Some of life’s deepest pleasures and pathways for spiritual growth come from mindfulness meditation benefits.
Mindfulness is the fundamental human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, as well as not be overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s taking place all around us.
It isn’t all in your imagination—you may practice mindfulness by sitting down for a formal meditation session, or by being more intentional and conscious of the activities you participate in on a daily basis.
If you would love to find out more about mindfulness and how to practice mindfulness meditation, keep reading along.
Practicing Mindfulness on the Fly
Every activity we do during the day—whether it’s brushing our teeth, lunchtime, casual conversation, or exercise—can be done more mindfully.
We become more aware of what we’re doing when we are conscious of our behavior. It’s the polar opposite of going through the motions; instead, you’re tuned in to your senses, noting your thoughts and feelings.
You may practice mindfulness even when you’re too busy to meditate by incorporating it into your day-to-day life.
Learning to Meditate
Begin by determining how long you’ll “practice”. Otherwise, you may get caught up in the debate of when to stop. If you’re just getting started, picking a short period like five or ten minutes might be useful.
You may eventually reach twice as long, then perhaps 45 minutes or an hour. Use a kitchen timer or a phone timer to keep track of the time. Many individuals prefer one session each morning and evening.
Doing something is better than doing nothing if you feel your life is busy and you have little time. You can do a little more when you have a little space and time.
Find a good location in your house, especially one that isn’t cluttered and where you can find some peace. Turn the lights on or sit in natural light if possible. You may even take a seat outside if you wish; however, pick a location with as few distractions as possible.
The sitting meditation posture can be used as the first stage in a period of meditation practice or as a stand-alone activity to help you relax for a minute before returning to your busy life. If you have pain or other physical issues, you may adapt this exercise to fit your needs.
How to Sit for Mindfulness Meditation
Take your seat. Find a position that offers you a solid, secure seat, not one where you’re perched or hanging back whatever you’re sitting on—a chair, a meditation cushion, or a park bench.
Notice what your legs are doing. Cross your legs comfortably in front of you on the floor, or sit upright with a cushion on your lap. (If you’ve already done some type of sitting yoga posture, go ahead.) It’s ideal if the bottoms of your feet are touching the ground if you’re sitting in a chair.
Straighten—but don’t stiffen—your upper body. The spine has a natural curvature. Allow it to be so. Your head and shoulders may rest comfortably on top of your vertebrae.
Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. The secret to retaining this posture is simple: don’t move. The ideal time for you to take a break might be before or after your workout, but it’s important that you give your body some rest.
Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently downward. You may lower your eyelids if you like. If you feel the need, you can totally close your eyes, but it’s not necessary to do so when practicing meditation. You may simply allow what appears in front of you to be there without focusing on it.
Be there for a few moments. Relax. Concentrate on your breath or any physical sensations you’re experiencing.
Feel your breath as it goes out and as it goes in. (Some versions of this practice put more emphasis on the out-breath, and for the in-breath, you simply leave a spacious pause.) Either way, draw your attention to the physical sensation of breathing: the air moving through your nose or mouth, the rising and falling of your belly, or your chest. Choose your focal point, and with each breath, you can mentally note “breathing in” and “breathing out.”
Inevitably, your attention will leave the breath and wander to other places. Don’t be concerned. There’s no need to block or get rid of your thinking. When you notice your mind has strayed—in a few seconds, a minute, five minutes—simply return your attention to the breath.
Before making any physical changes, such as moving your body or scratching an itch, practice pausing. Shift at a time of your choosing with intention, providing space between what you are experiencing and what you choose to do.
You may find your attention straying frequently—that’s natural, too. Instead of battling or engaging with those ideas as much, practice observing without reacting. Simply sit and pay attention. That is the most difficult aspect to maintain; nevertheless, that is all there is. Return again and again without judgment or hope for something better.
When you’re ready, slowly raise your gaze (if your eyes are closed, open them). Take a minute to listen to any noises in the environment. How does your body feel right now? Keep track of your thoughts and feelings. Make a decision about how you’d like to continue with your day after taking a break.
That’s all there is to it. That’s the routine. It’s been claimed that it is quite easy, but this isn’t always true. The goal is simply to continue doing so. Results will follow as a result of your efforts.
The 5 Major Mindfulness Meditation Benefits
While there are countless benefits of performing mindfulness meditation, here are the most significant ones. People who practice mindfulness understand quite well the importance of routine when it comes to manifesting these benefits in your life.
Mindfulness is good for our hearts
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, claiming about a fourth of all fatalities each year. Whatever lowers the chances or symptoms of heart disease would have a significant impact on society’s health. Mindfulness may be an aid in this regard.
A recent study that followed over 200 employees for 3 months found those who participated in a mindfulness program had lower risks of developing cardiovascular disease. And another study of 100 heart attack survivors found that participants who did a mindfulness meditation course had less anxiety and depression, and their physical symptoms improved.
So how does mindfulness help our hearts? One theory is that it helps to control stress levels. The autonomic nervous system regulates many of the body’s unconscious functions, like heart rate and blood pressure. When we’re stressed, this system goes into overdrive, which can lead to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular problems. Mindfulness may help to tone down the autonomic nervous system response to stress, keeping our heart health in check.
Aside from reducing stress, mindfulness has also been shown to help with other risk factors for heart disease, such as improving sleep quality, lowering blood sugar levels, and reducing inflammation.
While more research is needed to understand exactly how mindfulness helps our hearts, the evidence so far is promising. If you’re looking for ways to reduce your risk of heart disease, adding mindfulness to your routine may be a good place to start.
Mindfulness can lower cognitive decline from aging
As people get older, they tend to lose some of their cognitive flexibility and short-term memory. Mindfulness, on the other hand, maybe able to postpone cognitive decline in persons with Alzheimer’s disease.
A recent study found that people who did an eight-week mindfulness meditation program had better scores on tests of working memory and executive function (the ability to pay attention, switch tasks, and keep track of information) than those who didn’t meditate.
The meditation group also had less activity in the part of the brain that declines with age. This suggests that mindfulness meditation may help preserve brain function as we age.
If you’re interested in trying mindfulness meditation, there are many resources available online and in libraries. Once you get started, you may find it helpful to meditate with a group or use a guided meditation recording.
Mindfulness can improve your body’s immune response
Our bodies produce troops of immune cells that move through the blood when we come into contact with viruses and other disease-causing organisms. These cells, which include pro- and anti-inflammatory proteins, neutrophils, T-cells, immunoglobulins, and natural killer cells, aid us in our fight against illness and infection in a variety of ways. It turns out that mindfulness may have an impact on these disease-fighting cells.
“Mindfulness can help to regulate the body’s inflammatory response,” says Dr. Willoughby Britton, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Brown University who studies the neuroscience of mindfulness and meditation. “It may do this by affecting the activity of certain genes that are involved in inflammation.”
In one study, for example, researchers found that people who had a greater capacity for mindfulness had lower levels of pro-inflammatory genes. In another study, people who underwent an eight-week mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program had changes in the activity of their gene networks, including those related to immunity and inflammation.
These findings suggest that mindfulness may help to enhance our body’s immune response. “It is possible that mindfulness, through its effects on gene expression, could help to protect against conditions like colds and flu,” says Dr. Britton. “It may also help to reduce the severity of these conditions if we do become ill.”
So, if you’re looking for a way to boost your body’s defenses this season, consider adding some mindfulness to your routine.
Mindfulness can help to regulate the body’s inflammatory response by affecting the activity of certain genes that are involved in inflammation. In one study, people who had a greater capacity for mindfulness had lower levels of pro-inflammatory genes. These findings suggest that mindfulness may help to enhance our body’s immune response and protect against conditions like colds and flu.
Mindfulness can reduce the aging of the body’s cells
Cells age naturally as they divide during the course of their existence, and it can also be induced by disease or stress. Mindfulness meditation appears to have an effect on proteins known as telomeres, which are located at the extremities of chromosomes and help to protect them from aging.
A study of over 3,500 adults found that those who practiced mindfulness meditation had longer telomeres than those who didn’t.
Other studies have found that mindfulness can help to reduce stress and improve overall health, both of which can also impact the aging process. While more research is needed to confirm these findings, it’s clear that mindfulness meditation can have a positive effect on aging at the cellular level.
Mindfulness can reduce psychological pain
Of course, while the aforementioned physiological advantages of mindfulness are compelling, we should not overlook the fact that this practice also has an impact on our psychological well-being, which influences our physical health. In reality, it’s quite probable that these modifications interact in a beneficial way.
It’s well-documented that stress is a major health hazard. When we experience chronic stress, our bodies remain in a state of high alert, which can lead to all sorts of problems, from ulcers and migraines to heart disease and stroke. Mindfulness has been shown to be an effective way to reduce stress. In one study, for example, employees who underwent eight weeks of mindfulness training reported lower levels of stress than those who didn’t receive the training.
But it’s not just stress that mindfulness can help with. Research has also shown that mindfulness can reduce other types of psychological pain, such as anxiety, depression, and addiction. For instance, one study found that people with a generalized anxiety disorder who underwent eight weeks of mindfulness training had significantly lower levels of anxiety than those who didn’t receive the training.
So, if you’re struggling with psychological pain, mindfulness might be worth a try. Not only can it help reduce the pain itself, but it can also have a positive impact on your overall physical health.