You already know how important exercise and nutrition are to your physical health, but are you as knowledgeable about the importance of mindfulness? If you’re like most adults, you likely feel too busy with your job, spouse, children and other responsibilities to find time for yourself. However, before you write mindfulness off as a luxury for the less busy, consider this: it’s not hard or extremely time-consuming to incorporate a mindfulness meditation habit into your life and begin benefitting from the practice.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of becoming aware of what is happening around you in any given moment. When you attempt mindful meditation, your goal is to tune into your body and mind and accept yourself exactly as you are in the present moment.
While meditation originated as a spiritual practice from the Buddhist religious tradition, you don’t have to take its benefits on faith alone. Research suggests that a wide range of benefits can come from regular meditation.
One of the most common reasons to turn to mindfulness meditation is to reduce stress. Experts believe that practicing mindfulness meditation trains your brain to let go of distracting and negative thoughts, which can help us gain perspective on the things causing us stress every day.
A study on methods of mental training found that even just a few days of meditation improved mood, visuospatial processing, working memory, and executive functioning. Meditation may even alter the anatomy of your brain. Some research suggests that meditation is linked to a thickening in part of the brain that controls complex decision-making.
Improve Symptoms of Mental Illness
Several studies have shown that mindfulness-based therapies reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. According to these researchers, establishing a regular mindfulness practice may help alleviate anxious thoughts and depressive episodes. Because of this, meditation can be a great complement to other treatment methods. However, be sure to consult your physician for specific recommendations.
Other benefits of mindfulness meditation may include:
- Better sleep quality
- Improved moods
- Higher levels of resilience
- Better overall health
- Stronger academic performance
How to Get Started
It only takes five minutes to try mindfulness meditation for yourself. The best part is that you can do it absolutely anywhere, whether at home or at work. Here’s the basic how-to:
- Sit comfortably. You don’t need to take any position in particular. Just find a place where you won’t be distracted and sit in whatever position feels natural. Adjust the position of your spine and arms so that everything feels like it’s in a neutral position.
- Relax. Settle into stillness and notice whatever sensations you are feeling in your body.
- Focus on your breath. Once you’re calm and comfortable, turn your attention to your breath. You don’t necessarily need to control your breathing; just listen to it and feel your chest rise and fall. Fill your lungs when you inhale and fully exhale.
- Let distracting thoughts fall away. You will get distracted, but don’t let that bother you. Just observe the thoughts that come into your mind and let them fall away. If it helps, visualize the distractions as balloons drifting out of sight, or whatever other imagery is helpful. Always return to your breath when you become distracted.
Continue like this for a few minutes, then slowly open your eyes and notice how you feel. As you increase the frequency of these sessions, you may want to increase the amount of time you spend in meditation.
Have you implemented a mindfulness meditation into your daily routine? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page!