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Using mindfulness meditation
Posted 30 August 2019
Life isn’t always smooth sailing. Some days are overwhelming and difficult.
It’s not realistic to live a stress-free life, but it’s possible and important to know how to deal with tough situations when they arise.
Mindfulness is a tactic to help tackle anxiety and everyday stresses. It can help to slow down your mind when it starts racing and sharpen your concentration skills. Here’s everything you need to know about this simple practice.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is about being present and fully engaged with whatever you’re doing at that moment. It’s about being free from distraction or judgment and being aware of your thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.
Why is mindfulness useful?
When you’re faced with a difficult situation, knowing how to put mindfulness into practice can give you a better chance of reacting with control.
Clarity, calmness and improved focus are some of the psychological benefits of meditation that can happen within the first few weeks of starting the practice.
Over time, you’ll start experiencing long-term benefits, which can include:
- Enhanced memory and cognition
- Heightened motivation
- Improved communication
- Improved quality of sleep
- Increased energy and stamina
Each individual is different, but consistency and commitment are key to seeing results and improvements.
How do you practise mindfulness?
In the beginning, practising mindfulness, especially in the form of meditation, can be a foreign concept for many people. However, the more you do it, the easier it will become.
Meditation is the training ground for learning mindfulness. At first you meditate to become familiar with the here and now for a limited period of time. Eventually, through regular practice you’ll be able to be present throughout the day, every day.
Here are 6 steps to begin your mindfulness journey:
- Take a seat – find a quiet and calm place to sit down and relax.
- Set a time limit – in the beginning set out to meditate for just 5 or 10 minutes.
- Get in position – you can sit or kneel, whatever is most comfortable. Just be sure you’re stable and can stay in this position for the whole time.
- Focus on your breath – Follow the sensation of your breath; notice the cool air coming in and the warm air going out. Feel your chest rising and falling, and your stomach expanding and contracting. Don’t try to control your breath, let it happen naturally.
- Notice when your mind is wandering – When you notice this, simply return your attention to your breath. Don’t ignore or suppress these thoughts, remain calm and use your breathing as an anchor.
- Be kind to your wandering mind – Don’t judge yourself or obsess over the content of your thoughts, simply bring yourself back to focus on your breath and being in the moment.
Initially, practise twice a week when you have some time to yourself, perhaps first thing in the morning or before bed and build up to more regular practices each week.
Does it really work?
It has been scientifically proven that regular meditation practice can actually change the shape of your brain by strengthening important areas and decreasing others.
Neuro-imaging studies have proven that after just 8 weeks of regular meditation, grey matter density in the brain has increased. Grey matter is responsible for executive functions, such as emotional regulation, planning and problem solving.
The cortical thickness of the brain also increases, which has an impact on your learning and memory processes.
The part of the brain that is in charge of how we feel stress, fear and anxiety, also known as the “flight or fight” centre can actually shrink with mindfulness practice as well.
With regular meditation practice, you have the chance to rewire your brain towards more positive thoughts and experiences long-term.