Handling stress is a skill that can be extremely beneficial to your road to happiness. From the minute your alarm wakes you up, to the second you lose consciousness right back in your bed, your mind is wandering through a myriad of emotions which lay down the framework for your habitual feelings, actions, and thoughts.
These emotions may catch you off guard or be under your control, depending on which side of the bed you woke up on that day (or if you’ve already had your coffee). One of the best ways to manage not only stress, but also anxiety, panic, depression, obsessive thinking, and strong emotional reactivity is to practice “Mindfulness Meditation” or “Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.”
A Guide to Mindful Meditation
Trying to stay cool as a cucumber this summer? This hack will keep your jets cool the next time something really fuels your fire. Don’t let life drag you down, and try to stay away from immediately turning to medicine to deal with life’s stressful times (i.e. antidepressants, opiates, sleeping pills, etc.). Taking the monkey off your back is not as impossible as it seems.
Mindfulness Meditation has been proven clinically effective since 1967, and the best part about it is that it can cost the magical number “free.”
Practicing mindfulness is bringing your awareness to the present moment without judgement of your own inner voice or your emotions. Try to steer clear of putting a “right” or “wrong” label on any train of thought or feeling at any given moment. Instead, bring your attention to the present time, peacefully part ways with your past, and seize your future.
Your Mindfulness Meditation doesn’t have to be super traditional with mala beads, singing bowls, and/or cushions; it just has to be focused. Though these are wonderful props which may help guide your meditation practice, what’s more important is paying attention to your bodily sensations, thoughts, emotions, and external sensations from your environment with acceptance, compassion, and patience. The more your practice, the easier it will become.
Here are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind while you practice cultivating mindfulness:
Maintaining good posture is a key to successful mindfulness. The right posture can improve blood flow throughout the body, as well as energy flow—together, these influence your thoughts and emotions. The influence goes both ways, though; negative thoughts tend to leave you hunching your shoulders inward. Poor posture is also known to leave your neck and head feeling achy and may even result in headaches.
Spend some time adjusting to your ideal posture. Make sure that your spine is stacked, and your hips are level with each other. Imagine yourself lifting the crown of your head up to the sky. Shoulders should be lifting back and down the back of your spine.
Concentration on the breath may be one of your best tools to enhance your Mindfulness Meditation practice. Deeper breaths will help you mentally establish your presence in your meditation space. Establishing presence means being cognizant of what is happening in the “here” and “now.” Especially pay attention to your breath as you are riding any intense emotional roller coasters, this will help you stay calm and carry on.
3. Surrounding Environment
If you have never heard that you are a product of your environment, now you have. Observing your senses and your surroundings without letting them slip past your conscious thought allows your mind to be at peace in the present moment.
Focus not only on what you can see, but also what you can hear, smell, feel, and even taste. Observing your physical senses in any given environment can improve your decision-making skills.
4. This Too Shall Pass
Your ability to free your mind from taking a ride on the negative side will strengthen as you train yourself to recognize that who you are as a person is not defined by what you think and feel. Experiences in life are ephemeral, or short-lived.
Mindfulness meditation has several physical benefits to your health including:
- Lowers your blood pressure and your blood pressure reactivity to stress
- Improves immune system function
- Improves overall mood
- Reduces cortisol in your blood, a significant hormone involved in stress control
- Fights obesity: by practicing Mindful Meditation you can discipline yourself to practice mindful eating.
Cortisol from stress damages brain structure and connectivity. Your brain is your control center. Think of the effect of chronic stress on the brain like leaving your cell phone in the rain. If it’s just sprinkling out, it’s probably not a big deal for a few minutes, but leave it outside while it’s pouring buckets of rain for an hour, and you’re going to need a new selfie device. In a similar fashion, excess and chronic stress will slowly influence malfunctions in your body’s communication with itself.
Mindfulness is a total game changer when it comes to anxiety and depression because it literally changes our brains physiologically. Studies have found that after practicing Mindfulness Meditation, the density of grey matter in the brain will increase in regions linked to emotion, empathy, memory, learning and regulation.
It even changes the game of relationships. Couples were observed to be more satisfied with their relationships, closer to one another, and more optimistic, accepting, and relaxed when they had practiced mindfulness.
Try combining mindfulness with your other meditation practices. Don’t know how to meditate, or would like some tips? Here’s an easy 10-Minute Meditation you can do almost anywhere. Just remember to use Mindful Meditation to help anchor both your mind and body, while also adding depth to your practice.