** Updated 2019 **
Mindfulness meditation, which is an ancient and powerful meditation, can make you happier and healthier. You can start with it if you’re looking for something that works for improving your health and feeling happier and that helps reduce stress, depression and anxiety.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
Basically, it’s a way of retraining your mind to stay calm and in the moment. It changes your brain’s physical structure, creating healthy and long-lasting habits. To understand it further, let’s discuss in the following.
First, what’s mindfulness? It is one of the human abilities that give us the power to stay present in the moment –being aware of what we’re doing – RIGHT NOW. Being mindful, we prevent being overwhelmed about the things going on around us.
For example, when you’re aware of what you’re experiencing at the moment through your senses, you’re mindful. But while we possess mindfulness naturally, we need to practice and train our brain to become mindful.
On the other hand, meditation is exploring a destination undistracted. It is a practice allowing our mind to travel places where every moment is unforgettable. By meditating, we venture into our thoughts, emotions and sensations.
In short, mindfulness meditation prioritizes your conscious living, which is summarized in the mind-body awareness quality (mindfulness). It is quite simple to understand – this practice involves tuning in or participating fully to the moment, staying aware of the world around you without judging and being aware of the sensations involved in the activity.
How To Practice Mindfulness Meditation
You might be thinking that it is hard to practice mindfulness exercises or that it requires much time and training, but it does not. In fact, you can spend as little as five minutes to practice it daily and increase as you progress in the activity.
No matter your age and level of physical activity, this brain training practice is for everyone. Check out the following for the steps you need to get started and learn how to master it.
Here is what you need to know to get started practicing mindfulness meditation:
Choose a time when to practice meditation. It can be early morning when everyone else is asleep or in the evening before going to bed. You should perform it at consistent timings daily.
Do not pressure yourself and try to do it for an hour. You can start in as little as five minutes and then increase it to 30 minutes or more whenever you have more free time and you improve.
If you’re busy, you can choose a free time when to do it, which is better than not doing it at all. You should also use a timer or your phone to time the activity.
Find a good spot at home, ideally in a clutter-free and clean space without so much distraction, such as the sound of a TV.
Preparing Your Posture
Before starting, you should practice your posture with the following steps.
Use a meditation cushion or a chair and then take a seat. Choose a solid and stable chair, not one that makes you hang back.
Are you using a cushion on the floor? Make sure to cross your legs in front of you. Alternatively, you can also be on a seated yoga posture.
Or are you using a chair? Check that the bottoms of your feet are touching the floor.
Don’t stiffen your body in the sitting position, but straighten your upper body.
Position your upper arms and make sure they’re parallel to your upper body. Your hands should drop onto your legs’ tops, while your upper arms are at your sides.
Drop your chin a bit, and let your eyelids lower. You don’t have to close your eyes when meditating.
Be in the moment and relax. Focus on your body’s sensations, including to your breath. Feel it as it goes in and out.
Focus on the breathing’s physical sensation – the air moving through your mouth or nose or chest. Select a focal point and then take note of breathing in and out.
Your attention will start wandering to another place, but don’t try eliminating that thinking. Don’t worry about it. Later, you can get your focus back to your breathing.
Don’t make any physical adjustments first, but try pausing. Then, shift to a chosen moment that allows some space between what you’re experiencing.
Don’t worry if your mind is often wandering. Instead, try to observe without reacting. Sit still and be in the moment. Now without judgment or expectation, go back over again.
Lift your gaze gently and start taking a moment to observe environmental sounds. How is your body feeling now? Pause for a short moment and then decide what you would like to do with your day.
Tips For Practicing Mindfulness
After the steps mentioned, let’s discuss some tips to make the activity more successful.
- Make a commitment. Tell yourself that you’d do it right now – so commit to it.
- Set aside a time, like 10 to 30 minutes for the activity. Consider spaces between the things that you’re doing, such as scrolling social media and browsing online. In between those activities, you will find time to practice.
- Find a comfortable position. Even if you don’t have any experience in meditation, you’ll get by.
- For example, sitting in a traditional pose, you might feel uncomfortable. If you do, you can adjust your position. It is essential to focus and be comfortable; however, don’t feel too comfortable.
- While meditating, your mind can be feeling distracted, bored or anxious. You can also be experiencing a couple of feelings and thoughts. Simply train your mind to observe, not to judge or react.
- However, don’t judge your feelings because it is a part of the brain rewiring challenge. Or else, you might feel upset or discouraged by the amount of judgment you’re having for your feelings and thoughts.
- Observe everything. Do not judge yourself for being distracted. It is normal and fine. As you progress, you will learn how to detach from those distractions or judgments without trying to change them.
- Be consistent and practice daily. Know that mindfulness meditation is retraining or reshaping your brain. You must be patient with yourself.
- Accept that it’s going to take some time in order to rewire the connections that have been there for a lifetime. Practice daily.
More Mindfulness Exercises: How To Learn Staying In The Present
There is also a less formal technique to mindfulness that will help you participate in your life totally and stay in the present. Choose your time or moment to practice this informal technique – showering, eating, walking or playing with your kid.
Focus your attention to the sensations in your body.
Try breathing in through your nose and letting the air downward going to your midsection while letting your abdomen expand totally.
Breathe out through your mouth, and take note of each breathing in and breathing out.
Focus on the task and participate fully on it. Let your senses flow. Observe each sound, sight, touch, and savor them.
If your mind has started wandering from what you’re doing. Slowly bring your mind’s attention back to the moment’s sensation.
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
If you’re looking for information on how mindfulness practice or guided mindfulness meditation can help improve your overall life quality, check out the following for the reasons you should practice.
If you’re one of those suffering from the physical and mental effects of a poor sleep daily, you can benefit from practicing mindfulness. By being consistent and practicing it daily, early in the morning or before going to bed, you can improve your sleep quality.
Chronic Pain Management
If you’re suffering from chronic pain due to a medical condition, as a result of a posttraumatic stress syndrome, or after an accident, you can benefit from mindfulness practice, specifically through mindfulness-based stress reduction. It can help in improving or reducing pain and anxiety.
Consistently practicing meditation will help you overcome anxiety. Studies had it that even a single mindfulness meditation session can reduce anxiety along with cardio risk especially among those with moderate anxiety levels.
By practicing mindfulness based stress reduction, you can lower your stress levels, which is made worst by the fast-paced society and schedule we’re living in.
By learning how to take control or manage the stress effects on the mind and body will help in achieving a good overall health and well-being.
Studies had it that learning how to focus on the present through mindfulness is effective in reducing the stress hormone, cortisol.
Loneliness Reduction Among Seniors
Losing a partner or dealing with a health condition is a cause of loneliness among seniors. If you’re one of those suffering from loneliness due to any of these reasons or another, you can participate in a mindfulness-based stress-reduction program to reduce loneliness.
Improved Attention And Focus
By brain training through mindfulness, you can improve your attention span. Other benefits to get from meditation include executive functioning, working memory and overall reduction of fatigue and anxiety. Best part, you can improve your mindfulness ability.
You can also progress in your weight loss goals with daily mindfulness practice. It is a good strategy that will support weight loss because it can keep you motivated to control poor eating habits by being.
It will also help you be more focus on the weight management instead of eating less or controlling calories.
Mindfulness also helps in self-awareness and self-control, and this is important when it comes to weight loss. It can be effective regarding the treatment of eating disorders due to binge eating.
A published study in the Journal of Health Psychology (1999) discovered reduction in the binge eating reports of obese women participants after the 6-week mindfulness intervention.
According to the same study, mindfulness can help in increasing one’s ability in recognizing and responding to satiety cues that will decrease tendency to binge eat.
It may also help in reducing external eating frequency and improving emotional eating. Without even saying, mindfulness can be an effective technique for weight maintenance and weight loss.
Practicing meditation can improve your brain’s function. For example, it can increase its activity in the front left side associated with higher level of resilience towards any stressful event. That said, mindfulness training could also mitigate stress’ cognitive effects.
In addition, it can increase the cerebral cortex’s activity. Practicing mindfulness can also increase the thickness of specific regions, which are responsible for processing auditory and visual information.
[The cortex also functions to regulate emotions and maintain present-moment awareness. So if you’re looking to improve self-control and attention, you should start with meditation training.]
Depression Symptoms Reduction
By combining cognitive therapy techniques and mindfulness-based stress reduction training, relapse can be prevented by patients with recurrent depression symptoms.
According to a study published in the Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology (2000, 2004), MBCT can reduce relapse rates among sufferers with at least three depression episodes by about 50%.
Mindfulness can also counter depression because it can decrease negative thoughts, involving repetitive flashbacks or reflections of any assumed shortcomings or faults.
Immune System Boost
Mind-body awareness practice can also boost one’s immune system because of an increased antibody production.
[What are antibodies? They are proteins that can destroy harmful substances including viruses.]
However, negative events can reduce their production. Thanks to mindfulness meditation!
A study published in the Psychosomatic Medicine (2003) revealed that those who participated in a two-month mindfulness program experienced an increase in antibodies to influenza vaccine as compared to those who were in the control group.
There is no definite formula to cultivate mindfulness. You can also adjust meditation techniques based on your individual goals and needs.
But as mindfulness needs internal and external stimuli consciousness, you need to practice it in a quiet environment. Also, you don’t need to spend much time to do it if you’re busy; in fact, you can practice it even in ordinary activities, including eating, standing and walking.
Nevertheless, mindfulness meditation involves stopping where you are and tuning into your feelings and thoughts. Mastering it, you can achieve the above-mentioned benefits, including weight loss and stress reduction. So don’t wait. Commit and start today!