Updated: Jan 15, 2019
Mindfulness Meditation is defined as ‘paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally’
Jon-Kabat Zinn (1994)
The benefits of Mindfulness Meditation are many and numerous. In fact, thanks to the recent surge of scientific research projects being conducted, the benefits are mounting up at such a rate that one would require a blog (or two) just to list them all. But, because this post is devoted more to application as opposed to theoretical elucidation, I’ve compiled a short list of some of the most tantalising benefits – to wet the appetite of ‘Why?’ we would be wise to get more meditation in our lives. They include:
· Increased proprioception. Through practicing such techniques as the ‘body scan’ (discussed in detail below) we can strengthen and develop our mind/body connection. Surprisingly few people are intimately acquainted with their bodies, viewing it merely as a means of transportation or pleasure tool. This disconnection can result in the failure to notice changes that occur in the body and can lead to a lack of self-care, which of course can ultimately result in the deterioration of our health. Improving our proprioception – mind/body connection – re-establishes this important relationship enabling us to treat and treasure our body as it deserves.
· Improved psychological/emotional well-being. Regular mindfulness practice has been shown to bring about a state of emotional equilibrium. Studies have shown that maintaining a consistent Mindfulness Meditation regime, of a mere ten minutes a day, can alleviate many ‘psychological difficulties, including anxiety, depression, eating disorders and interpersonal disorders’ (Siegel, 2014).
· Stress reduction. Poor mental health and illness is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. Much of this evidence has shown links between mental health issues such as depression and anxiety with work stress (Dewa and McDaid, 2011). It has been estimated that ‘over 80 percent of visits to the doctor’s office in the developed world are for stress-related disorders’(Siegel,2014). We can, through daily mindfulness practice, avoid succumbing to the silent killer.
So, now we’ve familiarised ourselves with some of the benefits mindfulness has to offer, the question is: well how can I get more mindful? Contrary to popular opinion doing mindfulness is not nearly as difficult as some would have us believe. For example, to enjoy many of the above benefits we only have to spend around ten minutes a day in a state of meditation. (Ten minutes! That’s nothing out of the 1440 that comprise each day).
My aim for this blog, then, is to provide you with five simple methods of getting more mindfulness into your life. Now, before we dive into the mind, I would like to take this opportunity to make a few things clear. Firstly, mindfulness is not a quick-fix intervention. To reap the rewards outlined above one must make mindfulness a daily habit. Arbitrary or inconsistent practice is unlike to produce the full potential of positive results mindfulness has to offer. Secondly, you absolutely have to be (excuse the play on words) be open-minded. If you harbour any prejudices towards ‘alternative’ therapies/interventions then it is unlikely to work. Prior to embarking on your mindful journey you must let go of preconceived negativity toward meditation and take the experience with equanimity: it’s not just for monks or hippies!
Five Ways of getting More Mindful
1) Three minute mindful exercise:
The beauty of this exercise is that it can be completed anywhere including at home, work or even standing in the queue at Tesco.
Begin by getting into a comfortable position in your chair. Sitting upright with your feet flat on the floor, your arms resting by your side or on your lap. Allow your eyes to gentle close or focus on a comfortable point in front of you.
1) Begin by bringing your attention to the awareness of your body. Notice any bodily sensations. Any tensions or sensations. Become aware of your feet touching the floor; the weight of your body in the chair. Notice that you are experiencing the present moment. Allow your focus to become aware of your thoughts. Just allow then to arise as thoughts and pass away if you can. Continue this for a moment.
2) Now, bringing your attention to your breath. Noticing the gentle rise and fall of your chest and stomach. The cool air as you breathe in and the warm air as you breathe out. Allowing the air to explore your body. There is nothing here for you to do. Continue this for a moment.
3) Begin by expanding your awareness from your breath to your body. Be curious and kind with your awareness. Noticing any sensations or tensions throughout your body. Expanding this space to allow for all these feelings to be here in the present with your experience.
As you come to the end of this exercise expand your awareness to the sounds in the room. Expanding further to the sounds outside of the room. When you are ready to end this exercise gentle open your eyes and bring yourself back.
2) Becoming friends with discomfort exercise – this 5 minute exercise will help build your awareness with what you find uncomfortable but will also support an acceptance towards discomfort.
3) Using everyday exercises to sharpen your present moment skill: Becoming aware of our experiences with other people is essential. This enables us to examine our communication and interactions, allowing self-reflection and introspection.
4) Ten minutes of Mindful breathing : To keep building your skill set and make the changes you need to include 10 minutes mindful breathing practice on a regular basis. Try and integrate this into a particular time in the day so you are likely to protect this time.
5) Mindful walking: Getting out into nature is one of the best things we can do to give ourselves a break from our busy lives. Mindful walking allows us to appreciate the present moment and experiencing what is going on right now rather than the story we have on the hamster wheel in our heads.