Hello! I’m starting this series of articles with mindfulness. Mindfulness is an interesting subject and phenomenon in the general debate but also in the field of psychology and scientific research. A lot has been written about mindfulness and people in a growing manner are interested in practicing it and in trying formal meditation practice. Some of the most successful people in the world practice mindfulness meditation. Among those are names like Oprah Winfrey, Emma Watson, Katy Perry, Kobe Bryant and even the England football team during the FIFA world cup 2014 (The Huffington Post 2015).
So what is mindfulness? And why should you practice mindfulness? Mindfulness means basically an aware accepting presence. Mindfulness means skills that you can practice and also a feature that people have naturally more or less (Uusitalo-Malmivaara 2014). Jon Kabat-Zinn who has brought mindfulness to the western world defines mindfulness as a presence that is formed when attention is paid to the present moment and experienced and accepted moment by moment as it is in a non-judging way (Kabat-Zinn 2003). The roots of mindfulness are in Buddhist philosophy and reach as early as 2500 years ago. Meditation is the formal way to practice mindfulness but mindfulness in itself can be applied everything you do in your everyday life (Uusitalo-Malmivaara 2014). Even though in the western world we think of Buddhism as a religion and so it is in a way and in some countries, mindfulness and meditation are universal concepts and are not bounded to a certain religion. They are more of a way to find mental well being and peace of mind. Everybody whether religious or not can practice mindfulness and can benefit of giving it a try.
Mindfulness is applied in many different fields of treatment. Aware accepting presence is applied in the treatment depression and anxiety with good results (Hoffmann et al. 2010) Mindfulness is also applied in pain management (Michalsen et al. 2015), weight loss and maintenance (Godsey 2013) and much more. Mindfulness has been noticed to approve the control over actions and functioning and the awareness in cognitive psychology (Uusitalo-Malmivaara 2014). Mindfulness is shown in brain imaging studies to actually affect the brain and change their structure. Empathic accuracy has been found to be enhanced with a form of compassion meditation (Mascaro et al. 2012) Emotional reactivity reduces and emotion regulation enhances by practicing mindfulness-based stress reduction in social anxiety disorder (Goldin et al. 2012)
So how to do it? How to apply mindfulness in your life and how to meditate? Basically it’s very easy just sit still close your eyes and focus on your breathing. If thoughts come just acknowledge them and after that let them go and go back on focusing your breathing. For the start especially if you’re a person who likes to have something to do all the time and be on the move sitting still can feel impossible but I courage you to start with just a short time. You could meditate five minutes in the morning and in the evening. As time goes by and meditation becomes familiar the time can be enhanced to ten minutes and later up to 45 minutes.I personally prefer to meditate around 10 to 15 minutes every morning and evening. Meditation helps me to stay balanced and gives me a break from my mind and thoughts. I feel I’m much more aware of my thoughts and I don’t just react to things in my daily life but I have that awareness before I act on something.
How to start? You can either sit on a chair or on the floor in a cross-legged sitting posture but remember to sit erect the back in a good posture. The good posture helps to cultivate patience, dignity and self-acceptance during meditation. You can sit on a pillow that lifts your buttocks up a bit. If you sit on chair try not to lean too much to the chair as it is recommended that the spine is self-supported. What if you start feeling uncomfortable in terms of your body position? In meditation you can take this as a part of the practice and just observe those feelings of discomfort but not react to them. Sometimes the feelings of discomfort disappear or decrease just by observing them and letting them be as they are. Same thing can be done with thoughts you can just observe them and then let them go. One of the important things about meditation is that it teaches you how to observe your thoughts but giving you the freedom to let them go if they don’t serve you at that moment. You don’t have to react to certain thought because after all it is just a thought. In meditation many people realize how their minds are constantly producing thought after thought. In meditation we let the mind to be quiet for a while and just relax to our being and to the moment. Focusing on the breathing and letting the thoughts go after they’re observed doesn’t mean suppressing them. It’s very human to think and to have thoughts. It’s not a bad thing. Important is to be aware of thoughts and to know what to do with them. In meditation we simply observe them and let them go and focus again to the breathing (Kabat-Zinn 1990)
As so many of us have already busy lifestyles meditation can feel just another chore another “have-to-do” thing on the busy day full with activities. In a way it is but meditation is the break from all that. When you start practicing meditation you might notice quite quickly that this habit actually gives you a break from the busy life and enhances the feeling that you got time. It’s also liberating to feel that thoughts are just thoughts and that thoughts are not you. You are much more than your thoughts.
I decided to start this series with meditation as in the summer you’ll probably have more time and this habit is probably most important to form because with meditation you can help yourself to change other habits as well. Meditation can be a foundation to other changes you might want to make in your lifestyle. In autumn when the busier time comes you’ll have a nice habit that helps you deal with that everyday stress and fuss. Give it a try! Oh and feel free to comment how you felt after meditation or share your story or anything that comes into your mind.
Thanks for stopping by!
Wish you a nice day!
References: By request.