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Last Updated on July 24, 2018

I’ve Tried Mindfulness Meditation, Here’s Why You Should Try it Too

I’ve Tried Mindfulness Meditation, Here’s Why You Should Try it Too

In our fast-paced society today, we seem to be in a constant struggle to keep up. While the advancement of technology has its benefits, we are now being constantly bombarded with information and feel pressured to connect and respond all the time. As a result, we often feel stressed, overwhelmed, and in a constant state of anxiety.

Maintaining such a frenetic lifestyle is clearly unsustainable for our physical and emotional health. Yet, despite this, we continue to pound at a furious pace to get ahead.

If this describes you and what you are going through, it is time to take a pause and give some attention to the present moment. When we do that we focus at where we are,we tend to gain a better perspective of what we are doing, and enjoy doing it more.

Practicing mindfulness in our daily lives has a lot of benefits. Studies have shown that it improves many facets of our physical and emotional well-being, such as reducing stress, improving learning, memory, emotional regulation, and empathy.

What is Mindfulness and Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness is the psychological process of being fully present in the moment.

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When we are being mindful, we are not caught up in our thoughts about the past, the future, or reacting to the things that are happening around us. We become fully aware of what we are directly experiencing in the moment through our senses, and our state of mind through our thoughts and feelings.

    Photo credit: Source

    In order to be mindful, we need to first acknowledge our thoughts without judging them

    Practicing mindfulness does not mean that we are actively trying to stop thinking. It involves noting and accepting our thoughts and feelings as it is – without judging them or trying to change them. For example, if we are feeling irritated with our friend that he or she is late, we note these feelings of irritation and then let it be. We do not ‘judge’ these feelings as right or wrong, or react based on these feelings by behaving angrily.

    Believe it or not, being mindful is a basic human ability

    This ability to be fully present is something that we all naturally possess. It is easier to be fully in the moment when we are doing something that we enjoy, such as when we are listening to music or watching a movie. However, we tend to get caught up in the default mode of worrying, reacting, and feeling overwhelmed when we are in the day to day.

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    Mindfulness meditation is the perfect way to cultivate mindfulness

    In order to get away from all the distractions and regain mindfulness,we need to intentionally set aside time to practice being fully present in the moment. Mindfulness meditation is the formal practice of mindfulness. The intention of practice is to help us regain stillness and mindfulness in places where there is no distraction. The more we practice, we will become better at intentionally being mindful when we are going through our day to day life.

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      My Story on Mindfulness Meditation and How it has Changed My Life

      After hearing so much about the benefits of mindfulness meditation, I decided to give it a try. After all, a number of very remarkable individuals (i.e. Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Ariana Huffington and Lebron James) have all incorporated meditation as an essential part of their daily routine. I was intrigued, and very curious about what mindfulness meditation can do for me.

      My first few attempts at meditation were frustrating. Given that I had read so much about its wonderful benefits, I initially expected to feel different immediately. I had concerns that I was not doing it correctly, and did not know what exactly to expect. It took a lot of perseverance and willpower to continue making it a daily practice, since I could not see any positive benefits right away.

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      The first time I noticed that my meditation practice had any impact on my life was when I was stuck in traffic and running late for a work meeting. Normally, I would have gotten quite frustrated and irritable, even though it was technically my fault for leaving house late.

      To my surprise, I kept my calm throughout the ride. I was aware that being irritated and frustrated would not help the situation. Hence, I consciously made the decision to focus on being in the present moment, and had a enjoyable conversation with the Uber driver. I gradually started noticing the same pattern when I was faced with other unpleasant experiences. I had become better at managing my negative emotions, and it has also helped me greatly in managing my anxiety in my day to day life.

      Mindfulness meditation is something that gets easier with practice. Every time we meditate, we build new neural pathways in our brain that helps us process our thoughts and emotions better.

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        If you are new to mindfulness meditation, here are some of the tips that helped me through my practice

        Technology can help you become more mindful too

        If you are new to mindfulness meditation, using a guided meditation app such as Headspace, Breathe, or Calm, is a good way to start. Headspace offers a free 10-day guided meditation program for beginners, which gives you a really good introduction to what mindfulness and mindfulness meditation is.

        Don’t obsess over doing it ‘correctly’

        As a beginner, you may have some concerns about what the right way to meditate is. Meditation is a highly personal practice, and there is no ‘correct’ way of doing it. Take your time to find out what seating or lying postures work best for you, and your ideal environment and time of the day for meditating.

        Feel it until you make it

        It is okay if you do not know what to expect, or if your experience of meditation is different from mine. You may also experience a different impact of meditation on your life. What is most important is that you return to the practice day after day, whether you had a positive session or not.

        Have you ever tried mindfulness meditation? If you have, share with us how has it impacted your life?

        More by this author

        Sophia Goh

        Professional Counsellor and Psychotherapist, M.A. Counselling

        I’ve Tried Mindfulness Meditation, Here’s Why You Should Try it Too

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        Last Updated on August 15, 2018

        7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

        7 Amazing Things That Will Happen When You Do Plank Every Day

        Bodyweight exercises are gaining ground in the fitness world due to the practicality and simplicity of getting in shape using your own body weight. Planks are one form of bodyweight exercises that will never go out of fashion. Planks are one of the most effective exercises you can do. Why? Because they require a small time investment on your part, and offer the chance to achieve substantial results in a relatively short span of time.

        Video Summary

        Why is it important to train up our core strength?

        There are numerous sites and blogs which detail ways to build your core muscles or core strength. Often though, these sites neglect to explain what your core muscles actually are, and why building them is important.

        This is quite surprising, as core muscles are quite easy to explain. Your core muscles are a series of muscles in your midsection, and are used in most forms of movement. Though they aren’t housed in your arms or legs, your core muscles can help transfer force from one limb to another, or are used in addition to muscles in your arms or legs to increase their effectiveness. As such a strong core will make a big improvement on your ability to move and exercise further.

        Also they are great for helping other muscles in your midsection such as your abdominal muscles. Your abdominal muscles are important for supporting your back and spinal column, and as such are important aids in preventing injuries. However for them to be most effective you need to spend a lot of time developing your core muscles.

        In short, planking exercises can make a huge improvement in your muscles down your whole body. Making them a hugely effective exercise to perform.

        One Exercise, multiple benefits

        There are few forms of exercise as effective at building your core as planking exercises. However, planking exercises benefit far more than just your core strength.

        By holding yourself in the position for a planking exercise, you’ll notice that your biceps, neck, and shoulder muscles are also being tested and strained. This this encouraging their buildup and development. This is great news if you like to do press ups, developed shoulder muscles will have a big impact on your press up performance.

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        When planking, you are holding yourself up through your arms and biceps and so by holding a planking position, your arm muscles are being toned and developed. Making planking a great alternative exercise to other forms of bicep developing exercises.

        Moving down your midsection, successful plank exercises actually develop the muscles in your butt! These muscles tend to be ignored by a lot of exercises, so this is another great benefit of plank exercises.

        In much the same way as you develop your biceps and arm muscles, holding the planking position helps develop the muscles in your thighs too.

        What is even better is that planking exercises don’t take much time at all. In fact you should probably only spend about ten minutes max per day in the planking exercise.

        What will happen when you start doing planks every day

          1. You’ll improve core definition and performance: 

          Planks are an ideal exercise for the abdominal muscles exactly because they engage all major core muscle groups including the transverse abdominus, the rectus abdominusthe external oblique muscle, and the glutes. The importance of strengthening each muscle group cannot be underestimated either, for all of these groups serve their own purpose. If you strengthen these muscle groups you will notice:

          • Transverse abdominis: increased ability to lift heavier weights.
          • Rectus adbominis: improved sports performance, particularly with jumping. This muscle group is also responsible for giving you the renowned six pack look.
          • Oblique muscles: improved capacity for stable side-bending and waist-twisting
          • Glutes: a supported back and a strong, shapely booty.

          2. You’ll decrease your risk of injury in the back and spinal column

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            Doing planks is a type of exercise that allow you to build muscle while also making sure that you are not putting too much pressure on your spine or hips. According to the American Council on Exercise, doing planks regularly not only significantly reduces back pain but it also strengthens your muscles and ensures a strong support for your entire back, especially in the areas around your upper back.

            Check out this article if you would like to find out about how doing planks on different surfaces can impact the effectiveness of this exercise in strengthening your core.

            3. You’ll experience an increased boost to your overall metabolism

              Planking is an excellent way of challenging your entire body because doing them every day will burn more calories than other traditional abdominal exercises, such as crunches or sit-ups. The muscles you strengthen by doing this exercise on a day-to-day basis will ensure that you burn more energy even when sedentary. This is especially important if you are spending the majority of your day sitting in front of a computer. Also, making it a daily 10- to 1 minute home exercise before or after work will not only provide an enhanced metabolic rate but it will also ensure that that metabolic rate remains high all day long, (yes, even while you are asleep).

              4. You’ll significantly improve your posture

                Planking exercises have a great impact and improvement on your posture. This is great news as a strong posture brings with it a huge number of fantastic benefits .

                A good posture keeps your bones and joins in the correct alignment which means both your bones and joints will be better maintained and more healthy, but also means the overall effectiveness of your muscles will be improved.

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                A good posture will ensure your back or spine is in the correct position and so you will suffer less back pain.

                On top of everything, someone with good posture looks better, healthier, and more confident.

                5. You’ll improve overall balance

                  Have you ever felt that when you tried standing on one leg, you couldn’t stand up straight for more than a couple of seconds? It’s not because you were drunk- unless you happened to be at the time!-  but rather, it’s because your abdominal muscles weren’t strong enough to give you the balance you needed. Through improving your balance by doing side planks and planks with extensions you will boost your performance in every kind of sporting activity.

                  6. You’ll become more flexible than ever before

                    Flexibility is a key benefit of doing planks regularly, for this form of exercise expands and stretches all your posterior muscle groups – shouldersshoulder blades, and collarbone – while also stretching your hamstrings, arches of your feet, and toes. With a side plank added in to the mix, you can also work on your oblique muscles. This will provide you with further benefits when it comes to hyper-extending your toes, a movement that is crucial for supporting your body’s weight.

                    7. You’ll witness mental benefits

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                      Plank exercises have a particular effect on our nerves, making them an excellent means of improving overall mood. How? Well, they stretch out muscle groups that contribute to stress and tension in the body. Just think about it: you are sitting in your chair, at home or at work, all day long; your thigh muscles get tight, your legs get heavy due to being bent for several hours; and tension develops in your shoulders due to being forced to slump forward all day. These are all circumstances that put too stress on the muscles and nerves. The good news is that planks not only calm your brain, but they can also treat anxiety and symptoms of depression– but only if you make it part of your daily routine.

                      How to hold a plank position

                      1. Get into pushup position on the floor.
                      2. Now bend your elbows 90 degrees and rest your weight on your forearms.
                      3. Keep your torso straight and rigid and your body in a straight line from ears to toes with no sagging or bending.
                      4. Your head is relaxed and you should be looking at the floor.
                      5. Hold the position for as long as you can.
                      6. Remember to breathe. Inhale and exhale slowly and steadily.
                      7. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.

                      Watch the video if you have any doubt!

                      Here is a great infographic that shows the best plank variation exercises to evenly target all abdominal muscle groups:

                        How to improve your plank time gradually

                        1. Start with the easier variation if needed. You can start with a bent-knee plank if you can’t perform a regular plank yet. If you can hold a plank for more than two minutes with ease, you can move on to these tougher variations.
                        2. Practise every day. Space your planking exercise throughout the day and do 3-4 times every day. Try to hold the position 10 seconds longer each time.
                        3. Perform other body-weight exercises at the same time. Push-up and squat will improve your core strength too.

                        Are you ready to devote 5-10 minutes of your day, every day, to stay fit, healthy and, most importantly, strong as a bull? Then jump in and make doing plank exercises a part of your life.

                        Who Should Be Cautious Doing The Plank?

                        You need to be cautious doing Planking exercises if any of these risks apply to you:

                        • Prolapse
                        • After prolapse surgery
                        • Pelvic pain conditions
                        • Weak or poorly functioning pelvic floor muscles
                        • Previous childbirth
                        • Overweight

                        Choose an alternative pelvic floor abdominal exercise or consult your doctor before performing plank regularly.

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