A Beginners Guide to Mindfulness Meditaion
“Mindfulness meditation” is getting plenty of a buzz lately. That is maybe because so many people are trying to find ways to relieve our collectively skyrocketing stress levels.
According to 2013 statistics from the American Psychological Association (APA), more than three-quarters of Americans frequently experience physical symptoms brought on by stress.
Nearly the same number of people experience psychological stress-related problems, and 48 percent of Americans say that chronic stress has negatively impacted both their personal and professional lives
You may be among those who have considered trying meditation to ease your stress. But do you know what exactly “mindfulness meditation” means, and how it can work for you?
Let’s learn more about the origins of the meditative practice, and how it can improve your mental and overall health.
Mindfulness meditation basics
Mindfulness meditation has origins in ancient Buddhist traditions, though meditation has been practiced cultures all over the world for centuries and continues to gain interest and popularity in the West.
Today the concept of mindfulness has been incorporated into both traditional and modern “positive” psychology, to help people cope with anxiety and depression while increasing their feelings of satisfaction and well-being.
Mindfulness is indeed a straightforward concept.
Psychology Today describes mindfulness as “not directed toward getting us to be different from how we already are.” It’s about expanding your awareness of what you’re feeling and experiencing from moment to moment and noticing those feelings rather than judging them or trying to interpret what they mean.
While the idea of cultivating mindfulness may be simple to explain, it can be difficult to achieve and takes time to develop.
But by taking some steps to do meditation into a habit, you’ll find that this practice starts to bring you a sense of calm relaxation that extends throughout your day and helps you meet challenges more gracefully.
Making Meditation a Habit
Mindfulness meditation involves practicing the concept of mindfulness within a meditative setting. Let’s go on a guided “tour” of how to incorporate a mindfulness meditation practice in your daily life.
- Your place. Find a peaceful, quiet place to sit for 10 to 20 minutes. Your seat may be on a chair, or on the floor on a cushion or pillow. It’s okay if you’re a meditation room is small, as long as you are comfortable there.
- Your posture. Focus on your posture as you sit. It would help if you were comfortably upright, with neither tension nor slouching. If you’re seated on a chair, be sure that your feet touch the floor. If you are sitting on the floor, cross your legs and rest your hands on your thighs with palms facing down.
- Your breathing. Once you’re settled in your meditation seat, start to notice your breath going in and out through your nose. You need not force your breathing to be any deeper than it naturally is. Use the natural rhythm of your breath as a focal point for your meditative practice.
- Your thoughts. As you become aware of your breathing, you may notice that you’re thinking about specific issues in your life. When this happens, see that you’re feeling, let the thoughts go, and gently bring your attention back to your breath.
What’s the point of doing all of this? According to the Mayo Clinic, mindfulness exercises like meditation may help improve your mood, reduce your stress, improve your focus, and decrease your negative thinking patterns. Those are plenty of good reasons to sit on your cushion!
Dealing with distractions
One of the biggest challenges you may face in mindfulness meditation is feeling distracted while you’re trying to meditate. Keep in mind that this is normal, and is part of the practice.
When you find yourself lost in thought or distracted by other things going on in your life besides your meditation practice, notice it.
You can even mentally label your thoughts as “thinking,” and without feeling annoyed for losing your focus, bring your attention right back to your breath.
As you become more comfortable with the process, you may want to increase the amount of time that your spend meditating.
If 10 minutes seems like too long to sit still, begin by meditating for just a few minutes at a sitting. Work your way up slowly to 10 minutes every single day.
Later you may want to expand your practice for up to 20 minutes.
And remember: while you are still may feel like you aren’t “doing anything” when you practice meditation, you’re doing a lot.
You’re taking steps toward a happier, healthier you.
Guest Writer: Bella Hardy