Everything in life, including your work and personal commitments, depends on the way your brain works.
Most of us today are severely affected by stress. According to the American Psychological Association, stress has a negative impact on our mental and physical health. However, many feel not enough is done to manage stress.
When we are stressed, negativity surrounds us and we lose our ability to think rationally. However, we can make things better by being mindful. According to Mindful.org, mindfulness can be described as;
“the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.”
By being mindful, you can rise above a certain situation and bring positivity into your life. The question that arises here is: what will a person with zero mindfulness do?
Suffer lifelong? Not necessarily. People can train themselves to become mindful and take charge of their lives. This is where meditation plays an important role.
It is no secret that meditation can reduce stress significantly, but studies have now proven that it also has certain neurological benefits. It can actually change the brain and the way it functions.
This means by practicing meditation in the right manner, people can become mindful and make their life awesome. According to Shawn Achor, world’s leading expert on the subject of the connection between happiness and success;
“In just a two-minute span of time done for 21 days in a row, we can actually rewire your brain (with meditation), allowing your brain to actually work more optimistically and more successfully.”
Some ways in which meditation and mindfulness can help are:
- Enhancing brain performance
- Promoting creative thinking
- Reducing anxiety and stress
- Increasing compassion
4 Meditation Tips to Become Mindful
People often become preoccupied with regretting the past and worrying about the future, so much that they miss out on the present experiences that make life beautiful.
Meditation can help you cultivate a mindful, meaningful and happy life. Here is how you can start your journey towards being mindful:
1. Deep Breathing
Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system for relaxation response.
Deep breathing also lowers the heart rate and blood pressure quickly and effectively.
In the beginning, the inhalation tends to be longer than the exhalation. But as you gradually calm down, the exhalation becomes longer, indicating the body has reached the “rest and digest” mode. This relaxes the body from inside.
Close your eyes and take a deep breath. Count till four when inhaling and till eight when exhaling. When you practice breathing, concentrate on your breath and nothing else. As you exhale, imagine stress leaving your body and mind.
Early morning is the best time for deep breathing, but you can practice this at any time in the day. You may find it difficult to focus initially, but with regular practice, you can train yourself effectively.
Apart from relieving stress, deep breathing also helps in improving concentration.
2. Running as Meditation
Not many people think of running as a form of meditation, but just as meditation helps you connect your mind and body, running helps you do the same. When running, we listen to our body to reach our next goals. For mindful running, you need to:
- Focus on your breathing.
- Notice your alignment (to ensure you place your feet at the right place, lean your body at the right angle, take notice of the things around you to avoid getting hurt, etc.).
- Compete against yourself (instead of others) to increase endurance.
Running helps you synchronize your mind and body. By practicing mindful running, you can improve your health, endurance and prepare for the challenges ahead.
3. Body Scan Meditation
The body scan method aids complete relaxation and makes you aware of the different regions of your body, where unconscious suffering resides. This method allows you to experience how each part (of your body) feels without trying to change anything.
Experts describe body scan meditation as;
“a way to get in touch with the body, let go of feelings of needing to get stuff done, and release pent-up emotions.”
Research also shows that including body scan meditation in the mindfulness practice reduces sleep problems and improves symptoms and severity of fatigue as well as depression.
Body scan meditation can be performed when lying down, sitting or in any other posture. Find a comfortable posture and take a few minutes to calm down while keeping your eyes closed. Breathe steadily while you do this.
Next, bring your awareness to the various sensations in your body. Start with your feet. Notice how they feel against the floor. If you find any discomfort, take a deep breath and exhale slowly allowing the discomfort to flow out of your body.
Gradually, move up to your back. Experience how it feels against the grass or the chair on which you are sitting. Focus on each and every part of your body and whenever you notice any discomfort, breathe in and relax as you breathe out.
The major benefits of the body scan meditation are:
- It improves concentration.
- It makes you more aware of yourself and your surroundings.
- It helps you relate differently to your present experience.
- It helps you to be in the present moment, so you no longer worry about the past or the future.
4. Listen, Don’t Hear
Do you know the difference between hearing and listening?
Hearing is defined as receiving sounds or information by the ears.
You need not pay attention to what you are hearing. But listening is the act of paying 100 percent attention to what you’re hearing. When someone listens to you, you feel special and respected. The same thing is experienced by others when you listen to them. So, you bond better.
When listening is done as part of meditation, it helps you become aware of your surroundings without being judgmental and opens up your mind.
For example, if you are listening to inspirational quotes, do not allow yourself to judge what you are listening or how it can affect your life. Just close your eyes and explore every aspect of the speech.
This exercise helps you improve your focus and relationships. So while you become a better parent or spouse, you also become a better employee or boss. This is because when you actually listen to people, you are in a better position to provide a solution or empathize.
Mindfulness can improve the overall quality of life and help you become a better human being. The best thing about it is that you can instill mindfulness through regular practice.
So if you lack mindfulness at present, try the above tips to gain and improve it, and exercise better control over your emotions and in the way your brain reacts to different situations.