What is Mindfulness Meditation? Why is it Important to Practice Mindfulness?

Mindfulness definition

Mindfulness Meditation is a powerful tool that can transform lives. When you find it hard paying attention to the most important things – or perhaps you often see your mind wandering, to the past or the future, mindfulness meditation can help rest and settle the mind. 

Imagine a life filled with enormous clarity and calmness without a great deal of stress. If you are ready to experience the compelling way mindfulness empowers us, then this article is for you. Here we will discuss the many reasons why mindfulness meditation has tremendous benefits that exceed beyond calmness to treating heart conditions and a myriad of illnesses. We will also share the differences between mindfulness and meditation to understand the sweet balance between concepts that forges what we have as mindfulness meditation. 

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness Meditation is a mental practise that helps us slow down our racing thoughts, get rid of negativity, and reach a calm state in mind and body. Mindfulness combines mindfulness practice and meditation, giving us the fantastic benefits of paying attention. In contrast, meditation is a set of techniques that can help us achieve a heightened state of awareness and attention. (Read more on the definition of meditation)

Studies show that the wandering mind only leads to more stress and suffering. Therefore we must find a way to build calm into our day and become aware of the present. John Kabat-Zinn, one of the most popular western writers and the creator of MBSR (Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), defined mindfulness as ‘the awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, without judgment.

What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness is all about being in the present

So, instead of letting our minds dwell on past mistakes, regrets, or negative perceptions of the future, mindfulness meditation helps us become aware of everything about the present – our bodies, minds, and even our immediate surroundings. 

Although there are formal practices of mindfulness meditation, we can practice it anywhere, at the grocery store, while taking a walk, reading a book, etc. We can calmly begin to notice the smells, sounds, and sights we experience with mindfulness meditation. 

Mindfulness Meditation is more than a hot trend; many studies and trials using different practice forms yielded positive results. Even the U.S Army has recently adopted mindfulness practice to help enhance military resilience. 

What are the different Mindfulness Meditation Practices?

There are many different kinds of mindfulness practices to try, whether in a formal or informal environment. Some mindfulness training can come with other forms of activities such as Zen, yoga, or Tai chi. You can also add mindfulness habits to your daily life. Be sure to experiment with different mindfulness practices before settling on what you find most comfortable. So, you can get started with mindfulness meditation on your own or work with a structured program or teacher. No matter how you wish to begin, with consistency, you will achieve results in no time. Here are some tips to start your mindfulness practice:

  • Get comfortable

Consider using a quiet spot where you won’t be interrupted. You can turn off notifications on your phone and other smart devices. Ensure you are wearing comfortable and loose clothing that will not limit your concentration. 

  • Use a timer

It’s hard to concentrate on the present if you are concerned about using that 10 minutes break effectively without going overboard. A timer, preferably one with a soft-gentle ping, helps you focus on your meditation and let go of counting the minutes. Although a timer is optional to your meditation, it can be so helpful.

  • Baby steps

Concentrating for 30 minutes from the get-go can be very challenging. We recommend that you begin with short, bite-sized meditation sessions of about 5 minutes. In due time, you can increase your sessions by 10 or 15 until you are comfortable practising for longer sessions.

  • Give yourself a break.

It’s normal to find yourself getting carried away by thoughts when meditating; there’s no cause for alarm. All you need do is observe where your mind went without judgment and then gently return to your focus. Don’t be hard on yourself if this happens regularly. The art of returning to your focal point is also an act of mindfulness. 

  • Use an app

A mindfulness meditation app can also provide soothing sounds and guided meditation files to help you. An app is beneficial for beginners without knowing how to get their meditation practice right from the start. For different meditation types read here.

How can I do basic Mindfulness Meditation Practice

· Sit comfortably. You can sit cross-legged on the floor or sit in a correct posture and your feet firmly placed on the ground.

· Become aware of your breathing. Focus on the air flowing into your nostrils, feel your belly, and then go out of your mouth. Watch as your stomach rises and falls with each inhales and exhale. Pay attention to every change in your breath.  

· Now expand your awareness to take in the sounds and sensations around you without judgment. 

· As said earlier, the goal of meditation is not to stop your thoughts but to become more aware and take on an observer’s position. Notice and consider each thought or sensation without judgment. 

· Once you note those thoughts, gently bring your awareness back to focus on your breath as you inhale and exhale.

How to Focus on the moment

Mindfulness meditation demands a lot more than a session. It will help if you become mindful about everything you do to stay in the present and fully participate in your life. There are many forms of informal mindfulness such as mindful bathing, mindful eating, brushing your teeth, driving, doing laundry, doing the dishes, playing, touching a partner, walking, exercising, or doing other tasks you love. To become mindful about any of these activities, here are a few pointers to help:

Mindfulness - How to Focus on the moment
How to Focus on the moment?

· Bring your focus to the sensations in your body as you carry out that activity.

· Observe how you breathe in through your nose, how the air travels to your belly and expands.

· Now breathe out through the mouth, stay in sync with each inhale, and exhale.

· Now proceed with the task slowly and with full deliberation and heightened awareness of how you respond to the sensations. 

· Engage all your senses. Notice every sound, touch, or sight and savour every bit of it.

· Whenever you notice that your mind has wandered away, take a moment to see the thoughts going through your mind. Next, gently bring back your awareness to focus on the present sensations. 

Other forms of mindfulness meditation practices:

1.    Body scan meditation: You can have this form of mindfulness meditation practice why lying down, but any posture that feels comfortable for you is enough for it. During this practice, you become aware of your bodily sensations, from your head to your feet, step by step.

2.     Movement meditation: involves focusing on your body sensations and breathing while carrying out physical exercises such as tai chi, qui gong, yoga, or any other physical mind-body exercise. Slow walking is also an excellent example of this practice.

3.    Sitting meditation: Also known as expanding awareness meditation, this meditation involves focusing on the order of your breath, sound, thoughts, feelings and then finally stepping into an open awareness where you are choicelessly aware of what’s most prominent in your consciousness.

4.    Loving-kindness meditation: Loving-kindness meditation often requires calling to mind good memories and reciting phrases that bring positive emotions to mind. This helps you get rid of negative emotions like anxiety, worries, and doubts. In contrast, it helps boost positive emotions such as joy and happiness. 

5.    Visual mindfulness meditation: You can also have visual mindfulness meditation practices which usually involve guided processes. Two main types of visual meditation include Mountain meditation and Lake meditation. Mountain meditation can help you become more centred, grounded, and stable. In sharp contrast, Lake meditation is about exploring the beauty and allowing the experience to happen as they are. Other forms of mindfulness meditation.

How Mindfulness Changes The Brain?

A study by Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist and Assistant Professor of Psychology at Harvard Medical School (HMS) and assistant researcher in psychiatry at Massachusetts, shows that mindfulness meditation can alter the brain’s grey matter and other regions responsible for emotion regulation, sense of self and memory. Therefore, mindfulness makes it easier for us to focus on present tasks instead of becoming carried away by worries and doubts. More recent studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can help slow cognitive decline even in people with Alzheimer’s disease. A 2016 study showed that people with Alzheimer’s disease using mindfulness meditation have the most robust improvements against those using other programs such as cognitive stimulation therapy, relaxation training, or no treatment. Another 2017 study also shows that mindfulness meditation can help older adults gain significantly better attention. 

 How Mindfulness Helps In Anxiety

The popularity of research on mindfulness comes from many studies showing that mindfulness practice can significantly reduce stress, anxiety and promote empathy and self-regulation. Mindfulness meditation also aids in treating eating disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and substance abuse. Further research also shows that it can help treat depression, although those studies are in the early stages. 

This shows that mindfulness has a lot to offer, especially to many of us working in challenging environments and dealing with all kinds of pressures.

What are the Other Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

Improved wellbeing

Mindfulness meditation takes us to that state of peace and calmness that can contribute to a joyful life. When you are mindful, it becomes easier to enjoy life’s pleasures as they occur. It also helps you become fully engaged in the present, so you have a higher capacity for dealing with negative experiences whenever they occur. When you learn to focus on here and now, you find that it’s easier to let go of worries about the future or regrets about the past. You will be less preoccupied with concerns about self-esteem or success and more engaged with doing what’s necessary. 

Deeper Connections with others

Mindfulness meditation can help you forge deeper connections with others; by eliminating negative emotions and learning to respond to relationship stress effectively. It also enables you to develop the skill of communicating your feelings to your partner and positively express yourself in social situations. Studies have also proven that mindfulness is highly beneficial to dealing with couple’s conflicts and can act as a protective element against emotionally stressful effects of those conflicts. 

Boosts physical health

Aside from all of its mental benefits, mindfulness meditation has tremendous benefits to us physically. It can help people ailing from chronic pain, improve sleep patterns, lower blood pressure, and treat heart conditions. Mindfulness also reduces cortisol levels (stress hormone). If you also exercise, mindfulness can help you sustain energy and improve performance. Studies further show that meditation can aid athletes in recovering from injuries at a faster pace. We also got a great collection of stress relief quotes.

Improves immune response 

Our bodies often encounter disease-causing organisms as we go about our daily work. Typically, the body has troops of immune cells circulating in the blood. These cells spring into action whenever we come across those disease-causing organisms. Subsequently, the body’s natural immune system helps fight against these organisms. However, many of us have a lower immune response to disease due to stress and life pressures. In a research study, it was observed that mindfulness meditation increases many immune cells, especially T-cells. Furthermore, the study was carried out with patients with breast cancer or HIV. It was discovered that the improvements in immune response show that mindfulness can have disease-fighting capabilities by enhancing our natural immune response. 

Mindfulness and the heart 

Mindfulness meditation can help lower blood pressure and treat heart disease. One study showed that people with pre-hypertension had significant diastolic and systolic blood pressure reductions when they used mindfulness meditation.  Another study with people suffering from heart disease showed that mindfulness meditation could slow down heart rates. A more recent study published by the American Heart Association concludes that although research remains in the early stage, mindfulness meditation can become an adjunct treatment for preventing and managing coronary diseases. Besides treatment for ailments, research also shows that mindfulness can also be beneficial for a relatively healthy heart. A study shows that meditating can increase respiratory sinus arrhythmia with possible benefits of a better heart rate and increased chances of surviving a heart attack.

Are Mindfulness and Meditation the same thing?

We often use mindfulness and meditation interchangeably, but they don’t mean the same thing. Each comes with its unique practices and qualities that can lead you in different directions. Here are some fantastic insights to help you differentiate both of them:

·     Meditation represents a practice, while mindfulness is quality or technique. So we can say that meditation is a practice where one uses mindfulness or the focus of the mind on an object, activity, or thought to achieve a mentally clear and stable state. As a quality or technique, mindfulness can also describe a specific way of living which means you can eat, drink, act, think and live mindfully.

·     Meditation is also one of the many avenues to mindful living. Therefore we can think of meditation as a tool for developing mindfulness…

·     Meditation is also an in-depth practice, just like mindfulness. So we can have many forms of meditation such as Zen meditation, transcendental meditation, mantra meditation, and concentration meditation.

·     You should also note that mindfulness is only one aspect of meditative practice. Naturally, mindfulness helps you become more aware. However, concentration, which is another crucial aspect, is also vital to ensure that the mind does not wander inevitably.

·     It’s also possible to practice mindfulness without meditation. It’s even possible to practise mindfulness in a formal and informal setting. Informally, you can engage in mindful walking, mindful eating, and even mindful conversations. You can equally learn about mindfulness by using meditation apps, joining a community program, or reading a book. 

Concluding Thoughts on Why Mindfulness Meditation is Important

Mindfulness meditation practice is a beautiful activity and habit to develop. When you practice mindfulness meditation daily, you learn to slow down, pay attention, stop judging and start becoming engaged in the present. The most amazing thing you would enjoy about mindfulness meditation is that you can begin on your own. It’s a super-powerful practice that can transform your life in extraordinary ways. Be sure to experiment on different practices, and don’t forget to be mindful as you go about your day’s work. There are many different ways to practice mindfulness meditation. However, your choice will depend on your goals, preferred elements, and approach. No matter the method you choose at the end of the day, stay consistent, and in no time, you will reap remarkable success. 

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