We live stressful, sometimes chaotic lives, and we lose sight of what it means to be peaceful. Having a peaceful mind can actually make us more resilient to stress and the damage it causes our minds and bodies, and it helps us focus better on things that actually matter. In the midst of all the things demanding our attention and causing us mental harm, however, how can we find the peace we so desperately need?
Mindfulness Meditation and You
Meditation is the intentional act of being in a quiet place, free from distraction, and simply letting the mind be. While some meditative practices are designed to focus on a single idea, called a mantra, and enhance our awareness of it, I want to discuss another type – mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation is about focusing on your breathing instead of on a mantra and letting your mind wander, gently directing it back to paying attention to your breath. This helps you keep your emotions in check when stress is screaming all around you, and teaches you to focus through distraction.
Let’s learn about mindfulness meditation, and how it can help you.
How mindfulness helps us
Your mind will wander all the time – it’s inevitable. The practice of mindfulness teaches us to gently push it back to the task at hand, no matter what is distracting us. By learning to accept that your mind will wander, you also learn that you can redirect it – you have the control.
Mindfulness practice has other benefits as well:
- Reduces stress by the use of deep, calming breath, which stimulates the vagus nerve and literally lowers blood pressure and stress response
- Helps you better manage anxiety by teaching you to evaluate your emotions and reactions, and then not letting them control your actions
- Improves your attention span, making you more productive
- Makes you more self-aware
- Provides better emotional stability, as it teaches you that emotions can be dealt with rather than letting them pop up and interfere with your normal daily life
So mindfulness has all of these benefits and more, so you’re probably asking yourself how you can get in on this fantastic stress-reducing tool, and I’m here to show you.
The first thing to do is to find a quiet place to relax, where you won’t be bothered. It doesn’t have to be silent, as long as the sounds aren’t distracting – a fan is a good example of quiet, positive background noise for meditation.
Sitting upright is the best position – laying down runs the risk of you falling asleep. Breathe in normally but deeply, and let your mind wander.
As you get more relaxed, you’ll find your mind gets more easily distracted but keep focusing on your breathing. If you start to pay attention to a stray thought, acknowledge it and then let it go. As you relax further, start counting as you breathe, and imagine you can actually see the air moving through your nose and out your mouth.
When your mind wanders, return your attention to your breathing, counting, and visualization of your breath. You should aim for 5-10 minutes to start and build up from there, and when you want to start coming out of the meditative state, make your breath more shallow and gently become more aware of your surroundings.
The longer you practice the better the benefit will be but even five minutes of daily mindfulness meditation is enough to provide value to your life.
Using mindfulness outside of meditation
The biggest benefit that mindfulness provides to us is that it allows you to find space between choices and emotions. When something triggers anxiety or anger, you have a tool to put a moment between the triggering event and the emotional takeover. This allows you to see the emotion, the event, and yourself as independent entities and you can react accordingly.
You can frame an event that would normally trigger a panic attack in a way that prevents one from happening. If work stress is running in your mind constantly, you can detach it from the rest of your life. You do not need to live beholden to your emotions – mindfulness can help you conquer them and be productive and as close to stress-free as people get.
Mindfulness also helps you experience life in a more deliberate way. By being aware of our actions, thoughts, and future, you can savor the present more thoroughly. That little bit of space that mindfulness provides also gives you the ability to say no to negative behaviors like smoking, drinking, or eating bad food by helping you examine the practice beyond what immediately feels good.
In short, mindfulness is an easy method for getting a better handle on your daily experience, handle stress better, and in general, live a more productive, happier life.