By Stan Popovich
Life can be full of stressful situations that cause anxiety and fear. Between work, maintaining your household, paying bills, and general anxiety about the state of the world, it’s important to maintain mindfulness and make your mental health a priority. Here’s how to achieve mindfulness with meditation to improve your mental health.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more fully aware of the present moment rather than dwelling in the past, what’s going on around us, or projecting into the future. It generally involves a heightened awareness of sensory stimuli such as our breathing and being “in the now.” Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.
Benefits of Mindfulness
- Lower stress levels.
- Become kinder to ourselves and others.
- Understand our past traumas and pain.
- Reduce brain chatter.
- Gain insight and awareness.
Achieve Mindfulness with Meditation
Meditation is the first step toward mindfulness. Monks are known for waking up early and meditating for one to three hours and doing the same at night, which some researchers say can alter the brain’s chemistry. But even sitting in silence for ten minutes a day can do wonders for your mind, body, and soul.
Here’s a guide on achieving mindful meditation.
1. Find a comfortable place.
First and foremost, you’ll want to find a comfortable seat in a relaxed and stress-free environment. I recommend sitting on a meditation cushion or chair with your feet on the ground. Allow your head and shoulders to rest comfortably; place your hands on the tops of your legs with upper arms at your side. Put your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Rest the palms of your hands on your legs wherever it feels most natural.
2. Focus on your breathing.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and relax. Keep your attention on the sensation of the inhale and exhale of your breath. Focus on the air moving through your nose or the rising and falling of your stomach and chest. Many people worry about whether they’re breathing the right way. I recommend breathing in whatever way feels comfortable to you. Just be mindful if you stop breathing.
3. Reduce wandering thoughts.
It’s normal to have wandering thoughts or distractions, so don’t judge yourself if you start becoming distracted. Instead of wrestling with your thoughts, just let them pass by, without focusing on any particular thought. Thoughts will try to pull your attention away from your breathing. Notice them, but don’t pass judgment. Gently return your focus to your breath. Some people count their breaths as a way to stay focused.
4. Be kind to yourself.
Do not be harsh or judgmental if you find your mind wandering. Mindfulness is also about accepting yourself and treating yourself with compassion. Show yourself the same compassion and understanding that you would to a close friend. Once you’ve finished, gently open your eyes and be conscious of your thoughts and feelings. Think about how you want to spend the rest of your day to bring you inner peace.
5. Practice makes perfect.
A daily practice will provide the most benefits. It can be 10 minutes per day; however, 20 minutes twice a day is often recommended for maximum benefit. Do what you can with the time you have.
Mindfulness in Your Daily Life
Learning to incorporate mindfulness into your daily life is not always easy. Some things that you can do that may help:
1. Live in the moment.
Try to intentionally bring an open, accepting, and discerning attention to everything you do. Find joy in simple pleasures.
2. Practice focusing on one thing at a time.
Multitasking can leave you feeling distracted, so try simply concentrating on one task with your full, focused attention.
3. Pay attention.
It’s hard to slow down and notice things in a busy world. Try to take the time to experience your environment with all your senses — touch, sound, sight, smell, and taste. For example, when you eat a favorite food, take the time to smell, taste, and genuinely enjoy it.
4. Go outside.
Spending time outdoors such as walking is a great way to live in the moment and observe the sights, sounds, and sensations of the world around you.
Stan Popovich is a Penn State graduate and the nationally known anxiety author of “A Layman’s Guide to Managing Fear”— an easy-to-read overcoming anxiety book that’s helped thousands of people to confidently manage their persistent fears and anxieties. Stan has over 20 years of personal experience in dealing with fear and anxiety. For more free mental health advice visit Stan’s website at managingfear.com and read Stan’s articles and his blog. The above is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Mr. Popovich is not a medical professional. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read here.