Mindfulness means concentrating on the present, the here and now. It means not judging your current situation and focusing only on what is going on at the moment. Studies have been conducted on the benefits of mindfulness for health and the benefits have been nothing short of extraordinary.
Where Did Mindfulness Begin?
Mindfulness has its roots in Buddhism and usually centers on meditation. Other religions also practice meditation and prayers to get the same effect. The term “mindfulness meditation” often has a psychological meaning and studies have shown that this type of meditation offers numerous advantages, including:
- It improves your overall well-being.
- It improves both physical and mental health.
- It reduces stress.
Since meditation also requires a focus on the here and now, it is natural that the word “mindfulness” was eventually attached to it. Mindfulness meditation can even lower your blood pressure and reduce both physical and emotional pain.
Several Techniques Can Be Beneficial
When it comes to mindfulness for health purposes, there are different techniques that you can use while meditating and all of them are beneficial. They include the following methods:
- Basic meditation: allow your thoughts to flow through you while reciting a mantra
- Sensory meditation: allow yourself to notice and recognize all five senses including taste, smell, sight, hearing, and touch
- Emotions meditation: allow your emotions, both good and bad, to come through without judgement
- Body sensations meditation: notice your subtle body sensations as you meditate, even itches and tingling sensations
- Urge surfacing meditation: cope with any cravings you have then let them pass; excellent for people suffering from any type of addiction
With all types of meditation, it is important to experience what you’re supposed to be experiencing and then let it go. The dealing with it and letting it go parts are both equally important to the process.
Acceptance Is an Important Part of Meditation
Acceptance is very important when you’re meditating so if your mind goes off in a negative or opposite direction, gently redirect it to its correct place. Over time, it becomes much easier to practice this acceptance because your mind will wander less often.
In fact, practicing meditation is the same as anything else — the more you do it, the better at it you’ll be. It may even feel awkward when you first get started but that feeling will go away more quickly than you think. In fact, it won’t be long before you start looking forward to each session and even become disappointed on the days when the meditation doesn’t take place for one reason or another.
Why Meditate Regularly?
There are dozens of reasons why mindfulness meditation is so effective but most of them have to do with one word: stress. Life is stressful but when you meditate regularly, you can eliminate much of that stress and simply enjoy life much more. Since stress causes a host of both physical and emotional problems, this is significant.
What, specifically, can regular meditation do for an individual? Mindfulness meditation can:
- Help you recover from illness much more quickly
- Help you think more clearly
- Lower your anxiety and depression levels
- Help improve your immune system
- Lower your heart rate
- Improve your academic success
- Help kids deal with bullies
- Help you become more resilient
- Reduce work-related stress
- Improve job performance
When your body and mind are experiencing less stress, they are both going to be more productive. This is perhaps that most important advantage of regular meditation and it is why many people begin the practice of meditation in the first place.
Regular meditation can help improve your memory and stay more focused. It can help you negatively react to something much less often and it’s even been proven to improve relationships of all types. The best part is that you get all these great benefits without using prescription medications because mindfulness meditation is completely natural.
How to Practice Mindful Meditation
Mindful meditation can be practiced in numerous ways because what works best for some people may not work best for others. With a little research, you can find meditation specifically for both individuals and groups, including virtual groups, making it easy to find something that’s right for you.
Following are 10 great ways to get started when you’re interested in meditation.
1. Focus mentally. Pick an object in the room and stare at it for as long as you can. If your mind starts to wander, gently bring it back to where it is supposed to be. Really pay attention to every aspect of that object and study all of its qualities.
2. Musical stimuli can help you concentrate. In this exercise, you’ll listen to your favorite song but revel in the emotions it conjures up. How do the lyrics make you feel? What type of memories does it bring to your mind? Concentrate on both the music and the lyrics and on all of the emotions it stirs up in you.
3. Picture everything around you melting. What would you do if you closed your eyes to meditate and thought about everything around you melting into a pile of liquid? Try this exercise and find out!
4. Experience the sound of silence. For one or two hours, wear earphones, say nothing, and appreciate the silence around you. What does it make you think about and what emotions does it stir in you? You might be surprised at the answers.
5. Consider your belief system. Take the belief that you have and pretend for a moment that your belief is just the opposite. Think about why you might feel this way and how it makes you feel. A lot of surprising thoughts are likely to pop into your head when you look at the other side of the coin.
6. Focus on your hands and your awareness. Take your hands and squeeze them together for five to ten seconds. Release your hands and feel and appreciate any tingling or other feelings that you may be experiencing. For as long as you can, concentrate on those feelings.
7. Pinch yourself with a purpose. Pinch yourself on the arm and see how it makes you feel. This is a good exercise to teach you how you react to physical pain. Does it make you angry? Anxious? This exercise will let you explore those feelings.
8. Smell something strong. Take something such as a bag of coffee beans or a vial of perfume and smell it, breathing in deeply. Explore how it makes your nose feel as well as the feelings it arises in you. How does it smell? Is your reaction positive or negative?
9. Stop to smell the roses. For a moment, stop and look all around you, taking notice of everything that is in front of you. Concentrate on your five senses and how you are feeling at the moment. Does it make you hyper or sedate?
10. The “I” has it. For an entire day, take notice of every time that you say the word “I”. You might be surprised at how many times a day you are saying something about yourself. This exercise teaches people how self-centered they truly are.
The Basics of Mindfulness Meditation
If you’ve never meditated before, do not worry. It really is quite simple and it starts with a few basic steps. You can sit or stand, although most people prefer sitting because they are more comfortable this way. Close your eyes, relax your hands, and start breathing. It really is as simple as that but here are a few more things to remember:
- Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth; one cycle should last roughly six seconds.
- Keep your eyes closed the entire time.
- Do not think about anything; let your mind go blank.
- Watch and concentrate on your breathing so it is done correctly each time.
In today’s hectic world, many people do not breathe deeply the way that they should; instead, they breathe shallowly all day long. This isn’t good for you physically so taking time each day to practice breathing the correct way is much more beneficial than many people realize.
Again, not letting your mind wander is crucial to a successful meditation session. If your mind wanders, there is always the chance that it will wander to negative things so relax and enjoy a thought-free session for the best results.
You can start with a short session of one minute if that’s what works best for you. Afterward, you can slowly add minutes until you’re meditating for a long time. How long is enough? That is up to you but if you work up slowly, you’ll enjoy your sessions a lot more.
Mindfulness 101: It Really Is That Simple!
When it comes to research on mindfulness for health concerns, it is now obvious that both physical and emotional problems can be eliminated with regular meditation. If you’re new to the term “mindfulness”, below are some tips that can help you take full advantage of this wonderful and meaningful technique.
- Get rid of all judgment because this only causes negative thoughts.
- Turn off your autopilot system and learn to slow down.
- Explore your meditation options and techniques until you find the one that is right for you.
- Embrace the concept of mindfulness, learn as much as you can about it, and enjoy all of its many benefits.
Other Mindfulness Activities
In addition to meditation, there are other activities that are both simple and effective, including:
- Practice your deep-breathing techniques for ten minutes.
- Listen to your favorite music for a while.
- Pick a household chore that you enjoy doing and do it.
- Own your thoughts and pay attention to the pattern you see; journaling can help with this.
Remember that mindfulness simply means concentrating only on the present without judgment so you can even make up your own mindfulness activity if you like. This can include everything from gardening to walking in the park and even something as harmless as eating your favorite candy bar. If it helps you stay in the here and now for a bit, it can be considered a mindfulness exercise!
There are even mindfulness activities that are extremely short and can be practiced at any time. These include:
- Breathe in and out for only one breathing cycle.
- Take two bites of a meal or snack.
- Concentrate on how the air feels on your skin for one minute.
- Spend a minute or two doing nothing.
- Pick an activity and try to do it every day; it can be something as mindless as taking out your recyclables.
- Look at your body from head to toe.
These things usually last no more than a few minutes — some of them less than one! — but for each of the activities, the main focus should be to concentrate solely on the activity and nothing else. You should only think about what you’re doing at the moment and, most importantly, relax.
One of the biggest advantages of these mindfulness activities is that they are available for different age groups as well as for both individual and group use. There are mindfulness activities for young children, teens, people in the workforce, and even students. This means that you can always find the ones that are right for you.
Some Final Thoughts
When it comes to mindfulness for health, the evidence is indisputable. Mindfulness activities work wonders in helping people’s minds and bodies work together for the benefit of both. To reduce stress, improve your overall health, and be better at everything you do, few things work better than mindfulness activities such as meditation and others.
It is a hectic, fast-paced world but mindfulness activities force people to slow down and smell the roses, so to speak, which can work miracles in both your physical and emotional life. Stress plays a very big part in a host of illnesses, including psychological ones, and regular simple meditation goes a long way in helping to alleviate the effects of stress.
Mindfulness activities such as meditation should be considered a viable alternative to pills and prescriptions; once you add one or more of these activities to your life, you will completely understand why this is so.