Have you ever felt like things become too much for you? You want to run away and you struggle to relax, focus on what you need to do and struggle to enjoy special moments due to ongoing mental chatter?
Many of us live in the past or the future and we sometimes forget to stop, breathe and become fully present in every single moment. It’s important to realise that we can learn from the past, but cannot change it. We can prepare for the future, but unfortunately it is also not within our control and learning to let go and to live in the present is the best way to live more joyfully.
Practising mindfulness is a well-known and proven method to not only help you become more present, it will also positively impact your mental health, physical health and overall wellbeing.
This article will explore what mindfulness meditation is and give you a glimpse into its benefits. We’ll go through meditation and mindfulness techniques and you’ll quickly see why managing your mind can set you up for a happier more peaceful life.
What is Mindfulness and Meditation?
The Oxford dictionary explains mindfulness as “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.”
Birthed more than 2500 years BCE, mindfulness and meditation has its origins in Taoism, Sufism, Buddhism and yogic philosophies. The need for compassion, acceptance, non-judgement and living more consciously has however not been exclusively reserved for secular needs and is now needed more than ever in the world.
You don’t need to be religious to benefit from mindfulness and meditation.
The pressures of life in the 21st century are forcing us to re-evaluate how we live our lives and even more so, how we manage ourselves to prevent anxiety, disease, depression and eventual burnout.
Driven by fear of losing our jobs, trying to fit into a highly competitive world and attached to technology, we forget to just simply be human. We run from one distraction to another and forget that we are much greater than a singular event, our job, or maybe what is expected of us.
Returning to stillness will allow your real essence to surface.
The ancient wisdom traditions knew exactly what has been confirmed by modern research; living mindfully allow us to not only grow closer to our own essence, but it also influences us to move through life with more consciousness, joy, compassion, kindness and love.
We all want to live a more fulfilled life and practising meditation and mindfulness will aid us in how we direct and steer our mental process and behaviours in life as we move closer to the ultimate contentment.
The Benefits of Meditation and Mindfulness
The benefits of meditation are not only spiritual, but as you learn to move away from the physical external stimulus you turn more inwards to explore who you are, your challenges and how you associate with yourself and other people.
Mindfulness will help with your physical wellbeing as well as you learn to breathe better, relax, rewire your brain and reduce stress. Here are some of the multiple benefits you can experience if you meditate regularly:
- Connect your conscious and unconscious mind and improve your awareness
- Release tension in your body
- Learn to relax your mind, which is ideal if you suffer from stress or anxiety.
- Sleep better
- Learn how to free your mind from chatter and distracting thoughts
- Develop focused attention
- Rewire your brain to focus on the present
- Connect to your feelings, thoughts and physical bodily sensations
- Cultivate more compassion for yourself and others
The greatest part is now we know that science and research can back up all of those claims. A variety of studies confirmed how old brain patterns get replaced by new brain patterns as we slowly rewire our brains to focus less on anger, negativity, fear or loss and more on peace, love, acceptance and gratitude. Modern scans and research proved how mindfulness practices can reduce the size and density of the amygdala that is usually responsible for triggering fear, violence and aggression.
Meditation has also been shown to positively impact self-esteem, reduce cortisol, increase oxytocin and help manage serotonin levels, all functions that helps with reducing fear, stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness practices also create better pre-frontal cortex functioning and the associated thicker cortex leads to improved memory and the prevention of dementia and other debilitating diseases.
Tips for Beginners of Meditation and Mindfulness Exercises
- Find a time that suits your life. If you want to focus on getting your mind ready and focussed for the day then morning meditations are great. Lunch- or tea-break meditations are great for managing stress and if you want to focus on better sleep, a talk-down meditation can help at the end of the day.
- The right space will allow you to quieten your mind, free from distractions. This is especially important for people who are new to meditation.
- Ensure you are comfortable. You can relax on your back in the Shavasana position or take a seated lotus position. This is your time to give your mind and body nurturing, so buy a yoga mat if you want to make the most of your practice regardless of where you are.
- Slowly increase the duration of your meditation. A lot of us struggle to shut our minds down, so start small by setting your timer for 5 minutes. The more your practise the more you’ll realise how quickly those 5 minutes fly by, then increase them to 10. Try and meditate every day rather than focussing on the duration of a single session to maximise the benefits.
- Practise benevolence and be kind to yourself. Try to be patient and compassionate with yourself as you curiously explore new depths of who you are. It will become easier the more you practise, but remember this is a new skill and it won’t be easy at the start. Most importantly don’t judge yourself.
- Fall in love with the journey and realise less is more. Having goals are great, but too many goals and things to focus on will only distract you from your practice and the present moment. Remind yourself that mindfulness and meditation doesn’t have a destination and you are trying to simplify your thoughts. Focus on the now and the rest will slowly fall into place.
- Don’t follow and continue thoughts. Thinking is a natural process and part of who we are. You are ultimately trying to work towards a place of having no thoughts during your meditation, but this will take years to master. Expert Yogis believe you should acknowledge a thought as it comes up and let it go, just like clouds passing by. Don’t resits them as the more you resist them, the more they will surface. Simply tell those thoughts that you’ll return to them after your meditation.
- Eyes closed we start with breathing. We close our eyes to get rid of visual distractions and try get all our attention to focus on one thing, our breath.
A great idea is to also consolidate your practice at the end by just briefly looking back unto it. Were you judging or loving and compassionate towards yourself? You don’t have to fix these things, just become aware and slowly this will set the wheels of change, positive self-talk and self-love in motion.
Start to Meditate Today – The Body Scan Meditation
There’s no time like the present and the best way to move closer to more bliss and peace is to get meditating. Here’s a quick guided meditation which can be done as a seated meditation and ideal for beginners.
Step 1: Find a quiet spot and get comfortable. Seated or lying down and gently close your eyes.
Step 2: Start to focus on your breathing. Observe whether the inhale and exhale is the same, try and zoom into only your breathing and let the outside world fade away. If your mind wanders, gently guide it back to your breath.
Step 3: Bring your attentiveness and focus to your body. Using the same focus you created with your breath you are now moving to the body. Imagine you are shining a flashlight on the various areas of your body as do this scan.
Step 4: Slowly scan your body from head to toe. Move from the crown of your head all the way down your face, neck, upper body etc. Take your full awareness to the spot you are focussing on and notice any pain, sensations or discomfort. Feel it release as you exhale and move to the next body part until every muscle, organ, bone and cell are relaxed from head to toes.
Step 5: Bring yourself back into the room. Bring yourself back into the room with three big breaths, wiggle your fingers and toes and bring some tiny movement into your body before blinking the eyes open slowly.
You’ll be able to find more free guided meditation practices and music on meditation Apps or YouTube.
Other Meditation and Mindfulness Techniques You can Try
If you are ready for more you can research and try one of these meditations and mindfulness exercises:
- Mindfulness-Based Cognitive (MBCT)
- Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)
- Walking Meditation
- Sensory Meditation (sound meditation)
- Mindful Focussed Breathing
- Visualisation/Journey meditation
- Healing meditation
Many people expect immediate results and they want to physically see the differences in an instant. The reality is that the changes and shifts are so subtle, you’ll only realise it much later when you look back one day and realise it completely changed how you see and live in the world.Our experienced Superprof yoga tutors are well-trained and equipped in mindfulness and meditation exercises and will be happy to give you your first taste of blissful relaxation.