As we navigate these turbulent times, mindfulness and meditation are now actively being promoted as tools that will help you to moderate stress and induce calm. We might believe that these tools are “fads” of the day, that will soon pass. However, it is quite the opposite.
Mindfulness and meditation are anything but trendy. While these practices have been around since the 4th century BCE, stemming from Buddhist tradition and Hinduism, in the last half-century, they have firmly been accepted in the fields of medicine and psychology. According to studies done on this topic at Harvard University, meditation can have incredible effects on your mind, mood, and health.
Meditation and mindfulness are different, but closely related, practices that will both calm the mind and foster inner peace. According to the leading experts in the field at the Chopra Center, ‘Meditation is an intentional practice, where you use focus to increase calmness, concentration, awareness, and emotional balance.’ There are countless styles of meditation to explore. An active form of meditation that is effective for beginners focuses on using a mantra where you repeat a statement in your mind to aid your concentration. A mantra is a powerful instrument that allows your mind to settle and relax while you focus on the words or phrases that you have chosen.
The Chopra Center experts also define and explain how mindfulness is applied to everyday life. Mindfulness is the simple act of paying attention, noticing, and being present in whatever you are doing. When you are being actively mindful, you experience a heightened sensitivity to the world around you, as well as your thoughts, feelings, behaviors, movements, and the effects you have on others. According to Dr. Jason Linder, mindfulness practices can help enhance your relationships and the way you communicate.
So how can we go about integrating these amazing tools into our lives? It can seem overwhelming to choose what approach to take. However, if you take some time to stay present and explore some options, you may discover simple approaches that easily work for you.
My personal experience with mindfulness and meditation began 12 years ago when I was introduced to mindfulness at the world-renowned wellness spa Canyon Ranch in Arizona. Experts at the Ranch teach that even one-minute mindfulness sessions of focused breathing, repeating a mantra, or focusing on a task can carry health benefits.
This approach sparked my interest because of its simplicity. This “keep it simple” approach encourages adding mini-mindfulness sessions to routine aspects of your life. It can be as easy as brushing your teeth - and I mean that literally! The next time you brush your teeth, take that minute to try a mindfulness practice. Observe your actions in detail, taking note of the senses that are activated during this process including sound and scent. This one minute of focused thought can relax you instantly.
Another approach that leads to a quick destress is to take a minute to focus on an object in the room you are in; in your mind, describe the details of this object, including sensory awareness like sounds coming from this object.
Finally, the simple act of breathing can be your gateway to mindfulness. To accomplish this, you will want to become aware of your breath by inhaling through your nose for three seconds, holding the breath for three seconds, and then releasing. This breathing exercise will lead to efficient mindfulness in a discreet way.
Recently, I have been committed to a mantra-style meditation practice that is short and sweet. When I commit to regular sessions of ten minutes of active meditation repeating a mantra in my mind, I notice increased relaxation and improved reactivity to stressful moments.
The benefits I felt from my own mindfulness and meditation practices inspired me to create a fitness class that ended with a meditation. The Glow Fit guided meditation practice incorporates mantras that instill notions of positive energy, self-reflection, motivation, and self-care. This marrying of weight training and cardio fitness for your body and guided meditation for your mind are like yin and yang, they complement each other to leave you feeling both invigorated and relaxed.
Just by reading this article, you have taken a few minutes to pause and focus on how this old, yet “new”, practice of mindfulness meditation can enhance your life. I encourage you to explore the plethora of options available that have the potential to unleash your inner peace and enhance your relationships in life.