In our chaotic world, it’s easy to fall into the routine of going through the motions so that we’re not fully aware of the world around us or our inner selves.
Mindfulness helps us to plug back into both of these so that we are present.
What, exactly, is mindful meditation?
Mindful meditation allows us to clear our minds and focus on one thing, so we’re not distracted or stressed out. It helps us live in the now.
The great thing about mindful meditation is that it’s easy to incorporate it into your life and anyone can start doing it right now.
Here’s everything you need to know about mindful meditation and how it can make your life better.
Where Should You Start?
Mindful meditation is when you lose your negative thoughts and slow down your mind so that you are calm and in the moment.
It’s a way to escape from your daily stress while also allowing yourself to accept your sensations, feelings, and thoughts without judging them or giving them control over your peace of mind.
Here’s how you can get started with mindful meditation.
- Find a comfortable place to sit. You can sit on the floor or in a chair, but make sure that you keep your back, neck, and head straight. Wear comfortable clothing that won’t make you feel uncomfortable or distracted. Ensure that you won’t be distracted by aches and pains in your body. If you are sitting on the floor, buy a comfortable meditation pillow.
- Use a timer. If you’re just starting with mindful meditation, you should consider using a timer. This can help you to avoid worrying about the time and how long you’ve been meditating. This will help you to stay in the moment and not lose focus.
- Pay attention to your breathing. Take your attention away from your thoughts and focus on your breathing. Be aware of the sensation of your breathing as air moves in and out of your body. Pay attention to your belly as it rises and falls.
- Welcome your thoughts. Instead of trying to block your thoughts, allow them to enter your mind. Pretend that you’re watching them in a movie. Notice the thoughts, stay calm as they float by, and then go back to your breathing.
- Take some time. You might find that as you start mindful meditation, you have many intrusive thoughts and they affect your emotions. This can make you feel frustrated, but be patient with yourself. Mindful meditation will take some time for you to get used to, especially if you’ve never tried to meditate before.
Note: You don’t need anything to start mindful meditation other than a chair or floor cushion, and perhaps a timer, but you can use one on your personal device. You can, however, use items during mindful meditation sessions that help you to feel calm and centered, such as crystals or aromatherapy, if you so wish.
Types Of Mindful Meditation
While we think of mindful meditation as one thing, there are actually different types of this meditation that you can try. Let’s take a look at them in greater detail.
- Body scan meditation. This is a type of mindful meditation that you usually do while lying down. How it works is that you become aware of your bodily sensations and pay attention to them. You can also focus on different sections of your body, moving from your head all the way down to your toes.
- Movement meditation. In this type of meditation, you can use mind-body movement such as qigong, slow walking, or yoga. It involves concentrating on your breathing and bodily sensations, while observing thoughts and emotions that come to the surface.
- Breathing space meditation. This is a quick meditation that you will do for about three minutes, and you can do it at different times of the day when you feel stressed. It helps you to gain mindful awareness of whatever you’re experiencing. How it works is that you sit with good posture, close your eyes, and focus on your bodily sensations. Then direct your attention to your breathing. Become aware of your body, posture, and what’s happening in the moment.
- Expanding awareness meditation. In this type of meditation, which is called sitting meditation, you focus on your breath, body, thoughts, and feelings. Doing this helps you to develop an open awareness, during which you are aware of what is dominant in your consciousness.
Why Should You Try Mindful Meditation?
There are many health benefits associated with mindful meditation. Here’s a rundown of them.
- You decrease your stress levels. When you’re stressed or anxious, your heart rate will increase. Mindful meditation can help you to lower your heart rate, which isn’t just great to lower your stress levels but it’s also good for your heart. A study found that when participants enrolled in an online mindfulness meditation program, they reported lower heart rates and did better on cardiovascular capacity tests as compared to those who didn’t.
- You improve your immunity. By having a stronger immune system, you can avoid getting sick. A study compared mindfulness and exercise to see how they affected immune function. The researchers found that people who completed an eight-week mindfulness course experienced better immune function than those who participated in regular exercise.
- You can sleep better. If you engage in a regular mindful meditation routine, you might find that you wake up feeling refreshed on many mornings. A study found that mindfulness meditation significantly improved people’s quality of sleep.
- You fight anxiety. If you’re plagued by anxiety, engaging in mindful meditation can help you to access a deeper sense of calm. A study found that just 10 minutes of mindful meditation on a daily basis prevents repetitive, anxious thoughts. In the study, 82 participants were asked to complete computer exercises while dealing with various interruptions. They were then split up into two groups, with a control group listening to an audio story and the other group doing mindful meditation. The study found that the people who did the meditation experienced greater concentration and had fewer thoughts about other tasks.
How Often Should You Practice Mindful Meditation?
You might think that you need to do mindful meditation on a daily basis in order to reap its rewards, but this isn’t true.
As long as you can commit to practicing meditation three to four times a week, this will help you to benefit from it. Once you’ve meditated on a regular basis for eight weeks, you’ll change your brain.
That said, practicing mindful meditation daily can work for you – and you only need 10 to 20 minutes per session to make it useful.
It’s important to note that some people find that it takes them about 20 minutes to settle the mind. This is why doing mindful meditation for this amount of time, or a bit longer, can be useful.
Tips For Being More Mindful
We’ve already looked at a basic way of practicing mindful meditation, but there are other ways in which you can become more mindful on a daily basis.
What’s great about these tips for increased mindfulness is that you can do them whenever you want to at any time throughout your day. Here are some ways to practice mindfulness in your life.
- Bring attention to sensations in your body. For example, you could focus on your heart rate, breathing, the feeling of the sun on your skin, and so on.
- Breathe in through your nose, and focus on letting the air fill your lungs. Your abdomen should fully expand. Then, breathe out slowly through your mouth. The benefit of this type of breathing is that it slows your heart rate so you can better relax. Don’t try to control your breathing. Just be aware of your breathing, but allow it to flow in its own way and at the speed it wants.
- Get even more detailed about your breathing. Once you get comfortable with your breathing and noticing it, you should trace the path that your breathing takes from your nostrils to your windpipe, then from your windpipe to your lungs.
- Count your breaths. This not only directs your mind’s focus to your breathing, but it also enables you to feel that you’re getting into a relaxed state.
- Concentrate on whatever task you’re doing, whether that involves typing on your laptop, walking, or washing the dishes. To make the activity more mindful, do it slowly and focus on every part of the task. If you find that your mind loses focus and wanders from the activity you’re doing, you should be gentle with yourself as you bring your attention back to the moment and all the sensations therein.
- Use your senses. Pay attention to everything you can hear, see, feel, touch, and taste in the moment. This helps you to make the most of every sensation and it cultivates awareness.
Pro tip: A good time when you should do a mindfulness exercise such as the above is during tasks where you find that you move through the motions on auto-pilot. An example is when you take your daily shower. Really focus on the moment and sensations, such as the water that’s hitting your body, the fragrance of the shower gel you’re using, the sensation of how you’re washing your hair, and so on.
What’s The Difference Between Mindfulness And Meditation?
While “mindful meditation” can seem like one concept and practice, there are some differences between mindfulness and meditation. Essentially, mindful meditation combines the benefits of mindfulness with meditation.
Mindfulness can be defined as being more aware, so that you pay attention to your feelings, thoughts, breathing, and surroundings. It puts you in the power of the present moment so that you don’t think about the past or future.
You can do mindfulness exercises wherever you are. It’s essentially an ongoing practice so that you harness your awareness while reconnecting to the tasks you’re doing.
While you can do mindfulness wherever you are throughout the day, such as when eating, meditation is more about practicing for a certain amount of time.
There are many types of meditation, such as “Clear Mind” meditation, in which you clear your mind.
Another type is “Open Heart” meditation, which includes developing a state of kindness and compassion.
Mindfulness meditation is an example of “Clear Mind” meditation where you pay attention to your breathing.
When you use mindfulness during meditation, you essentially focus on your breathing.
This becomes the task to which you give all your attention so that you can become more aware of yourself and the present moment.
How To Use Visualization During Mindful Meditation
Although visualization is a type of mindfulness that you can do on its own, you can also add it to your mediation.
The reason why you should do this is that it helps you to use your relaxed mind in order to visualize what you want to achieve in your life.
An example of visualization is color breathing, and it works well during mindful meditation because you’re already concentrating on your breathing.
Here are the steps to follow if you want to use visualization in mindful meditation.
- Start by getting comfortable on the floor or in a chair.
- Close your eyes and start breathing slowly and deeply.
- Once you feel relaxed, imagine a color that you’ve chosen.
- As you hold that color in your thoughts, continue breathing.
- It might also help you to think about the color and what it means for you. For example, maybe imagining the color pink represents happiness or green makes you think of a fresh new start in life.
- As you take in a breath, imagine the color washing over your body, from your head all the way to your toes.
- Breathe as you visualize the color spreading through your body. It should fill every part of your body, including your toes and fingers.
- Once you have that image in your mind, imagine that every unwanted feeling is leaving your body every time you exhale.
- Replace the unwanted feelings with your color every time you take a breath.
- You can carry on with this visualization for as long as you want, and you’ll probably feel more peaceful and calm after a minute or so of doing it.
Pro tip: You can use color visualization in any type of meditation, but you can also engage in a few moments of color breathing whenever you want.
Brief History Of Mindfulness
Have you ever wondered where mindfulness comes from? It actually originates from “sati,” an ancient Indian word that roughly relates to present-moment awareness.
Mindfulness also has its roots in Buddhism and is based on the idea of zoning into the present moment with intention, paying attention to your thoughts and feelings, and noting your bodily sensations as well as the environment around you.
This should all be done through a lens of kindness, without the use of any judgments on what comes to the surface during the meditation.
Instead of saying that your feelings are “good” or “bad,” during mindfulness, you should put yourself into the state of a neutral observer.
American professor Jon Kabat-Zinn brought the mindfulness concept into our modern language during the 1970s.
He ran the first mindfulness stress-reduction course at the University of Massachusetts Medical School which was designed for people with chronic pain.
This popular course resulted in the creation of the Center for Mindfulness at the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center.
What Should You Do If Mindful Meditation Is Difficult To Do?
When you first start doing any type of meditation, you might find it difficult to access feelings of calm. This is normal, and shouldn’t be a setback.
The more you try to force yourself to feel calm, the harder it will be. The best thing, then, is to foster a feeling of acceptance.
Allow the thoughts to enter your mind and allow the sounds around you to pass by, such as those of cars zooming past or of people talking.
There are some other ways to make mindful meditation easier.
- Don’t try to meditate for too long. It’s not worth trying to spend upwards of 20 or 30 minutes per day meditating if you’re just starting out. This can cause you to feel stressed out, so it’s better to start with a few minutes per day to get comfortable with just being.
- Don’t stress about finding a quiet spot. Although you can benefit from being in a peaceful, quiet place when you begin a meditation session, this is not always practical. You might think you have to take a rain-check on your meditation session if you can’t enjoy sitting in a peaceful place, but that’s not true. You can incorporate mindfulness into your daily life, such as when you’re standing in a queue or driving to work, so you can still benefit from it even if your surroundings are noisy.
- Don’t take it too seriously. When you’re seated for a session of meditation, you might find that you take it seriously. But, don’t take it too seriously. Poking fun at your intrusive thoughts can make you see the situation in a lighter way, and it removes the power of your negative thoughts. Here’s an example of how you can poke fun at negative thoughts: if you’re always thinking of how unconfident you felt during the first day at your new job or how angry you are at your partner, tell the thoughts, “You’re so negative, it’s ridiculous – could you come back later?” or something similar so that you don’t allow it to make you feel stressed out.
- Don’t believe the biggest meditation myth. The biggest myth to be aware of when meditating is that you have to eliminate all your thoughts. You should be observing your thoughts and accepting them with kindness, instead of panicking that you have to rid yourself of all thoughts. Mindfulness is focused on dealing with the present moment and all that it brings. It’s not about trying to tune out of it.
- Don’t quit too soon. You might think that you should give up mindful meditation if it doesn’t work for you right away, but you have to be patient. Engage in regular sessions of mindful meditation and you can expect to see positive results after a few weeks or months.
What should you do if you always fall asleep during mindful meditation?
Since it’s so relaxing, you might find that you fall asleep when you try mindful meditation. What might help you is to take a group class with an instructor or try meditation while sitting upright in a chair.
Are distractions actually a good thing during mindfulness meditation?
While you might dread intrusive thoughts that come up during your meditation session, view them in a positive way. They are an opportunity for you to use your mindfulness and bring your attention to your breath.
If you want to engage in meditation, a useful type to try is mindful meditation.
In this article, we’ve looked at everything you need to know about mindfulness and meditation, and how to combine them for powerful benefits. When you begin mindful meditation, ensure that you focus on the present moment and be gentle with yourself!