Why Mindfulness And Meditation Will Change Your Life – Forever!
We as a society are ridiculously stressed and anxiety-ridden, and it’s only getting worse. The 2018 Stress in America™ Survey from the American Psychological Association revealed that nearly 75% of adults reported physical or emotional symptoms of stress, and almost half say it has kept them awake at night. It’s probably no surprise that being a woman puts you in a higher risk category for all of it.
My running joke and commentary about this sad state of society is that “even my dog has anxiety.” He’s a rescue Husky mix and it’s pretty common with his kind, but I do tend to attract the people (and apparently dogs) that need my help the most. When I find that someone is struggling with stress, my first suggestion is for them to bring mindfulness and meditation to their days to help ease their strain.
If you’ve never meditated or practiced mindfulness before, then let me tell you—they are game changers. By incorporating them into your routine, you will have an effective framework for finding peace and calm and making space to visualize and feel how positive life changes will impact you. Despite what you might believe, getting started isn’t difficult. And, by using a few simple strategies, you’ll be able to get the most out of your mindfulness/meditation time, even if you’ve never practiced before.
How mindfulness and meditation help
Mindfulness and meditation go hand in hand, but they’re not the same. Mindfulness is a state of awareness; it can be practiced everywhere and anywhere, by being fully present in exactly what you’re doing at that very minute. Meditation tends to be done in a specific place or way, for set periods of time, often centering on developing focus and clarity. Having mindfulness and meditation in your life can increase positive emotions and promote a sense of well-being, plus reduce negative emotions and stress. More specifically, by using mindfulness and meditation, you can amp up your immune system, get more restful sleep, be better equipped to tune out distractions, and have improved memory and attention skills.
Incorporating these practices into your life can literally alter your brain structure by thickening and strengthening the specific areas associated with focus, organization, planning, emotional regulation, and memory. And the results aren’t just in our head; MRIs have provided proof positive of these physical changes. Meditation and mindfulness are referred to as “practices” because they’ll never be perfect. If you have a little perfectionist living inside of you, you’ll need to put her on the shelf. But, like physical exercise, with repetition you can develop a type of mental memory that helps you get started more easily and find your center more quickly.
How to practice mindfulness
To practice mindfulness, keep your attention on this very moment and what you’re thinking and feeling without judgment. Be present, and don’t replay the events of the day or put together a laundry list of things to do. Pay attention to the thoughts that pop into your head along with what you feel in your body. Make a mental note to follow up with yourself on anything that surprises you or needs a closer look.
I actively practice mindfulness while I wash dishes, empty or fill the dishwasher, and fold clothes. They are simple and satisfying activities that allow me to quickly check in with myself. They also have a clearly defined process that brings order to chaos (which I crave). Walks are another great time to practice mindfulness. Be aware of your breath, feel how your feet hit the ground as you step forward, and work to keep your mind clear of all things that are not in that very moment. Walks in nature or in the woods can help enhance the feeling of relation with everything and everyone around you, and increase your feelings of peace and calm.
How to meditate
When I first decided to meditate, I really had no idea how to do it. I Googled “How do I meditate?” and the Wildmind website was the first place I went. The name was appropriate; I needed help to calm my own wild mind and to stop the rubber ball of random thoughts and self-criticism that was constantly bouncing around in my head. After a little digging, I started practicing a form of breathing meditation. It was quick to learn and easy for me to do, and it’s a great place for you to start your own meditation practice.
First, sit or lie in a comfortable position on the floor, in a chair, or on a couch, wherever you are most likely to relax. There is no wrong way to set yourself up; do what feels best for you. Next, choose a number to count to (for example, 50).
Close your eyes and focus on your breath. Deeply inhale through your nose, then deeply exhale again through your nose, noticing the coolness of the air rushing around your nostrils as you breathe in, and the warm air rushing out as you exhale. Then count each breath in your mind. Count to your chosen number; if you lose track, just start over. Once you hit your number, do another set. Then, stop counting and concentrate entirely on your breathing. Stay with this focus and feeling until your session is over to help quiet your mind and gain a sense of calm.
Consistency is key
The amount of time you devote to your practice is your decision. Longer sessions can bring a deeper sense of peace and tranquility, but if you only have 10 minutes before your daily life wakes up and starts demanding things of you, take it. Aim for three to five-minute increments in the very beginning, and increase from there when you’re ready. I’ve read that 30 minutes is an optimal amount of time to meditate, but my lucky number is 13 minutes on a good day. Consistency beats length, so set a time and place each day when you can grab a few minutes of quiet. Eventually, you’ll be able to meditate almost anywhere. (I meditate through takeoff when I fly alone because it’s the scariest part for me.)
On some days, your mind will simply want to wander. When this happens, be kind to yourself, reset, and recenter. When all else fails, because sometimes it will and that’s okay, you can always come back to your breath and begin again.
Center yourself in any situation
The claim that mindfulness and meditation will change your life may sound a little overblown, but their impact on my life as I began to make changes to find my equanimity and happiness can’t be overemphasized. Both mindfulness and meditation help you leave your racing thoughts and self-judgment behind, and they are great ways to quickly center yourself. Getting comfortable with these life-changing practices and building them into your routine will help you stay calm, focused, centered, and present, no matter what’s going on around you or what challenges you’re facing in your life.
For more advice on how to eliminate your anxiety and find peace in your life, you can find Ever Wish You Got Hit by a Truck? on Amazon.
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