7 Powerful Mindfulness Hacks for Weight Loss and Fitness Gains
Mindfulness is more popular than ever. Over the last decade, this relatively obscure Buddhist practice has found its way into everything from the kitchen (The Mindful Carnivore) to the board room (Mindful Leadership) to the bedroom (Neuroloveology: The Power of Mindful Love & Sex).
Honestly, it’s a bit much.
But at the risk of adding to the hype, there is a growing body of solid scientific evidence that practicing mindfulness can result in profound health and fitness benefits.
WHAT EXACTLY IS MINDFULNESS?
The term mindfulness refers to a psychological state of awareness of the present moment, and the practices that promote this awareness such as yoga, tai chi, and mindfulness meditation. 
Mindfulness begins with calming the mind through emptying and centering, without judgment. 
Most mindfulness techniques today are loosely based on a form Buddhist meditation. In Buddhism, suffering can be overcome by mentally and emotionally detaching from the causes of your suffering by emptying your mind of everything but the present moment. 
This form of mindfulness, a mental emptying, leads to a cognitive state in which the physical systems of the brain and body operate more efficiently and effectively, reducing stress and increasing focus.
Mindfulness is a powerful way to combat the distraction, anxiety, depression, and isolation that comes with modern life.
So next, let’s look at the specific health benefits associated with the most common form of mindfulness: mindfulness meditation.
MINDFULNESS HEALTH BENEFITS
If you have a hard time being alone with your thoughts, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
According to a study from the University of Virginia, 67% of Men Would Rather Receive an Electric Shock Than Meditate. 
Why? It’s not entirely clear but most researchers agree that it’s because our brains are wired to engage with the external world, to run from danger, or fight the bear, or search for dinner.
But the health benefits of calming our minds and disengaging from the world temporarily are overwhelming and absolutely worth the effort.
Mindfulness meditation can [5,6]:
1) Significantly reduce blood pressure
2) Drastically reduce chronic pain
3) Dramatically boost our immune response
4) Regulate heart rate, breathing, and brain waves by activating the parasympathetic nervous system
And importantly, the physiological benefits of reducing our stress response carries with it:
5) Reduction in the hunger hormone ghrelin/increased production of leptin (the satiety hormone)
6) Reduction in the stress hormone cortisol production/increased melatonin production (potent antioxidant to speed recovery)
7) Improvement in mood, concentration, and productivity
If you’re looking for a way to lose weight and/or hack your fitness gains without restricting calories or adding yet another workout to your already triple-booked calendar, the evidence is clear: it’s time to try some mindfulness.
Now that we have a better idea of just what mindfulness is and why we should practice it, here are 7 quick exercises you can do in less than 1 minute to help you get some mindfulness into your life today:
1. Air on skin.
Pay attention to the feeling of air on your skin for 30-60 seconds. Simply observe the sensation without judgment.
This one works best with short sleeves, but if you’re in a suit, you can still focus on your face, neck and the back of your hands.
As thoughts arise, simply notice them, let them go by, and return to the sensation of air on your skin.
2. Hand Clasp
Begin by simply clasping your hands tightly for 5 to 10 seconds. Then release them completely and pay attention to how they feel.
Again, let go of judgment and comparison and simply focus on the sensation.
Maintain focus on the feeling for as long as you can.
3. Fist Clench
Feeling frustrated? Try this one. Make a fist like you’re about to clock someone. Clench it tightly. Then, turn your fist over so your fingers and thumbs are facing you, with your knuckles facing away, and just exhale into your fist.
Gently breathe into your fist for 30 to 40 seconds without judgment.
Focus only on the sensation of your breath on your skin.
Notice what happens to your fist as you breath into it.
4. Bone Trace
Take 60 seconds and close your eyes. Then take the index finger of your right hand and slowly move it up and down on the path of the bones of the fingers on you left hand.
Once you have connected with your left hand, swap and let your left hand connect with the structure of your right hand.
5. One Breath
We don’t always have time for formal meditation. So if you’re having a busy week, just try paying attention to what one breath feels like.
Take 30 or 40 seconds to focus on the feeling of just one breath.
Feel the sensation of air flowing into your body, and then out of your body. Notice the brief pause before the exhale, and the sensations in your nostrils, your neck, and shoulders, rib cage, diaphragm, and belly.
Just focus on the breath. When your mind wanders, and it will just gently bring your attention back to your breath.
And with each breath, go more deeply into that sensation, again, without judgment.
6. Two Bite Tuesday.
Let’s be honest, it’s tough to be a mindful eater all the time. So why not give #twobitetuesday a try instead.
Just commit to making the first two bites of every meal or snack you eat on Tuesdays, mindful bites. Pay attention to the sensory experiences – the smell, taste, texture, and appearance of the bite, and the sounds as you chew and swallow your food.
Do not evaluate or savor, just for these first two bites, you’re only noticing the sensory experience in a neutral, observational, judgment-free way.
7. 10-second Stretch.
Start with a fake yawn. It will trigger real ones. The yawn is important as it interrupts your habitual thoughts and feelings. It brings you into the present moment, into the NOW.
Then do a sequence of very slow stretches for 10 seconds, starting with your neck and moving down through the shoulder girdle. Notice any tightness and say “relax” to that place — noticing, without judgment.
Take another 20 seconds to work your way down through the body and then get back to whatever it is that you were doing.
And just because you’ve made it this far, here’s a bonus…
8. Strong Mindfulness
This form of mindfulness—a faith-based approach—moves beyond the present moment (or further into it), to encounter the Divine.
Strong Mindfulness begins with calming our monkey mind through emptying and centering, without judgment, using any of the previous techniques. But Strong Mindfulness goes one step further.
Because God is enmeshed in every aspect of the present moment, (our doing, feeling and thinking), when we calm our minds, we begin noticing God and seeing his love in the NOW, in the present moment, in everything and everyone.
Strong mindfulness follows emptying with a filling to overflowing with the knowledge, and presence of the Divine. Feeling the relentless, unconditional, irrational love of God, right now. In any and every circumstance of life.
This is in fact what I believe Paul was writing about in this section of a letter to the church in Rome:
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2).
And while the details of Paul’s time were different, the patterns of the world remain the same: wanting for more, regret for what is lost, and the fear of the future. All of which can be absorbed in the presence of the Divine.
Through this lens it’s easy to see what renewing your mind might look like for us today: it’s mindfulness.
And that’s it.
So as you’re making your way through the workweek, commit to trying one or two of these exercises and see how it goes.
And when you find one that really works for you, stick with it.
And let me know in the comments below.
Notes: http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/07-08/ce-corner.aspx  http://www.mindful.org/meditation/mindfulness-getting-started/  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mindfulness  http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/07/people-would-rather-be-electrically-shocked-left-alone-their-thoughts  http://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/meditation/in-depth/meditation/art-20045858  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23724462