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BETTER MINDFULNESS? Here Are 2 Key Techniques That Will Help You

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Huberman Lab is a fantastic resource for science-based information relating to neuroscience: "how our brain and its connections with the organs of our body control our perceptions, our behaviours, and our health."

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What Does ‘Better Mindfulness’ mean?

Practicing Mindfulness is not about striving to achieve any particular state or a game in which you want to get to a higher-level of skill or ability. We do however have an innate human trait towards betterment, often the reason why many people turn to practices like mindfulness, to improve mood, sleep or concentration. We can mediate this juxtaposition through:

  • understanding the why
  • improving the how
  • letting this be, without a focus on the ‘doing’

Better Mindfulness is about incorporating new found understanding into the practice passively. Less like practicing for a test and more like osmosis or embedding a new technique into an already skilful act like playing and instrument. We can learn to deepen the practice and adapt it, for example, to know how to improve mindfulness at work, implement mindfulness exercises for anxiety and transition between these seamlessly to maximise the benefits of mindfulness.

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Interoception and Exteroception

“How Meditation Works & Science-Based Effective Meditations” is an episode delivered by Dr. Andrew Huberman on his podcast the Huberman Lab, which includes a fascinating section that relates to ‘interoception’ and ‘exteroception’. What this is about is the perception we have of our internal environment (heart beat, bodily sensations, thoughts) and conversely, our external environment (smells, sounds outside our window, people watching). We of course learn that through mindfulness we have the capacity to focus our attention and thus the theory is that with some of us are more interoceptive than exteroceptive, our mediation style can be adapted to account for our bias.

How To Incorporate This Into Mindfulness?

Here is a quick overview of how you could incorporate interoception and exteroception into one mindfulness practice, in Dr. Huberman’s own words – and if you would like to listen to this instead, you will find the description of the practice by clicking the link below:

🔊 Guided How-To: Interoception and Exteroception

Step One

“You close your eyes and you focus your attention either on your third eye centre or your breathing, and you try and put 100% of your perceptual awareness onto your breathing or your third eye centre for the duration of three breaths, okay? So you’re 100% or trying to be 100% in interoception.

Step Two

Then you open your eyes, you focus on the surface of your body someplace. I find that holding out my hand at sort of arm’s distance and focusing on the palm of my hand and focusing there visually, so I’m splitting my attention now between my hand, and I’m also going to pay attention to my breath for the duration of three full inhales and exhales while also focusing on my hand, so you’re splitting interoception and exteroception as best you can, about 50/50.

Step Three

Then you subsequently look at some location in your immediate environment, maybe 10, 15 feet away, and you focus your attention on that location while also splitting your attention so that you’re still paying attention to your breathing, you do that for the duration of three breaths, but now you are in exteroception and interoception. Then you focus your attention at some distance further away, maybe the furthest distance you can see.

Step Four

Now, this is why it’s useful to do out of a window or on a balcony or outdoors. You focus on the furthest point, maybe a horizon, some furthest point for the duration of three breaths while also paying attention to your breathing, and sort of imagine a bridge between the two if you find it to be challenging to focus on both.

Step Five

And then, and this is where it can be a little tricky, but then what you actually focus on is the fact, and this is not an imaginary thing, this is a fact that you are a tiny spec on this big ball that’s floating out in space, right? The Earth that’s floating out in space. And you try and focus on your three breaths while also acknowledging that you are a small body, literally, on this very seemingly large body, the Earth, but that’s floating in a much larger, larger, expansive place, the universe, and you do that for three breaths.

Step Six

And then you close your eyes and you go right back into interoception, and you do that for three breaths. You focus on your interoception for three breaths. And you might want to march through these different locations a few times or back and forth if you like, but typically, I will just do it for one segment at pure interoception, palm of hand, some distance in front of me, horizon, whole globe, universe thing, back into the body.”

How Meditation Works & Science-Based Effective Meditations | Huberman Lab Podcast #96

Learn More

Resources like Huberman Lab can be helpful to optimise our practice of mindfulness in a way that connects to foundational science and deepen an understanding of our neurobiology. Our minds are complex and there are are always going to be newfound ways that we can grow. Also check out our helpful resources on our Get Started pages to find out other practices you can try.

Watch the episode to learn more about how understanding interoception and exteroception can lead you to better mindfulness practice.
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John-Paul Kozah

John-Paul is the Founder of Benefits of Mindfulness and has been committed to working with and supporting the most vulnerable members of society throughout his career. Combining experience in the mental health sector and education, his aim has been to raise awareness about the impact of stress, anxiety and depression in modern life and explore the ways that mindfulness can help. John-Paul is a trained advocate, qualified teacher and has a particular interest in supporting open dialogue about mental health within minoritised ethnic groups.

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