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Mindfulness is a simple practice available to everyone, which can reduce stress, increase calmness and clarity, and promote happiness. Benefits can be seen quickly and mindfulness itself can come in a variety of different forms and techniques. One of the more common and effective techniques for maintaining mindfulness is called “noting”. 

Sometimes when we’re meditating, it’s easy for our minds to wander off and leave the present moment. Noting is a simple method that we can use to stay present rather than letting our thoughts carry us away. It works by calmly noting or naming what we’re experiencing. In contrast to most thinking, it doesn’t involve analysis or judgement, but instead, when we feel distracted by a sensation, we note it with a single word. 

Common mental notes are “thinking”, “feeling”, and “hearing”. For example, if you find yourself getting distracted by thoughts while you’re meditating, you can note it as “thinking” and gently bring yourself back to awareness. Some experiences can be given more descriptive words, such as physical sensations being noted as “warmth”, “coolness”, “pressure”, “tightness”, and so on. 

Usually, a specific note is repeated until the experience subsides, is sufficiently acknowledged, or is no longer predominant in the mind. The primary goal of noting is to help anchor us in the present moment. When the mind wanders, the practice of noting can make it easier to re-establish mindfulness. 

Other benefits of noting:

  • It allows us to better acknowledge or recognize what is occurring in our minds. 
  • It helps recognize patterns in our own experiences. A frequently repeated note reveals a frequently recurring experience. 
  • It allows us to “step away” and disentangles us from being overly preoccupied with a certain experience. 
  • It helps maintain a non-reactive form of attention. 

If you’re interested in learning more mindfulness techniques or would like to practice them under the guidance of a registered psychotherapist, we invite you to join our 8-week online mindfulness program.

Author: Dr. Nadine Kexel, ND, CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre Resident