For around two and a half thousand years, Buddhists have been sitting quietly. That they’ve been doing it so long is reason enough to think there’s something in it. And, in recent years, business leaders in some of the world’s top companies have been turned on to the value of mindfulness meditation, too.

Since the 1970s, the practice of mindfulness has increasingly been used to improve concentration and awareness in the corporate, medical and academic worlds. So often, the theory goes, our minds are consumed with compulsive worrying about the future, or rehashing the past. But, with regular practice, by training ourselves to be more present in the moment, mindfulness allows us to break out of automatic patterns of thought and focus on what we really want to be doing.

If that all sounds a bit like wishful thinking, think again: clinical trials have suggested that regular mindfulness practice can reduce stress and anxiety, alleviate depression, increase concentration, memory, processing speed, enhance cognitive performance and even improve relationships and overall wellbeing.

Sounds good, right? Certainly, its practitioners are committed to it. But, it’s no magic bullet: mindfulness works most effectively when practiced regularly over a period of time. Essentially, the technique is to begin by focusing on your breathing, then gradually becoming consciously, non-judgmentally aware of thoughts and feelings within your body, and what’s going on outside it. Over time, the process allows the mindful practitioner to notice when their thoughts are taking over their mind, rather than the other way around, and, ultimately, control them.

Here are a few simple ways to begin practicing mindfulness.

1. Breathe

One popular technique of mindfulness training is focused breathing. Sit comfortably, in a chair or on a cushion, and concentrate on your breath. Try and really experience your breathing as it comes in and out of your body.

If your mind begins to wander, don’t beat yourself up for losing concentration; simply note that you’re thinking about something and gently return your focus to your breathing. If you begin with five or 10 minutes a day, you’ll gradually find that you’ll be able to hold your focus for 30-40 - though 15 minutes is considered a happy medium.

2. Focus

Another traditional meditation method is the ‘body-scan’. Again, sit comfortably (don’t worry about the lotus, though it doesn’t hurt), and breath. Be aware of how your entire body, your whole self, feels in any one moment: feel the contact of the floor, the bend of your knees, the air on your skin, any tingling or pressure. Try and do this in one movement, like a photograph of your entire body.

3. Listen

Listen non-judgmentally. When you’re involved in a conversation, challenge yourself to hear the speaker’s points without attaching a value judgment to what they’re saying. And, when you reply, try to do so in the simplest manner possible.