How To Practice Mindful Meditation


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How Meditation Protects The Aging Brain From Decline

How to Practice Mindfulness

A string of recent research suggests regular meditation practice may boost mental flexibility and focus, offering powerful protection against cognitive decline.

Most of us begin to misplace our keys, forget peoples names, or solve math problems less readily as we approach middle age. This is often referred to as age-related cognitive decline. Years ago, scientists believed that this decline was inevitable, but extraordinary research in the past two decades has shown that the adult brain changes with experience and training throughout the lifespana phenomenon known as neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity isnt a given. Epidemiological research finds that how a brain ages depends on a number of factors including diet, physical exercise, lifestyle choices, and education. The healthier and more active ones lifestyle, the more likely he or she will maintain cognitive performance over time. And meditation may be a key ingredient for ensuring brain health and maintaining good mental performance. Heres what recent research suggests about how mindfulness meditation practice may help keep aging brains fit and functional.

Mindfulness Techniques For Anxiety

Mindfulness techniques can also aid an undiagnosed individual who suffers from occasional anxiety.

A meta-analysis in 2010 advocated for the effectiveness of mindfulness exercises on anxiety and depression. The researchers found that mindfulness-based therapy was moderately effective for treating anxiety and improving mood and that the effects lasted beyond the initial improvements .

To begin applying mindfulness to your anxiety, or that of your clients, has provided a short description of 10 attitudes that will help build the foundation for successfully addressing anxiety:

Take note of how you feel. Afterward, reflect on your experience and describe it, with a special focus on your feelings during the process.

For a rather more simple method of applying mindfulness to anxiety, you can try this quick exercise:

  • Focus on the sensations that arise in your body when you are anxious
  • Be present and with the moment
  • Allow yourself to think the anxious and distressing thoughts.

By recognizing these thoughts for what they are, you may come to realize that they are not true, and consequently be able to let them go . If you are interested in trying other mindfulness exercises to address anxiety, you can check out our extensive range of mindfulness articles.

Mindfulness And Mental Health

You don’t have to be stressed or overwhelmed to practice mindfulness, although it’s proven to be an effective tool for reducing both. If you’re one of the 40 million U.S. adults who suffer from anxiety per year, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America promotes mindfulness as a technique for growth, self-discovery and success.

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders worldwide, and almost one in three adults in the U.S. suffer from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, according to The National Institute of Mental Health . Nearly half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Mindfulness-based stress reduction programs assist with stress, anxiety, depression or pain. It’s an approach to mindfulness that trains attention, helping you to cultivate awareness and enabling you to have more choices. This helps you take wise action in your life, which can reduce stress.

Mindfulness isn’t instantaneous, but regular mindfulness practice can lead to positive results in your life and your mental health over time.

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How Do I Begin Practicing Mindfulness

What if you could live each moment as a microcosm of your happiest, most contented times, without the mental and emotional baggage of distraction and anxiety?

This might seem impractical even impossible. But its not. You simply need to begin the practice of mindfulness, and through practice, youll develop a mindfulness habit that gets stronger over time.

To begin, remind yourself to be more present and engaged in all you do. Put sticky notes where youll see them that say, Be Present, or Pay Attention so you remember.

Rather than allowing your mind to wander or distractions to pull you away, focus intently on the task or action at hand.

When your mind slips away, gently guide it back. Your mind will fight with you at first, but soon you wont have to tame it so often.

Practice Noticing Your Thoughts

This infographic shows the surprisingly simple basics of mindfulness ...

Your random thoughts can trigger anxiety, unhappiness, and anger and can keep your mind trapped in a cycle of longing and negativity.

This cycle happens because we are unconscious of our thoughts, and allow the monkey mind to run rampant without challenging it. Rumination becomes a bad habit, almost an addiction, that leads to suffering and undermines the quality of our lives.

When you apply mindfulness to your thoughts, you can change this cycle of suffering. By becoming the silent and dispassionate watcher of your thoughts, you understand how unsubstantial and often misguided your thoughts are, freeing you from the emotional power they have over you.

  • Any easy way to begin noticing your thoughts is by using a physical reminder, like wearing a rubber band on your wrist.
  • Use the rubber band as a trigger to stop and notice your thoughts. Just pretend to be an outside observer, and look at your thoughts as you would notice clouds passing in the sky. Just notice, dont judge.
  • Pay attention to how often you are focused on negativity, longing, or some distraction that pulls you away from the moment.
  • Pay attention to how often your thoughts are in control and how your thought patterns impact your emotions and moods.
  • Gently redirect your thoughts back to the task at hand or to a more positive, productive mindset.

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Eight Weeks To A Better Brain

Meditation study shows changes associated with awareness, stress

Despite the rising acceptance of mindfulness, many people still think the practice involves emptying their minds, taking mini-naps, or going into trances. Beginners often fall asleep, feel uncomfortable, struggle with difficult thoughts or emotions, and become bored or distracted. Adepts recommend practicing the process in a group with an instructor.

After the training session led by Westbrook, one participant said she couldnt stop thinking about what was for dinner during the meditation practice others nodded in agreement. Westbrook reassured her, saying that mindfulness is not about stopping thoughts or emotions, but instead about noticing them without judgment. Mindfulness builds resilience and awareness to help people learn how to ride lifes ups and downs and live happier and healthier lives, said Westbrook, who, after helping heal the bodies of thousands of patients in 36 years as a doctor, plans to devote her second career to caring for peoples spirits and souls, maybe as a chaplain.

Mindfulness is not about being positive all the time or a bubblegum sort of happiness la, la, la, she said. Its about noticing what happens moment to moment, the easy and the difficult, and the painful and the joyful. Its about building a muscle to be present and awake in your life.

Create An Ideal Space For Meditation

As James Clear writes in his book Atomic Habits, making the desired habit visible while removing any obstacles in your environment is an important tool for forming the habit. So if you want to form a meditation practice, create an environment associated with meditation.

Maybe you have a meditation room or nook that’s free from distractions such as your phone or television, with a comfortable seat or cushion for meditating. Each time you meditate, do it here.

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How To Practice Mindfulness: 11 Ways To Practice Mindfulness Daily Even If You Are A Beginner

Mindfulness isnt a complex concept. It simply means paying attention and being aware in the present momentto what you are doing, thinking, feeling, and experiencing.

When you pay attention with awareness, you can fully experience the only true reality that exists this moment right now.

What you are planning or worried about for later today, for tomorrow, for next year these things are only mental constructs that have no form or substance.

Right now. This is where its all happening. And you have control over your experience of right now.

How To Begin Practicing Mindfulness

Practice Acceptance to Release Resistance / Mindfulness Meditation / Mindful Movement

If you are a complete beginner to mindfulness, Iâd recommend our article What Is Mindfulness?, which includes a full definition and lists significant benefits of mindfulness.

At its core, mindfulness is an activity that needs to be practiced regularly and with intention. With these cornerstones in mind, letâs consider a few ways to introduce mindfulness into our daily lives.

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Five Essential Elements To Develop Your Mindfulness Practice

Sometimes, all we need is a simple road map to get us started with mindfulnessor restarted, if its been some time since we practiced.

Science continues to reveal that an active practice has important health benefits, relational benefits, and even corporate benefits. But no matter how much we talk about it, read about it, or study it, putting a mindfulness practice into practice can be challenging.

Sometimes, all we need is a simple road map to get us startedor restarted, if its been some time since we practiced. Here are five essential elements to creating a mindfulness meditation practice in daily life:

Tip One: Use A Metacognitive Strategy

In situations that would typically provoke you, try the following three steps.

  • âStep awayâ mentally from the situation.
  • Experience the situation.
  • Do not evaluate the situation.
  • Specifically, try to look in on your thoughts and feelings without reworking the narrative of the situation . By adopting a meta-stance , you can observe the situation without reacting to it.

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    The Basics Of Mindfulness Practice

    Mindfulness helps us put some space between ourselves and our reactions, breaking down our conditioned responses. Heres how to tune into mindfulness throughout the day:

  • Set aside some time. You dont need a meditation cushion or bench, or any sort of special equipment to access your mindfulness skillsbut you do need to set aside some time and space.
  • Observe the present moment as it is. The aim of mindfulness is not quieting the mind, or attempting to achieve a state of eternal calm. The goal is simple: were aiming to pay attention to the present moment, without judgment. Easier said than done, we know.
  • Let your judgments roll by. When we notice judgments arise during our practice, we can make a mental note of them, and let them pass.
  • Return to observing the present moment as it is. Our minds often get carried away in thought. Thats why mindfulness is the practice of returning, again and again, to the present moment.
  • Be kind to your wandering mind. Dont judge yourself for whatever thoughts crop up, just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently bring it back.
  • Thats the practice. Its often been said that its very simple, but its not necessarily easy. The work is to just keep doing it. Results will accrue.

    How Mindfulness Helps Mental Wellbeing

    Practicing mindfulness meditation improves both mental and physical ...

    Becoming more aware of the present moment can help us enjoy the world around us more and understand ourselves better.

    When we become more aware of the present moment, we begin to experience afresh things that we have been taking for granted.

    Mindfulness also allows us to become more aware of the stream of thoughts and feelings that we experience, and to see how we can become entangled in that stream in ways that are not helpful.

    This lets us stand back from our thoughts and start to see their patterns. Gradually, we can train ourselves to notice when our thoughts are taking over and realise that thoughts are simply “mental events” that do not have to control us.

    Mindfulness can help us deal with issues more productively. We can ask: “Is trying to solve this by brooding about it helpful, or am I just getting caught up in my thoughts?”

    Awareness of this kind may also help us notice signs of stress or anxiety earlier and deal with them better.

    Mindfulness-based therapies are recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence as a way to treat less severe depression.

    NICE also recommends that employers make mindfulness available to all employees, to support mental wellbeing at work.

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    Be Present With Loved Ones

    How many families in how many households around the world begin their days with little to no interaction with the people they hold most dear?

    They rush to and from work, school, and other activities. When at home, they are distracted by technology and television.

    What are we working so hard for anyway, if not to spend quality time with our loved ones? How can we have close and connected relationships if we arent fully present for those we love?

    Being present with someone means you are fully attentive, engaged, and focused on the other person.

    You arent looking at your phone, distracted by the television, or thinking about the next thing you need to do.

    You are actively listening, responding, and showing with your words, expressions, and demeanor that you are completely in the moment with this person.

    Developing The Skill Of Mindfulness

    Practicing mindfulness is not easyyou need extra alertness because you can easily forget to concentrate when the point of focus is shifting. Shifting is similar to distraction, and when you shift you can easily forget what you are trying to do. But a good mindfulness practitioner will not forget what they are trying to do.

    In every field, the skill level varies between people. Whether your field is kung fu or tennis, some people are at the mastery level and some people are amateurs. When I watched kung fu movies as a kid, my brother and I would have a go at each otherthats not mastery level.

    In the same way, in the field of mindfulness there are all different levels of concentration ability, depending on how much a person has practiced that art.

    Of course, to be good at something we need endurance, we need love of it, we need inspiration, and we need a deep understanding of why we are doing it.

    These things are needed for us to pursue it and to keep practicing, longer and longer, with quality. So, to become good at mindfulness, and to achieve the benefits of mindfulness, is the same.

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    Mindful Walking Down The Street Technique

    One core process that can be influenced by mindfulness practice is our ability to observe our thoughts, emotions, and sensations without reacting to fix them, hide them, or solve them. This awareness creates room for choice between impulses, and action which can help develop coping skills and positive behavioral change.

    • In the first step of this intervention, the facilitator helps the client visualize a scenario in which they are walking down a familiar street when they look up and see someone they know on the other side of the street. They wave, however, the other person doesnât respond and continues to walk right past.
    • In the second step, the facilitator prompts reflection from the client by asking a series of questions:

    1. As you were0 .imagining, did you notice any of your thoughts?2. As you were imagining, did you notice any of your emotions?

    • In the third and final step, the facilitator asks the client to reflect on the series of emotions and thoughts that came up, how this affects their behavior, whether the exercise was helpful, and for any final comments.

    Observe Your Thoughts For 15 Minutes

    How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation in 5 minutes!

    This exercise is a staple of mindfulness, designed to simply enhance your awareness of your own thoughts.

    To begin, sit or lie down in a comfortable position and try to let all tension in your body dissipate. Focus on your breathing first, then move your awareness to what it feels like to be in your body, and finally move on to your thoughts.

    Be aware of what comes into your head, but resist the urge to label or judge these thoughts. Think of them as a passing cloud in the sky of your mind.

    If your mind wanders to chase a thought, acknowledge whatever it was that took your attention and gently guide your attention back to your thoughts.

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    How To Be Good At Mindfulness:

    To add just a wee bit more mindfulness into your life, try embracing silence. If you usually listen to podcasts during a commute or while youre taking the shower, try turning them off. Its an easy way to focus on the moment instead.

    If you want to meditate your way to mindfulness, start with one minute. I always recommend starting with one minute of stillness and breathing to get the habit started, Ongaro says. Sit with your eyes closed for 60 seconds and try to focus on your breathing. Its simple enough that you can do it every day and a low enough bar that youll actually do it. Once youve gotten into the habit, its easier to add five to ten minutes of meditation.

    Dr. Emily Edlynn, a clinical psychologist in Oak Park, Illinois, says its important to pick the right time of day, which, for most people, is right before bed. I also find that beginners also respond best to guided meditations because as the brain learns to settle down, it helps to have a voice to listen to and focus on. Use an app like Headspace or Calm as a guide.

    The idea is to choose an anchor that reoccurs throughout the day. Its like an ongoing reminder to be present. This creates many one-second mindful meditative moments throughout the day, which added together increases mindfulness, Stemen says.

    What Does Mindfulness Look Like

    When you imagine someone practicing mindfulness, you might picture them sitting cross legged or doing yoga. But mindfulness doesnt always look like this.

    Mindfulness could also look like going for a quiet walk in the woods. You turn off your phone, so you arent distracted by notifications and you walk slowly, paying attention to the crunch of leaves under your feet, the scent of pine trees and the crisp chill of the air.

    Since mindfulness is a state of mind, its something you can practice anywhere, not just when meditating. You can practice mindfulness while standing in line at the supermarket, while having a conversation, or when youre eating dinner.

    Any time you focus on being aware of what youre sensing and experiencing in the present moment, without interpretation or judgement, youre practicing mindfulness.

    To find out more watch this 1-minute animation about the various types of formal and informal mindfulness practices from Awakened Mind.

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