Mindfulness meditation is a wonderful practice that calms us down, boosts our physical health and reduces stress. The process is extremely simple and the benefits are numerous. The blog tells you all you need to know about mindfulness meditation.
The term meditation is not new to us. People have been practicing meditation from immemorial but most of the time it had a kind of spiritual tie-up to it. Mindfulness meditation has nothing to do with spirituality. It is a technique that (proven by research) helps us manage stress. It benefits both, our physical and mental health.
Mindfulness meditation is essentially a way of training the mind and changing the way it reacts to thoughts; it helps to relax the mind and body and helps create an aura of positivity.
The process of mindfulness meditation focuses on two things – awareness and acceptance.
- This involves being present in the now.
- Often, while doing mundane work, our mind drifts and there is a constant mental chatter inside all of us.
- Mindfulness is about focusing on the task at hand and training your mind to pay attention to what you are doing.
- Training the mind is not easy (though it does sound simple) and it is only natural that in spite of our attempts to be aware and present, the mind drifts. This is absolutely fine.
- When the mind does drift, mindfulness meditation practice is about acknowledging that it has drifted and then bringing it back to the present.
- There is no right or wrong – it is just about accepting and refocusing.
The beauty of mindfulness meditation is its simplicity. You don’t need props of any kind to do it; you can practice it just about anywhere and all you need is a comfortable place to sit. While there are many mindfulness classes and apps available, the choice of whether you want to try them is completely yours as you can practice mindfulness on your own as well.
If you would like to try it out on your own, the following steps will help:
Find a Spot:
- Choose a place to begin your meditation – preferably a quiet place without any distractions.
- Wear clothing that does not cause discomfort of any kind.
- You can choose to sit on the floor or on the chair; just make sure your head, neck and back (while being held straight) are not too rigid.
You Can Set an Alarm or Timer:
- There is no time limit for meditation, you can do it for however long you want but setting a timer will help put your mind at ease and will help you concentrate better without having to worry about how much time has lapsed.
- If you are a beginner, you can start with 3–5-minute sessions and increase the duration according to your comfort.
- After the session is over, do not jump up and rush into your routine – gradually come out of it and resume your day.
Concentrate on Breathing:
- Focus on the sensation of air being inhaled through your nostrils and being taken into your body.
- Notice the body moving with every inhalation and exhalation.
Letting Thoughts Pass:
- The aim of meditation is not about not having any thoughts. Rather it is about watching the thoughts pass without engaging with them.
- When you close your eyes to meditate and focus on your breath, your mind will wander and thoughts will arise. This is natural.
- There is no need to fight it or to be hard on yourself for not controlling the mind.
- Instead, just acknowledge it and let it go. Refocus on your breathing.
- This is all mindfulness meditation is. Simple, effective and extremely beneficial.
The Science Behind Mindfulness
The process sounds too simple to have the benefits people say it does, doesn’t it? Here is the science behind it.
- The brain’s neural network is constantly adjusting and adapting to changes. This phenomenon is called neuroplasticity.
- This is what helps us pick up new skills, get rid of old habits, adjust to new surroundings and recover from traumatic situations.
- Every new situation we face makes our brain rearrange its synaptic connections.
- And as we all know, practice makes perfect so when we keep repeating a particular task, that particular synaptic connection gets stronger.
- Practicing mindfulness alters the neural pathways involved in stress, memory, concentration and mood for the better.
- Long-term mindfulness practice has even been shown to reduce age-related brain degeneration.
- A study done on people who underwent an 8-week mindfulness meditation program showed significant changes in the before and after brain MRI images of the participants.
- The results showed that the grey matter in the hippocampus (the part that is responsible for memory and emotions) had increased while the grey matter in the amygdala (the part connected with stress and anxiety) had reduced.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Studies have shown significant stress reduction in individuals who practice mindfulness on a regular basis. Further, studies have also shown improvement in mental health disorders like depression, anxiety, etc.
- Cardiac health conditions are on the rise across the world. A study done among two groups of people – one group which had undergone a mindfulness meditation program and another which hadn’t – showed that the group which had practiced mindfulness had a lower heart rate and better cardiovascular fitness.
- We all know that exercise benefits a person’s immunity but did you know that a person’s immunity (the body’s resistance to disease) also shows improvement with mindfulness practice.
- Sleep quality improves with mindfulness practice. Not just that, some sleep disturbances can be treated with mindfulness as well.
A Few Useful Pointers
Often, we find ourselves swept away during the course of a day and though mindfulness meditation requires only a few minutes of our time, even this can become impossible. For days like that, we can incorporate mindfulness into the activities we do. Sitting and concentrating on our breathing is one technique but there are other ways to practice mindfulness too.
- While Working-Out: Instead of listening to music or watching TV while you exercise, concentrate on your breathing.
- While Cooking: Instead of mechanically going through the process of cooking, pay attention to the various smells of spices, the distinct shape of the vegetables, the way you cut them, etc.
- While Putting Your Kids to Bed: Pay attention to your kids’ chatter, relish their giggles and enjoy the process of winding down with them. You and your kids will both feel relaxed, comforted and secure.
These are just a few examples to demonstrate that mindfulness can be practiced anywhere, anytime. Do understand that regular practice is needed to give results. Set aside some time and give the practice of mindfulness meditation a try. It costs nothing and you will benefit greatly.