekly towards becoming more emotionally resilient.


  1. Wang, Y. Y., Li, X. H., Zheng, W., Xu, Z. Y., Ng, C. H., Ungvari, G. S., Yuan, Z., & Xiang, Y. T. (2018). Mindfulness-based interventions for major depressive disorder: A comprehensive meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Affective Disorders, 229, 429–436.
  2. Richtel, Matt. “The Latest in Military Strategy: Mindfulness.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 5 Apr. 2019,  
  3.  Gortner, Eva-Maria, et al. “Benefits of Expressive Writing in Lowering Rumination and Depressive Symptoms.” Behavior Therapy, vol. 37, no. 3, 2006, pp. 292–303.,  
  4. MacKenzie, Meagan B, and Nancy L Kocovski. “Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: trends and developments.” Psychology research and behavior management vol. 9 125-32. 19 May. 2016, doi:10.2147/PRBM.S63949.