Last updated on September 23rd, 2023.
There is a lot of talk about mindfulness meditation these days. Many people are using this practice to help keep their focus on the moment, improve their physical and mental health, and seek better responses to conflict resolution. Mindfulness can be difficult to achieve, but the steps to doing so are easy, and the benefits are numerous.
What is mindfulness meditation? Mindfulness meditation is the practice of paying attention to what is going on in the exact moment you are experiencing.
There are several techniques that can be used to help with mindfulness meditation, and we will explore these. The point of mindfulness is to block out all stressors and distractors and live in the moment.
The practice of mindfulness may be used throughout the day, as you complete tasks, focusing on them one by one. Also, we will explore why taking time to strictly meditate is an important factor in mindfulness. Meditation provides you with time to re-center and bring your focus back to where it needs to be.
What Exactly is Mindfulness?
The definition of “mindfulness” is “A mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations.”
Attributes of mindfulness:
- Staying in the moment
- Being fully present
- Blocking out what is happening around us
Mindfulness is a common therapeutic practice, but also something millions of people naturally put into practice every day. The key is focusing on the moment and observing the five senses. What are you feeling, tasting, seeing, smelling, and hearing in the moment? Stay present in what the senses are currently observing around you.
This also means focusing mentally. Be attentive to any thoughts or feelings you are having, recognize them, and acknowledge their impact on your mind and body.
Your thoughts should be in line with what you are doing at the moment, whether you are completing a task or making any sort of mental preparations. Let your mind and body work hand in hand as you give complete focus to the moment.
Mindfulness means learning to block out the distracting noises and happenings around us. It does not matter what the person next to you is doing, or where the sound is coming from in the other room.
It is your job to meditate on your own thoughts or the task at hand. To be fully present in the moment, you have to let go of the distractions around you.
What is the Purpose of Mindfulness?
The purpose of mindfulness is to pay attention to the moment at hand and to give what is happening in that moment your full appreciation.
Purposes of Mindfulness:
- Paying attention
- Relieving Stress
- Physical Health Benefits
- Mental Health Benefits
- Improving Self-Control
Obviously, the primary purpose of practicing mindfulness is to do a better job of paying attention. If you are truly focused on the moment, it is harder to misinterpret signals from other people.
You also tend to make less mistakes related to tasks you may be completing, because you are thinking about the job at hand and have rid yourself of outward distractions.
Mindfulness is helpful in relieving stress, because it teaches the person to block out stressors around them. These can include literal stressors, like a repetitive noises coming from somewhere near you, or mental stressors, such as worrying over tomorrow’s workload.
It brings to mind the phrase, “One day at a time.” Worry drains a person and contributes to stress. Mindfulness takes away that extra burden.
Mindfulness is suggested by doctors to help with reducing heart disease, lowering blood pressure, helping with sleep, and easing stomach pains and other chronic pains.
It seems logical that mindfulness could be beneficial in these areas, as many of these afflictions are known to be brought on by stress. Mindfulness is not strictly a mental practice. It is inclusive of one’s physical health.
Mindfulness can be particularly helpful in providing both children and adults with a way to regulate their own emotions. We embrace our thoughts, rather than letting them pile up, and we sort through one thought or feeling at a time.
This reduces erratic behavior and emotional outbursts. We have better mental capacity when we are relaxed and do not feel overwhelmed.
Mindfulness takes practice. It takes some degree of self-control to even begin the journey of practicing mindfulness, but after we get used to focusing on the moment, we tend to retain that ability.
When we are able to address our tasks or problems in a well thought out, logical way, we display more calmness and self-control. Blocking out our outside and mental triggers gives us power over our own minds.
What is the Mindfulness Technique?
There are several techniques for practicing mindfulness, but seven basic techniques have been proven to work, even for the beginner.
Seven Mindfulness Techniques:
- Pay attention
- Live in the moment
- Accept yourself
- Focus on your breathing
- Body scan meditation
- Sitting meditation
- Walking meditation
We have already discussed paying attention, but sometimes that is easier said than done. It can be difficult to take it slow and notice seemingly non-consequential things in our busy lies.
The best way to pay attention can be summed up in taking your time. Take the time to explore what each of your five senses say about the experience you are having.
Focus solely in the moment. Try not to be bothered by the past or fearful of the future. Experience happiness in the small pleasures of what is currently taking place.
Think through the moment you are experiencing and consider what you may have to be grateful for in that moment. Take in things as they are at present, and rid yourself of the stress of yesterday and tomorrow.
We are often conscious of the way we treat others, but tend to treat ourselves with more disdain. When practicing mindfulness meditation, it is important to regard ourselves in the same we would another person who is special to us. Accept yourself and take pride in yourself. Try not to allow negative thoughts to pervade your mind during meditation.
If negative thoughts do occur, take a seat, close your eyes, and begin taking deep breaths. Focus on the breath moving in and out of your body. This can bring you back into the moment and attune you to what you are experiencing, rather than intruding negative thoughts.
Just inhale through your nose, hold the breath for a moment, and exhale through your mouth.
Ponder the sound of your breathing and feel the movement in your chest. Allow your other senses to be blocked out as you focus on your breathing and take a moment to re-center yourself.
Body scan mediation may be a little different than anything you have tried in the past. Try lying on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs straight out and together. Make sure the palms of your hands are facing upward.
Start by focusing on the sensation in your toes. Slowly move up, body part by body part, until you have taken time to feel each area of your body. Be mindful of any emotions or thoughts you may experience regarding any particular part of your body.
Take your time when performing this exercise. Truly recognize what your body is feeling and concentrate on what your mind brings into play as you focus on one body part at a time. Once you reach your head, begin the process again.
Only this time, move back downward, from head to toe, until you have experienced the sensations in each body part again.
For sitting meditation, it is important that you find a comfortable place to sit, where your back can remain straight. Lay your hands on your lap, and have your feet rest flat on the ground or floor. Breathe in through your nose. As with breathing focus, pay attention to the sound of your breath and the rise and fall of your chest.
It is not necessary to meditate on any particular topic during sitting meditation. If a thought does arise, or you feel a sensation in your body, simply process it and move on.
Focus back on your breathing and try to clear your mind. Focus only on the moment and the sensation of breathing and do not require your mind to explore ideas, desires, or problems.
For walking meditation, you only need a length of about 10 to 20 feet to walk. Your walking area should be quiet and serene. As you begin to walk, do so slowly. Focus on what the different parts of your body are experiencing with each step. Walk to the end of your 10 to 20 foot path, and then stop.
Focus on your balance. Notice any sensations you may feel in any part of your body. Think about what it feels like just to stand and what it requires of your body to simply remain erect. Once you have done this, turn and walk back to the beginning of your path. This is a calming exercise that can be repeated as many times as needed.
How do I Start Practicing Mindfulness?
It can be difficult to get into the groove of practicing mindfulness.
Here are six steps to help you get started:
- Sit down
- Establish a time limit
- Note each part of your body
- Experience your breathing
- Note when thoughts begin to intrude your mind
- Be kind to yourself
Sitting puts you in a relaxed position. This is a good place to begin, as you try out mindfulness meditation for the first time. Slow your senses and your thoughts down as you find a comfortable position.
Go ahead and determine how long you plan to meditate. Setting a timer may be a good idea. This way, you do not have to become concerned with whether or not it is time to do something else. You can simply focus on the mindfulness exercise at hand.
As with body scan meditation, take the time to be aware of each sensation in your body. Feel each body part independently, one at a time, as you sit there and breathe slowly. Take note of what your body is saying to you and how each body part feels as it begins to relax.
With most mindfulness techniques, breathing is going to be important. Paying attention to your breathing is an essential part of learning and mastering mindfulness meditation.
Focus on the way your breath feels as it moves in and out of your chest and pay attention to the sound it makes. Focusing on breathing will help you keep your mind clear of other thoughts.
When thoughts do begin to intrude, take note of it. What are they about? This may reveal what is stressing or bothering you the most.
At what point in the exercise does it become difficult to pay attention or focus on the moment at hand? Note the intrusive thoughts, but then let them pass. Refocus by concentrating on your breathing.
Do not berate yourself over allowing thoughts into your mind when you are first attempting to meditate. It takes time to learn to block these thoughts out. Be kind to yourself, as you are only at the beginning of you mindfulness journey.
How do You Achieve Mindfulness?
Truly achieving mindfulness means that you are able to focus only on the moment at hand and block out distractions within and outside of your mind. It means truly learning to pay attention to the here and now.
Here are three steps to achieving true mindfulness:
- Schedule time for meditation
- Pay attention to yourself
- Learn to cope with disappointment
As you set out on your mindfulness journey, remember that you will not succeed unless you schedule regular time for meditation. This is your time to re-center and adjust, willing yourself to block out any unwelcome thoughts and simply focus.
Mindfulness cannot be approached haphazardly if you want to be successful. Schedule meditation for key points in the day when you know you need to recharge.
Pay attention to everything about yourself – Your thoughts, sensations, and actions. The exercises listed above can help you with this. Your actions are the key to learning more about yourself. These actions can give you clues as to when it may be necessary to take a break and quietly meditate.
Thoughts and sensations can give you clues as to when parts of your body need a break or even when your mind needs a break. Are you focusing on the here and now? If not, then why? Take the time to think through the clues your body is giving you, and, once again, be kind to yourself. Treat yourself the way you would a treat a close friend.
Coping with disappointment can be difficult. When things do not go our way, it is our tendency to dwell on that. You have to let that disappointment go to truly achieve mindfulness. If you are unhappy with something you have done or something that has been done to you, take a moment to acknowledge that feeling, and then let it pass.
Move on to the next moment. It likely will not be as disappointing. Living in the past is part of what mindfulness was designed to combat. We take on a more joyful lifestyle when we learn to deal with our disappointments in a productive way that does not linger or bring us down.
What are the Benefits of Mindfulness?
There are many diverse benefits that can come from mindfulness meditation. Some are physical benefits, while others are mental.
Some benefits to mindfulness are as follows:
- General physical well-being
- Reduction in depression and anxiety
- Reduction in conflict
Mindfulness can benefit us physically by reducing blood pressure and our risk for heart problems. It can also help dissipate chronic pains and gastrointestinal issues. So many of our physical maladies are stress-induced.
Mindfulness can help us better cope with stress, therefore eliminating or reducing these common problems.
Mindfulness meditation can also reduce depression and anxiety. There is something about living in the moment and blocking out all the negativity that we normally let in.
Paying attention to the small details and blessings of life can be a balm to our mental health. Of course we experience less anxiety if we are only focusing on meditating or on accomplishing only one task at a time.
Couples who practice mindfulness engage in less negative conflict. This too can be rooted back to the part that stress plays in our day to day lives. Couples who are willing to work through one issue at a time, instead of involving all of the past and future, are more likely to work through their conflict in a productive way.
I hope you have been encouraged to give mindfulness meditation a try. The health benefits are numerous, and it can also be good for your relationships and give you a more positive outlook, moment by moment, throughout your day. The techniques are easy and relaxing. There is no reason not to give mindfulness a try today!
(And if you enjoy mindfulness, then you are sure to enjoy loving kindness meditation as well!)