We all lead busy lives. If you can find time to scroll through social media or watch Netflix, you have time to meditate.
The idea of squeezing one more thing in your tight schedule may seem unrealistic – especially if you have to sit down for twenty or thirty minutes, cross-legged with eyes closed and looking completely calm and serene.
However, the benefits of meditation can be life-changing. Researchers at the Columbia University Medical Center claim that meditating regularly can change the structure of your brain.
Through relaxation and mindfulness, the grey matter in your brain called “amygdala” becomes smaller. They noticed a significant reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression. This also resulted in an uplift in their focus, improvement in memory, and overall clarity in mind.
In other words, your brain’s pre-frontal cortex area will benefit a lot from meditation as it is responsible for tasks like organizing, problem-solving, and controlling your emotions.
What is meditation?
Meditation is a mental practice that involves relaxation, focus, and awareness. When you meditate, your mind wanders through your thoughts (“Am I doing this right?”, “Is it done yet”), sensations (*hair touching your back*, *air blowing on your skin*), and emotions (I am tired, I hate this, I love this).
There are many sorts of meditation, but they all obtain the same four elements:
- A quiet space with no distractions.
- A comfortable posture (sitting, lying down, walking…).
- A focus on breath, feelings, and surroundings.
- An open attitude (letting thoughts come and go naturally without trying to control or judge them).
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is whenever you bring your attention to what you are currently experiencing via your senses or through your state of mind via thoughts and feelings. At that moment, you fully engage with whatever you are doing in the now.
Just like me, you may be familiar with the opposite state:
When reading a book, have you noticed suddenly you have to repeat the chapter? This could be because while you “read” the text, your consciousness didn’t align, and subconscious thoughts drifted your mind elsewhere. This is autopilot mode; your mind juggles multiple signals at once; mindfulness is about switching on and sitting upright in the driver’s seat again. Focus is the moral here – it helps you center on one task at a time and slowing down the brain to enjoy the present moment.
Outside of regular meditation, here are some examples where you can practice mindfulness:
- Do what you love. Whether you are biking, cooking, or painting – focus on what you are doing. This includes immersing yourself in these activities. You will start to notice that any stream of thoughts, stories, and dramas will slip away.
- Anytime and anywhere. When you are waiting for someone or something – instead of killing time on your phone, open a meditation app, and indulge in soothing 10-minute mindfulness practice. When the time is up, you will notice that you are in a more calm and positive mindset.
- Nurture yourself in nature. Nature is given every single day. As you step outdoors, tune into nature’s rhythm, slow down your breath, and walk to match Mother Nature’s flow.
These three ideas are so easy to incorporate in your daily life. Afterward, observe your feelings. Relaxed? Focused? Happier? Congratulations—you just completed a mindfulness meditation. It’s that easy.
How to practice mindfulness and meditation?
Mindfulness is available to you at every moment. Practice to gain it with meditation or body scans or doing some mindful moment practices like taking time to pause and breathe between conference calls at work.
Let’s dive into a simple, mindfulness meditation practice.
In 4 easy steps, I will show you how to be more focused and mindful.
1. Sit comfortably or lay down in a quiet space; you don’t need a meditation cushion or any equipment. Just set aside some time and space.
2. Start breathing naturally; Don’t try to control your breath. Focus your attention on each inhale and exhale. Notice the movement of each part of your body as you take a breath. If you get distracted or your mind wanders, don’t give up; just observe the thought and let it pass…
3. Observe the present moment. The goal of mindfulness is not quieting the mind. The aim is simple: you are trying to rest in the here and now, without any judgment. Invite joy and well-being into every cell of your body.
4. Return to observing the present moment. Often our mind gets carried away in thought. Don’t judge yourself for whatever thoughts show up. Just practice recognizing when your mind has wandered off, and gently return your focus back to your breath.
There’s no such thing as perfect meditation. Sometimes your mind will wander or you’ll forget to follow your breath. That’s OK.
Meditation, like life, is a journey. Be gentle with yourself – what’s most important is to meditate consistently. As you spend more time practicing meditation; you’ll probably find yourself feeling more positive, calmer, and patient. I know it’s easier said than done but the work is to just keep doing it. You will soon notice the positive outcomes in your life!
If you want to stick to a consistent habit of meditation practice, check out this article which reveals all the secrets to creating a consistent meditation practice!