There are few things you can do that will take the stress out of your life like mindfulness meditation. The ability to sit with your own thoughts clears out your mind like rinsing out a glass. And, like cleaning, the more you do it, the better off you are.
It can be challenging, though. Most people love the idea of being centered and in control of your thoughts. The practice brings you to a higher plane, one where you can note your thoughts and feelings without being swept up in the narrative they create. But the truth is that it’s harder to do than you think!
Where Meditation Helps Most
Everywhere! Mindfulness meditation simply helps you notice the world around you and quiet the mind. This can be a seemingly impossible task for some — and we’ve all been there. Quieting the thoughts that flow through your mind isn’t always easy. But it’s a practice that’s been done all over the world for thousands of years!
It helps you stay in the present moment. What this means is that mindfulness exercises will give you better faculty to control your attention and focus. When you can really center your thoughts on what you’re doing, stress is less likely to creep in.
It also helps you to calm the mind, especially when you’re experiencing negative thoughts and painful feelings. Note that it doesn’t necessarily make them go away, but often with meditation, you find that simply making yourself aware of and embracing these negative feelings can be the first step towards moving past them.
It can help with interpersonal relationships, with memory and keeping along with a conversation. Also, when it comes to work, you can find that meditation helps you to focus before an important meeting, or even sometimes to just get through the day.
If you have issues with diet or exercise, being mindful of the sensations you feel can also help you push through and past everything that’s holding you back. Being mindful of the food you eat can help you control hunger cravings, and it can also help you go to a deeper level in your personal fitness.
How to Get Started
The best thing about mindfulness meditation is that you don’t need any fancy equipment or anything to get started. You already have everything you need. Really, most of what you do will be focusing on your breath, or a certain area of your body, or even some sort of sensation. So let’s go through some techniques real quick.
1. Counting the Breath
This is one of the more well known techniques used in meditation. What you do is count “one” in your mind when you inhale, then “two” when you exhale, “three” when you inhale again, then “four” when you exhale. Do this until you get to ten, and then start over again. Sound easy? Give it a shot!
This is deceptively simple. You will often find that you are still counting through “fifteen” or even “twenty,” which is a great indicator that your mind has drifted. Don’t get angry with yourself, though! All you do here is make a note of it in your head, and start over again. Eventually, your mind will focus more and more on the count, and everything else will simply fall away.
It’s good with this technique to use a timer of some sort to ensure that you don’t miss any appointments or go longer than the breaks allotted while at work. This also gives you the freedom to ignore any stress that you might miss something, and purely give yourself over to the practice.
2. Body Scan
For this practice, it’s best to start after you’ve been counting the breath for a few minutes. Once you’re in a more centered state, the body scan helps you to understand yourself better, and keep you grounded in the moment.
In this respect, visualization can help a great deal. As you sit in your chair, imagine a beam of light coming down over you, first passing over your head, then your neck, then your shoulders, then your chest, and so on and so forth. You can let it go as fast or as slow as you want. Then, when it’s done, feel free to repeat it.
This can be especially helpful when you’re feeling low, as it can help you to pinpoint where in the body you are experiencing the feeling. Again, this doesn’t really help to resolve the feeling, but in understanding the feeling — understanding your suffering — you can find a way to make peace with and accept it.
3. Eating a Raisin
When it comes to food, many of us have very unhealthy habits. One of the ways that we can combat this is to be mindful of our meals. But the way to practice this can seem a little bizarre.
Take a raisin. Hold it in your hand. Note the feeling and sensation it gives in your hand. Note the anticipation of eating it. Are you salivating? Even if you hate raisins, imagine the effect of eating it. Then, take the time to slowly consume it. Chew it very slowly. Try to stretch the experience out as long as you can. Notice your instinct to swallow it once you’ve chewed it sufficiently.
By using this exercise to practice, you can redefine your relationship with food. And just remember that the more mindful you are, the less stress you are going to end up feeling. So find a mindfulness practice that works best for you and give it a shot!