What exactly is mindful meditation and how can it benefit me?
Ever been so stressed that you told yourself, I need to start meditating. Well, now’s the time!
If you’ve ever thought about beginning a meditation practice before but weren’t sure exactly where to begin, you’re not alone. You may know that meditation is more than just sitting quietly, but you may still be asking yourself, What exactly IS mediation and how can it benefit me?
Understanding what mindfulness meditation is and the benefits that it can provide can help you get your practice started and may make you more likely to stick with it. We’ve answered some questions that we get asked often about meditation to help you get started with your practice.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is an ancient technique of training your mind to become more aware of your own life experience. You will learn to observe the functioning of your mind in a calm and detached manner so you can gain insight into your behavior. You will learn to notice your thoughts without being caught up in them. The goal of this practice is to learn to live and be in a state of awareness without judgment.
How Do You Meditate?
Four key parts comprise a meditation practice:
Posture, breath, awareness, and acceptance.
A proper seated posture is encouraged as it will help to keep you present and aware rather than relaxed. The breath allows you to notice the present moment and is a great tool to bring your awareness back into the present if you ever get caught up in your thoughts. Being aware of each moment while in that moment allows you to move towards acceptance of the present moment, whatever it may bring.
What Are the Benefits of Meditation?
There are many benefits to a consistent meditation practice, including:
Experiencing positive emotions
Improved ability to focus
Increased life satisfaction
Improved social connection, empathy, and compassion
Greater resilience during hard times
Decreased anxiety and stress
Who wouldn't want all of that? Try mindful meditation today!
What Meditation is Right For Me?
With so many different meditation techniques offered by an expansive list of providers, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. To narrow down which techniques may be best for you, we recommend beginning your meditation research by asking yourself if you want to be guided through your meditation by someone else or if you prefer to be your own guide. If you’re brand new to meditation, Guided Meditation (search this term on the Internet) is a great place to begin your practice as it will help you learn which types of meditations you enjoy and benefit from the most. They can also help you learn how to meditate so that you can eventually practice on your own.
Once you determine how you want your meditation led, consider what outcome or benefits you want to obtain from your meditation practice. Do you want a meditation that focuses on making you calmer and at peace, or a meditation that may help you learn more about yourself? If you want to focus on reducing symptoms of stress and feeling calmer, start your search for meditations that encourage you to find calm by focusing on one thing (your breath, a mantra, or a sound). If you want to learn more about yourself, try a practice that involves bringing your awareness to the more nuanced aspects of who you are physically, mentally, and emotionally (Loving Kindness Meditation, Heart Meditation). Once you’ve determined how you want to practice and what you want to get out of meditation, you can further your research toward specific types of meditation techniques.
It’s important to note that many meditation techniques may tend to multiple outcomes in the same practice. This is okay! You are not obligated to pick one or the other.
As with most things in life, developing and benefitting from a mediation practice takes time. That’s why they call it a meditation practice. The more consistent you are with your meditation, the more you will benefit. Just like an exercise routine for your body, a long-term commitment will make the biggest impact on your health and wellness.
Raise Your Hand If You’re Feeling:
Unsure of yourself
Now, shift your attention to your breath (you can lower your hand now). Without altering your breath pattern, notice HOW you’re breathing – where does the breath enter, where does it go in your body, how does it feel flowing in and out of your body. Does your breath match how you’re feeling right now?
Take a much deeper breath through your nose. Let it linger for a brief moment, then let your breath exit through your mouth. Repeat 3 to 5 more times at your own pace.
Do you feel any different? Maybe you feel more present in the moment, or perhaps you feel less tired, stressed, unsure, powerless, anxious. Maybe you’re not certain what you feel, and that’s perfectly valid too.
The Human Body
Our bodies are really awesome. Think about all that your body does daily that you don’t even have to think about – your brain processing visual stimuli, your body digesting food for energy, your breath keeping you going – the human body is an incredible thing!
Respiration overall is an unconscious action of the body, meaning we don’t have to think about it for our bodies to do it. Though it’s an involuntary process, breathing can have a powerful effect on our physical and mental health, and it can also be an indicator of underlying physical and mental health issues. Breathing patterns that indicate a stressful or anxious state include short and shallow inhales and irregular or “choppy” irregular breaths. And these breathing patterns can prolong these feelings of stress or anxiety. But remember, the breath isn’t just an indicator of how you are feeling – it’s also a tool you can use to manage these symptoms of stress and anxiety and feel better. Try "Box Breathing." Inhale to the count of 4 seconds, hold for 4, exhale for 4, hold for 4. Repeat at least 3-5 times. Are you calmer?