Stress is a common part of everyday life. While stress can be positive in some situations, it can also become detrimental to your physical and mental health at times.
Most people have a lot going on. Work, family, hobbies, balancing the budget, taking care of your health, and so on.
Mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, are also increasing and impact nearly one in five people.
It’s easy to feel worried about the future, think about the things we need to get done, or even focus on things that happened in the past.
When you’re thinking of things outside of the current moment, you’re more than likely not living in the present moment by being mindful.
Mindfulness is a technique that can help you better manage the stress of daily life, improve feelings of anxiety and depression, and increase overall happiness.
Practicing mindfulness might also make you more resilient to stress, changes in plans, and other things that normally would have caused you distress.
Learning different ways to practice mindfulness is an investment in your mental health, which is just as important as your physical health.
What is mindfulness and how does it work?
Mindfulness is a technique that was practiced in Eastern traditions, especially Buddhism. But it has since spread to Western societies and is often used as part of mental health therapy.
You might have already heard the term “mindfulness,” but what does it really mean?
One of the definitions of mindfulness is “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
In simpler terms, the root of mindfulness is being aware of the present moment. Worrying about the past or future isn’t being mindful but can be a difficult habit to unlearn. However, it can be done with regular practice.
There are many types of exercises to help you learn how to practice mindfulness. Many of the techniques include mindfulness meditations.
There are nine popular types of meditation, including:
- Mindfulness meditation
- Spiritual meditation
- Focused meditation
- Movement meditation
- Mantra meditation
- Transcendental meditation
- Progressive relaxation
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Visualization meditation
Benefits of mindfulness meditation
There are several studies on the benefits of practicing mindfulness exercises such as meditation.
A recent study explained how mindfulness and meditation are effective for a broad range of people throughout their lifespan, including people with different abilities.
Mindfulness can help reduce anxiety symptoms and can be a beneficial complementary therapy for people with mental health disorders.
People who practice mindfulness exercises, including meditation, tend to have improvements in feelings of anxiety, depression, as well as pain scores. There are also physical changes in the brains of people who consistently practice meditation, such as mindfulness meditation.
These brain changes suggest that meditation can physically impact how our brains react to stress and anxiety, such as activating the parts of our brains that regulate control over our emotions.
Another review of the benefits of mindfulness concluded that there are several benefits of mindfulness and meditation. This includes “increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioral regulation.”
The bottom line is that mindfulness meditation can help you feel better overall, regulate your moods more effectively, and have a healthier emotional response to certain situations that might have otherwise caused you stress.
Your emotional and mental health are closely tied to your physical health. If you’re under a lot of stress and aren’t managing it healthily, you might turn to eating more, drinking more alcohol, or maybe you won’t feel motivated to exercise regularly. People with chronic diseases or pain can also experience a high level of health-related stress.
Mindfulness meditation is also associated with a reduction in inflammatory markers, which can contribute to other chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.
How to practice mindfulness
Mindfulness and meditation are broad topics, and there isn’t a right or wrong way to do it. The most important thing is that you practice it and have the intention to become more focused and mindful.
If you’d like help getting started, consider finding a mental health counselor or therapist trained in mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) to teach their clients mindfulness exercises better.
The great thing about mindfulness is that it doesn’t require any special equipment, and you don’t have to spend anything to practice it.
You can take a minute or two out of your busy day to practice mindfulness, or you might prefer to take 20 minutes at the end of a long day to do it. Mindfulness can fit into your schedule however it’s most convenient to you.
You may also choose to use a mindfulness app on your phone or take a mindfulness course to get started.
Step By Step Guide
According to Mindfulness.org, here is a basic mindfulness practice to help get you started and used to the idea of mindfulness meditation:
Step 1: Take a seat. Find a place to sit that feels calm and quiet to you.
Step 2: Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as 5 or 10 minutes.
Step 3: Notice your body. You can sit in a chair with your feet on the floor, you can sit loosely cross-legged, in lotus posture, you can kneel—all are fine. Just make sure you are stable, and in a position you can stay in for a while.
Step 4: Feel your breath. Follow the sensation of your breath as it goes out and as it goes in.
Step 5: Notice when your mind has wandered. Inevitably, your attention will leave the sensations of the breath and wander to other places. When you get around to noticing this—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
Step 6: Be kind to your wandering mind. Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of the thoughts you find yourself lost in. Just come back.
There are many different mindfulness techniques. You might find that you prefer one technique to practice mindfulness but not another, and that’s okay. Practicing different techniques will allow you to find a strategy that works for you.
Here are a few ways to practice mindfulness:
Many of us don’t take deep, full breaths but instead do shallow “chest breathing.” Deep breathing can allow you to focus on one thing (breathing) and helps drown out other noise, whether busy thoughts or actual noise.
To do a complete “belly breath,” inhale through your nose for 5 seconds. Put your hand on your stomach and try to move your hand as much as possible by breathing deep into your stomach.
Hold the breath for 5 seconds, and then slowly exhale for 5 seconds. Repeat that sequence at least three times or as much as you’d like to achieve relaxation and mindfulness.
The use of mantras is another type of mindfulness practice. A mantra is a word or phrase repeated during guided meditation, but you can use it during any mindfulness practice.
Mantras are often positive or self-affirming. But they can be whatever you need to remind you of your goals from mindfulness practice.
Some examples of mantras are “I am enough,” “I am here in this moment,” and “Today is a new day” to focus your attention better. Repeat your mantras either in your head or out loud while you’re focusing on living in the moment.
It helps to close your eyes and take deep breaths to better focus your attention. But you can also take a deep breath and repeat your mantra when you’re in the middle of a hectic task at work or whenever it will help bring you some peace.
Guided imagery is a type of guided meditation that you can do with the help of a counselor or therapist.
The goal of guided imagery is to promote relaxation through imagining peaceful images in your mind, helping you to escape the busy thoughts and stress from your everyday life.
You don’t have to do sitting meditation with your eyes closed to practice mindfulness; you can do it while you’re enjoying exercise or other physical activity.
For instance, if you’re going on a walk, take in the sights, sounds, and smells of your surroundings. Notice the feeling of a breeze, if you hear any birds or the physical sensation of gravel under your shoes.
Be present in the moment. Try to keep your mind from wandering to thoughts of the future or past, or otherwise stressful things.
Mindfulness is a technique to help increase awareness of the present moment. It can be a type of meditation for stress reduction. It can help to decrease feelings of anxiety and depression and increase overall wellness and happiness.
There are many ways to practice mindfulness, which you can do on your own or with the help of a counselor or therapist through a guided meditation or other therapy.
Anyone can practice mindfulness, and it doesn’t have to cost anything, nor do you need special equipment, making it a great stress reduction technique for everyone.