You might have noticed that mindfulness — the capacity to be totally present in the moment — can have various benefits, ranging from reduced anxiety and depression to improved concentration and satisfaction levels, according to findings on general mindfulness research.
Then what exactly is mindfulness? And, how do you consider it and reap all of its advantages?
Practice in mindfulness meditation is one way to really appreciate the present moment and incorporate the awareness into your daily life. Here's all you need to remember to get going:
Acquainting yourself with the concept of mindfulness, but also how it extends to meditation, is important. Mindfulness is the condition of being present and actively committed in everything you're currently doing — free of interruption or judgement, and aware of our emotions and thoughts without getting caught up in them
We learn through mindfulness in this exact same moment-to-moment self awareness, simply helping us to grow and develop awareness skills so we can then apply it to normal daily life.
In training the mind to be present, we encourage ourselves to behave more closely — in the moment, breathing, not confined to intrusive fears and anxieties — which is particularly useful when confronted with difficult circumstances.
Mindfulness vs. Meditation
Here's the point that so many people find confusing in being mindful: it's not a fleeting mental state that's present during meditation and then disappears for the rest of the day. Mindfulness is like a way of living in which — when we remember — we can back away and be in every situation at the present moment.
Mindfulness is the awareness of “some-thing,” while meditation is the awareness of “no-thing.”
Mindfulness does not eliminate tension or other problems; rather, by being mindful of the troublesome feelings and thoughts that emerge due to adverse circumstances, we have more control over how to address them at the current time — and a higher probability of responding calmly and empathetically when faced with stress or obstacles.
Mastering mindfulness does not, of course, imply but we never get frustrated — but it enables us to be more thoughtful how we want to react, be it calm and empathetic or maybe, sometimes with calculated anger.
Meditation is the foundation for preparing to be mindful. For a while, people meditate for a relatively short period of time to become familiar with the here and now. Though, regular practice of mindfulness over time helps one to cultivate the ability to be present all day, every day.
How it Works
Mindfulness meditation also affects our mindset and outlook, it could also change the look of our brain. Simplistic experiments of meditation on neuroimaging found that 8 weeks of meditation on
awareness also change our brains, reverting them to more positive thoughts and feelings.
For example, mindfulness helps one to switch from high-energy brainwaves to a lower frequency that stimulates (and potentially deactivates) those areas of the brain. This may, for example, reduce neurological connections to the prefrontal medial cortex, or the "me center," decreasing traits such as anxiety, pressure, and insecurity.
In turn, meditation can also build new pathways to the parts of the brain responsible for traits like focus and decision-making.
But that's not all: mindfulness meditation can possibly modify the brain shape too, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.
Studies suggest that gray matter — the brain area accountable for emotional intelligence, scheduling, and problem-solving — as well as the cortical density that is responsible for memory and learning — both widen with daily meditation. Put another way, the size of the amygdala reduces, which governs how we feel tension, anxiety and fear.
Benefits of Mindfulness
The buzz around mindfulness meditation is real. People who integrate it in their lives also show increased levels of fulfillment, patience, acceptability, and kindness, as well as lower levels of distress, anger, and sadness.
Practicing Mindfulness Meditation
Practicing mindfulness meditation can be a great way to manage stress and boost compassion, focus, empathy, patience, energy, and ultimately, happiness. If you’re just beginning a practice, a guided mindfulness meditation — led by a teacher in person or an app — it might be a good place to start. Having a trusted, experienced teacher guide you through the basic steps can be key to getting the most out of the experience.
Most guided mindfulness meditations follow a similar format: the teacher explains how the mind behaves during meditation, leads you through a particular meditation technique, and suggests how to integrate this technique into your everyday life.
Though there are countless mindfulness techniques — each rooted in a different tradition and with a unique focus — most have one thing in common: they’re aimed at cultivating two essential components, calm and clarity, with the intention to remain focused and hone a natural quality of awareness.
7 Basic Techniques
Here’s a breakdown of eight of the more popular mindfulness techniques — all of which are used in the Headspace app. Some will sound intriguing, while others may not be your cup of tea. See which ones work best for you.
1) Focused Attention
Likely the most common form of meditation, this technique uses the breath to anchor the mind and maintain awareness. Focus your attention on the breath — specifically the rise and fall of the chest — and return to the breath whenever you get distracted or notice your mind starting to wander.
2) Body Scan
This technique, which uses meditation to connect with the body, involves scanning your body from head to toe and being aware of any discomfort, sensations, or aches that exist (which could be indicators of stress and anxiety).
This is a mindfulness technique in which you “note” a particular thought or feeling when you become distracted during meditation. The practice of noting helps to create space and learn more about our habits, tendencies, and conditioning.
4) Loving Kindness
Instead of focusing on the breath, this technique involves focusing on the image of different people: people we know, people we don’t; people we like, people we don’t. We direct well-wishes and goodwill first to ourselves, and then, as a ripple effect, to others, which helps us let go of unhappy feelings we may be experiencing.
5) Skillful Compassion
Similar to the loving kindness meditation technique, this one involves focusing on a person you know or love and paying attention to the sensations arising from the heart. It’s aptly named because it’s thought to be helpful in opening our hearts and minds for the benefit of other people, which in turn fosters a feeling of happiness in our own mind.
This technique uses visualization, to focus on a person or something more abstract, to hold attention. The idea here is that the familiar image will help create and maintain a relaxed focus.
Ask yourself a question, for example, “What are you most grateful for?” (Note that asking yourself a question using the second person — you — will discourage the intellectual mind from trying to answer it rationally.) Be aware of the feelings, not the thoughts, that arise when you focus on the question.
Whichever technique you choose, know that experiencing moments of mindfulness during meditation is a great first step. After meditation, while our minds will likely experience distractions throughout the day, the more our mindfulness practice is honed and developed, the more we are able to catch ourselves being distracted and the more we are able to bring our focus back to the present moment. After all, that’s the whole point of practicing mindfulness meditation — to make us more mindful and less distracted throughout the day.
At the end of your meditation, try to recognize how your mind feels and then make an intention to carry that feeling into the rest of your day. Some people find it helpful to form a clear idea of what they are going to do next — maybe take a shower or get a cup of coffee — and perform their next task with the same level of awareness they experienced during meditation. It doesn’t matter what you do after meditation, as long as you look for opportunities throughout your day in which to recognize the space and mindfulness you experienced during your practice.
That's all for now!