Are you looking to find some serenity? Mindfulness is a form of meditation that focuses on the skill of being completely present and aware of what is happening at any given time. Practising mindfulness has become increasingly popular over the last decade, but it has been revered for centuries and is a very inclusive activity you can do yourself or with the help of technology. Let's take a closer look at this ancient practice and if it could be beneficial to you.
How Does Mindfulness Work?
There are many different types of mindfulness practices available, but they all revolve around a similar ethos that utilises breathing exercises and guided imagery. Some examples of mindfulness involve paying closer attention to your experiences, accepting yourself for who you are, living in the moment and focusing on your breathing.
Grounded In Science
Each year, more studies are conducted to learn more about meditation, and researchers are seeing the long-term effects of practicing mindfulness on neuroplasticity and strengthening our neural connections. The Harvard Gazette has reported on mindfulness being on par with other treatment methods for physical and mental conditions. Each year, more studies are conducted to learn more about it.
The benefits of meditation on emotional and physical health are extensive - let’s take a closer look.
1. Reduce worrying, stress and anxiety
Recent research has shown that mindfulness can significantly reduce worrying, stress, and anxiety in some people. The reason why is that instead of avoiding certain emotions that can sometimes be unpleasant, mindfulness assists people in accepting the way that they are feeling.
It's also possible for mindfulness to increase the prefrontal cortex's activity - which is the brain area linked to positive thoughts. This area of the brain is known to show less activity in people suffering from depression, so having the power to potentially change that can't be underestimated.
2. Creating a calm atmosphere
If you are someone who can feel a little frantic during your day-to-day life, you aren't alone. The modern world is busier than ever, and taking time out to just breathe and understand the way you are feeling can be of enormous benefit. Practising mindfulness formally or informally can provide some much-needed relaxation and help you calm down when your heart starts to beat faster and your blood pressure rises.
3. Learn how to regulate emotions and relax
Working to better yourself is always a good thing, and through mindfulness, it's possible to learn new coping methods that will help control your emotions and relax. This can be achieved with regular mindfulness sessions that help you understand how you are feeling and learning coping methods to use in real-life situations.
4. Increase productivity and improve concentration
Staying focused for long periods can be a struggle for anyone, especially for those easily restless. If you experience challenges with concentrating and being productive at home, school, or work, then mindfulness will appeal to you. A reason why is because mindfulness opens you up to being more aware, so you can recognise that you are being unproductive and losing concentration earlier than you otherwise would.
5. Develop a sense of empathy and connectedness
Along with helping to understand your own emotions, mindfulness can also help you relate to other people and their experiences. Being non-judging and resilient can connect you with friends, co-workers, and family members closer than you have ever before, and by doing so, you can be there for them when the going gets tough.
6. Enjoy better overall health and sleeping patterns
You may be aware that mindfulness is used by a lot of people to improve sleeping patterns, but did you know that it's beneficial to your overall health? The relaxing response from mindfulness training can make sleeping more comfortable, and in some cases, effectively treat insomnia by invoking a relaxed state of mind. It's also possible to lower your risk of heart disease, blood pressure, and chronic pain symptoms if mindfulness practise is used regularly.
Types Of Mindfulness
Mindfulness practice can be separated into two distinctive categories:
Informal mindfulness is the act of being present in everyday activities without entering a formal meditation session. There are many ways to engage in informal mindfulness. They include noticing your senses when doing tasks, being compassionate, and responding instead of reacting when stressed.
Formal mindfulness is when you are actively using this meditation practice. You can do so individually, with instruction from a mindfulness smartphone app- or from following a video.
How To Practice Mindfulness
Try this exercise below to get a taste of what a formal mindfulness session can feel like:
Find a quiet place to sit: Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
Set a time limit: If you're just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as five or 10 minutes.
Notice your body: You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, in lotus posture, you can kneel - all are fine. Just make sure you are stable and in a position that you can stay in for a while.
Feel your breath: Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out, and as it goes in.
Notice when your mind has wandered: Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
Be kind to your wandering mind: Don't judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
How To Get Mindfulness Into Your Day
Everyone has their own unique starting point with mindfulness. There are no right or wrong ways to begin, but these points can help you with your routine so that in no time, mindfulness will be second nature.
Carve out time to practice: Hold yourself accountable to a daily practice time. It doesn't have to be for an extended period, but having mindfulness as part of your routine is the number one way for it to become a habit.
Practice gratitude: The world needs more kindness, and practising gratitude is not only suitable for your mindfulness journey, but it can also have a lasting effect on the people in your world.
Get into nature: Removing yourself from stimulating environments can help reduce the feelings of being overwhelmed. Visiting nature is a great way to find peacefulness away from the hustle and bustle and help stop your mind from wandering.
Breathe: Engaging in mindful breathing sends calming signals to your brain, and a simple breathing exercise can go a long way to adding mindfulness into your life
Check-in with your body: Also known as a body scan, checking in on yourself is a way to stay grounded and calm as you go through your day.
Practice with those around you: There's no better way to spread positive energy than by involving your friends and family, so see if they are interested in mindfulness and practice with them.
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