You’ve heard of meditation.
You’ve heard of mindfulness.
You’ve heard people talk about how mindfulness meditation has helped them manage their stress and anxiety, and made them feel better.
But you’re probably wondering what it is and how to do it?
Well, you’re not alone!
In this post, I’ll go over the definition of meditation and mindfulness, how you can start practicing mindfulness meditation, and the benefits you can expect from it.
We live in a fast-paced world where time flies by and it’s easy to get caught up in our daily lives without checking in with ourselves.
We have so many obligations and responsibilities that it can quickly overwhelm us.
That’s where mindfulness meditation comes in! But what is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness meditation definition
Meditation can be described as a mental exercise that trains the mind to relax, focus, and bring awareness to one’s self.
Jon Kabat Zinn, the founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, defines mindfulness as “the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally”. It’s the act of focusing your attention on the “here and now”.
Mindfulness meditation is a specific type of meditation that focuses your awareness on the present moment through “anchors” such as your breathing, sensations in your body, sounds, or specific objects.
The goal of mindfulness meditation is to encourage positive attitudes and promote a healthy, balanced mental state.
Science-based benefits of mindfulness meditation
Many researchers have recently focused their studies on the benefits of mindfulness meditation, its effect on our brain, bodies, and emotional wellbeing. So far, meditation has proven to be a positive tool to help us improve our lives, reduce stress, and make us more aware of our surroundings.
Increases our ability to cope with stress
Practicing mindfulness activities, including meditation, is proven to increase our ability to cope with stressful events in our lives. A study on college students found that mindful individuals were better able to cope with stressful experiences.
Mindfulness meditation is a powerful tool to help control and lower anxiety levels. A recent study conducted on patients with generalized anxiety disorder found that patients who practiced mindfulness meditation demonstrated ‘sharply reduced’ stress-hormone and inflammatory responses to a stressful situation.
Boosts immunity functions
A study showed improved immunity functions when faced with the influenza virus after an 8-week training program in mindfulness meditation. The researchers concluded that practicing mindfulness meditation produces demonstrable effects on the brain and immune function.
Practicing mindfulness meditation is proven to increase compassion we feel towards others. In one study, researchers assigned meditation classes to novices for 8 weeks. At the end of the 8 weeks, the researchers observed how these people responded to people in need. It turns out that the people who attended meditation classes were more likely to help someone in need than people who didn’t attend the classes.
Helps overcome low self-esteem
People who practice mindfulness tend to have higher self-esteem than people who don’t. In one study, researchers found that experimentally enhancing state mindfulness led to an increase in state self-esteem.
Here are common misconceptions and excuses that keep people from meditating:
I don’t have time to meditate
You don’t have to meditate for hours to enjoy the benefits. In fact, studies show that meditating for just 10 minutes a day helps anxious people have better focus. So next time you reach for your remote to turn on Netflix or you check your phone to scroll through Instagram, take 10 minutes instead for a short meditation session!
I can’t control my thoughts and stop thinking
Mindfulness meditation isn’t about controlling and stopping your thoughts. It’s about acknowledging them, observing them without judgment, and letting them go. It’s about learning to calm down the mind, not to shut it off completely.
I’m not a spiritual person so meditation isn’t for me
While various spiritual groups practice meditation, you don’t need to be seeking enlightenment to meditate. You don’t have to accept a certain spiritual movement or religion to start a meditation practice.
Mindfulness meditation for beginners
Starting your meditation practice can be daunting. Where do you start, how do you do it?
Here are a few tips to help you get started.
Find a quiet spot
Find a place where you can eliminate distractions and feel comfortable. Turn off your phone (or even better, don’t bring it with you!) and make sure nothing can disturb you. If possible, find a place that isn’t cluttered so you can focus on meditation instead of what’s around you. Why not add things that make this spot feel special, like plants or candles?
Don’t worry, you don’t have to sit in lotus position (though you certainly can if you want to!). Find a sitting position that is comfortable for you. This can be on a chair, on a cushion, or on the floor. Make sure your back is straight, without having to tense up your body. You should feel engaged but relaxed. Wearing comfortable clothes is also helpful.
Focus on your breathing
Use your breathing as an anchor to be present. You can use specific breathing exercises to get your mind and body to relax, especially if you meditate at the end of the day.
You can try the 4-7-8 breathing technique: inhale for a count of 4, hold you breathe for a count of 7, and exhale for a count of 8. Repeat this several times until you feel your body starting to relax.
Do a body scan
Mindfully scan your body for any sensations of pain, tension, or anything out of the ordinary that you’re feeling. Sit with these sensations without judgment for a moment. Then breathe into them and let them go.
Let thoughts come and go
It’s ok if your mind starts to wander. When you notice this, acknowledge the thought, let it pass through you, and let it go. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Focus back on your breathing if you feel your mind getting too distracted.
In the beginning, set aside a few minutes of your day for meditation. If you start out trying to sit through a 30-minute meditation session, you might get discouraged and feel like it’s more work than it should be. As you get more comfortable, increase your meditation time.
Use guided meditations
I find guided meditations to be extremely useful when starting out (sitting in total silence kind of freaked me out in the beginning!). They help you tune out noises and distractions and, as their title suggests, they guide you along.
Here are some guided meditations that you can try:
5-minute guided meditation
10-minute guided meditation
15-minute guided meditation
Download a meditation app
There are so many apps to choose from these days! They provide daily meditations and teach different tools to make meditation a part of your day.
Set a time to do your meditation and be consistent. If you turn your practice into a habit, you’ll be much more likely to stick to it.
For example, you can include a mindfulness mediation in your morning routine or before you go to bed. Consistency is more important than length of time.
Keep an open mind
When starting out, don’t have specific expectations and goals. If your expectations are too high, you might get discouraged if you don’t see results right away. Start out with a simple goal – learn to listen to yourself more.
Meditation is becoming increasingly popular, and for good reason. It’s a great tool to increase happiness, self-esteem, and to lower stress and anxiety levels.
I highly recommend that you include it in your daily self-care routine! Of course, life can and will, get in the way and that’s ok. Meditating even 5 minutes a day is better than not meditating at all.
Have you tried meditating? Have you found it useful? Let me know in the comments!
Till next time,
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