Research has shown that mindfulness offers a number of benefits for individuals, including better working memory and less stress. However, mindfulness isn’t something you can perfect overnight. Below is some information to help you understand how mindfulness works, the benefits of mindfulness, how to practice mindfulness and more.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment. If you are practicing mindfulness, you will be aware of where you are and what you are doing, but you won’t be overwhelmed or overly reactive to the events around you. Mindfulness is a skill that all humans possess, but you can use mindfulness more effectively if you practice it regularly. In fact, studies have shown that when you train yourself to be mindful, the physical structure of your brain actually changes in response.
Mindfulness can be beneficial to anyone, regardless of their age or occupation.
Benefits of Mindfulness
According to the American Psychological Association, mindfulness offers a number of notable benefits when practiced regularly. Some of these benefits include:
- Less emotional reactivity – People who practice mindfulness meditation can disengage from emotionally upsetting situations, leading to less dramatic emotional reactions.
- Enhanced focus – Practicing mindfulness meditation on a regular basis can help you improve your ability to ignore distractions and focus on a specific task.
- Lower stress levels – Studies show that mindfulness meditation can alter affective and cognitive processes responsible for increasing feelings of stress.
- Better satisfaction in relationships – Mindfulness reduces the effects of stress, and it limits emotional reactivity, which can improve satisfaction in relationships.
- More cognitive flexibility – People who become adept at mindfulness are also better at self-observation, as well as adapting to negative situations.
- Enhanced working memory – Practicing mindfulness on a regular basis increases your working memory, especially during times of stress.
- Less overthinking – Mindfulness can help you reduce the amount of time you spend thinking about negative situations, which may improve your mood overall.
Getting Started with Mindfulness
Getting started with mindfulness exercises is easy. You don’t need to purchase anything new to start practicing mindfulness. In fact, you can practice mindfulness at any time of the day and in any location.
For your first mindfulness exercise, follow these steps:
1. Set time aside for meditation.
Designate some time specifically for the act of meditation. If possible, meditate in a quiet, comfortable place. Regardless of where you decide to meditate, be sure to sit in a comfortable position.
2. Focus on the present.
As you begin meditating, focus all of your attention on observing the present moment just as it is. Pay attention to every aspect of this moment, from the sounds you hear to the physical sensations you are experiencing.
3. Notice your legs and arms.
Pay attention to the positions of your legs and arms. Allow all of your limbs to rest comfortably.
4. Lower your gaze.
Drop your head slightly and allow your gaze to fall. It isn’t necessary to close your eyes, but don’t focus on anything in particular.
5. Pay attention to your breathing.
Focus all of your attention on the way it feels as you breathe in and out.
6. Ignore all judgments.
Your brain will naturally make judgments about each of your observations. Allow these judgments to pass without stopping to focus on them.
7. Continuously return your attention to observation.
Throughout your mindfulness exercise, it is natural for your mind to wander. Don’t judge yourself for allowing this to happen. Instead, each time you become aware of your mind wandering, gently guide it back to focusing on your breathing and the present moment.
8. Lift your gaze.
When you feel ready, lift your head back up and open your eyes. Listen to the sounds around you, focus on the sensations in your body and make note of your emotions and thoughts.
Things to Remember
As you delve deeper into mindfulness meditation, remember that:
- Effective mindfulness meditation takes time. – When you first begin mindfulness meditation, you may experience considerable difficulty focusing. It takes time to develop good mindfulness meditation skills. Don’t expect to become a skilled meditator overnight.
- Your mind is going to wander. – When you practice mindfulness, your mind is going to wander, especially in the beginning. Don’t be surprised when this happens. Instead, use it as an opportunity to refocus your attention on the present.
- The goal isn’t to quiet your mind completely. – The purpose of mindfulness meditation is not to quiet your mind completely, but to control the way you process and respond to your thoughts.
- You need to be kind to yourself. – As you practice mindfulness meditation, try not to be too critical of yourself, even if you are having difficulty with this type of meditation. Be patient with yourself, and your skills will improve over time.
The results of research demonstrate clear benefits related to the regular practice of mindfulness meditation. By following the steps and tips above, you can begin practicing this type of meditation and enjoying its benefits.