“Our life shaped by our mind, for we become what we think.” – Buddha
Modern-day lives are filled with so many distractions. Life can feel full with most of us feeling the need to multi-task to ensure we fit everything we need to do into our days. The daily rush can leave us feeling disconnected from living in the present moment. Did you notice the birds in the garden this morning or the blooming flowers? These little things may seem unimportant when you have a busy day at work ahead of you, but taking time to notice the simple joys in life can really help you connect with the present moment which is a key element in stress reduction.
Mindfulness is a practice of focusing our minds and attention on the present moment. Regular mindfulness can improve our physical and mental health as well as our attitudes and behaviours. Each time you bring your attention to your senses, emotions, where you are and what you are doing, you are being mindful. There are studies that indicate that regular mindfulness can actually remodel the physical structure of our brains. There are multiple benefits that mindfulness can provide for all of us including a decrease in stress levels. By decreasing stress levels it can improve immune function, blood pressure, heart and brain function. In addition, mindfulness is considered to be effective in treating depression. Mindfulness helps the individual regulate emotions by providing the tools for the individual to distance themselves from strong negative emotions and accept them, instead of battling them.
Meditation, on the other hand, is about training our awareness and getting a healthier perspective. Meditation is a skill that we can learn and use in our everyday lives and there are numerous types. Some types of meditation are aimed at developing selflessness traits such as kindness and compassion, whilst other types of meditation can develop a more clear and focused mind. More and more people are discovering the benefits of meditation. There are studies that frequent meditators see improvements in stress reduction, controlling anxiety, managing social anxiety and even obsessive-compulsive disorders. Meditation can also be used to help those with normal age-related memory loss and can even partially improve memory of patients with Dementia. In addition, there has been a study that included 3500 frequent meditating participants and non-meditating participants that experienced the same origins of pain. Meditating participants reported decreased complaints of chronic pain and increased ability to cope with pain than non-meditators.
How to use mindfulness meditation?
Both mindfulness and meditation and can utilised together to clear the mind. To engage in mindfulness meditation make sure to set a time and a place aside to ensure you won’t be distracted by your phone or other people. The sitting practises of mindfulness meditation allows us the opening to be more present with ourselves just as we are. Mindfulness meditation can be quite difficult, to begin with, but it is a useful skill that can be easily developed. Give it a go:
- Take a comfortable seat. This could be a chair, cushion or park bench that will give support for your back and allow your feet to touch the floor. If you prefer to use a cushion, make sure that your legs are crossed comfortably in front of you.
- Relax your arms. Ensure your arms naturally fall onto your legs with your upper arms at your sides.
- Gaze forward or close your eyes. It’s not necessary to close your eyes fully whilst meditating but it can help to stop any distractions. If you chose to keep your eyes open, allow your eyes to un-focus.
- Focus on your breathing. Focus on the sensation of the breath in your nose and mouth, and the rise and fall of your chest.
- Bring back your attention to your breath. It’s inevitable that your mind will wander, but there’s no need to attempt to block thinking. When you notice that your mind has wandered, gently return your focus to your breath. Do not become engaged or frustrated about your wandering thoughts, acknowledge them, and move on.
- Lift your gaze or open your eyes when you are ready. When you start to begin to become aware of your surroundings again, take a moment to how you are feeling physically and mentally before you carry on with your day.