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Last Updated on May 9, 2018

Meditation Can Change Your Life: The Power of Mindfulness

Meditation Can Change Your Life: The Power of Mindfulness

Many of us know that meditation can be beneficial, but did you know that it is actually one of the most convenient ways to make a drastic improvement to your mental health and physical wellness? Practicing mindful meditation is good for more than just peace of mind. It can actually change your life.

Mindful meditation has the potential to radically transform our everyday experiences.

A lot of people would like to make changes to their lives, both big and small. Sometimes, this seems like an impossible feat. With meditation, though, it is very possible.

Imagine making wiser decisions and feeling a deeper sense of peace and happiness. If this were possible, what would it mean for you, your health, your lifestyle, and your relationships?

In this guide you’ll discover a straight forward way to understand mindfulness and meditation, know what practicing these techniques can do for you, and find out who benefits most from adopting mindfulness and meditation practices.

Tap Into the Power of Your Mind to Change Your Life

If you want to understand your mind, sit down and observe it. –Joseph Goldstein

Many times, the idea of mindfulness evokes mystery and thoughts of saffron robed Tibetan monks chanting ‘Om’ — ideas that western culture step lightly around.

Jon Kabat-Zinn was the first to cleanse mindfulness of its Buddhist roots and use it as a tool to help manage stress in a University of Massachusetts Medical School Clinic [1]. Here, Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), an 8-week program teaching outpatients how to change their relationship with pain after medicine had done all it could, was born.

Because of the program’s success, hospitals around the world have integrated similar programs. Now sanctioned by the medical profession as a tool to ease suffering, we’re experiencing the trickle-down effect as mindfulness enters main stream.

Mindfulness’ Deeper Impact

While mindfulness is best known as a way to manage stress and pain, it has a deeper impact for anyone aiming to rediscover a lost sense of what it means to know one’s self in a fast-moving world.

Jack Kornfield, mindfulness and meditation teacher and author describes it like this:

“Mindfulness is not a philosophy or a religion. It’s not a destination. Rather, it’s a spirit with which you can travel through life.”

Why Is Mindfulness Such A Big Deal?

“Mindfulness is often spoken of as the heart of Buddhist meditation. It’s not about Buddhism, but about paying attention. That’s what all meditation is, no matter what tradition or particular technique is used.” Jon Kabat-Zinn

If mindfulness is about paying attention, what’s the big deal?

The original term ‘mindfulness’ comes from the Pali word ‘sati’, which means memory [2] but is more correctly described as ‘lucid awareness’. It’s an embodied state that doesn’t let day-to-day experiences or moments drift away unnoticed.

When ‘not noticing’ your mind takes on a life of its own, wandering through old memories, recalling old feelings and ruminating endlessly on ‘what I would have said to … if I had the chance again’. We think without thinking, kidding ourselves we’re focused on what we’re doing.

You may be familiar with this state. I certainly am.

While reading a book, I can find myself halfway through a chapter, having to start again because my eyes mechanically ‘read’ the text, while my mind drifted elsewhere. Or petting the cat absentmindedly while planning the next job only to get a solid nudge from a wet nose to pay more attention to her. Or writing this article between cooking, phone calls and checking in on an unwell relative. I laughed at the irony of writing an article on mindfulness while pushing mindlessly ahead with the multiple to-do lists I was juggling.

Overcome Challenges of Modern-Day Living With Mindfulness

The problem of modern-day living touches us all. With deadlines and time as premium resources, it’s easy to think we can do it all, until our body sends ‘slow down‘ signals. This is where mindfulness can really make an impact. If your body is telling you to slow down, then it may be wise to listen to it.

6 Steps to Train Your Brain

Modern-day living has trained our bodies and minds to be separate entities. It has trained us to ignore body-felt sensations and mindlessly dwell somewhere between the past and future, dismissive of the present moment. It’s as if ‘now’ is something to rush through while getting somewhere else. Mindfulness practice aims to help us pay attention, to reunite body and mind through noticing senses, feeling and experiencing moments more fully. It’s about switching off auto-pilot and sitting upright in the driver’s seat again. It’s about quieting the endless chatter that occupies our minds every moment of every day.

With a simple sequence, the mindfulness process flows like this:

  1. When paying attention be consciously aware of what’s happening around you.
  2. Using all your senses, not just your preferred sense (usually sight or hearing), note what each sense is perceiving.
  3. Be enchanted about the experience, not distracted or dismissive.
  4. Refrain from judging the experience as positive, negative or neutral; instead raise your awareness and conscious presence to any feelings arising in the body.
  5. Notice whether you’re wanting to avoid any emotion arising because it hurts, or clinging to the outcome as if there’s a dearth of resources to go round.
  6. Consider your response with wisdom, accepting ‘what is’ with a sense of gratitude.

Holding Back the Endless Torrent of ‘White Noise’ in Your Mind

Most mindfulness practices begin with paying attention to your breathing, without aiming to change it, instead simply noticing it. It’s a gentle beginning, yet challenging to maintain. Noticing your breath as it moves in, through your body and out again is the beginning of sensory awareness. As you begin, you may notice very little from a sensory level; you may even feel nothing. Alternatively, you may experience emotions you’ve not allowed yourself to feel previously.

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Noticing what you’re noticing is the first step.

You may also notice how easily your mind gets distracted by an endless torrent of white noise. Again, it’s about noticing what you’re noticing without judgement. Simply notice the thoughts and let them go.

If thoughts return, notice that you’re noticing them, and let them go again. Be gentle with yourself. Being curious about what you’re noticing while returning to your breath is a strong beginning.

You can be mindful where you are right now. Noticing. Paying attention. Being aware of your body’s senses – tight shoulders, pressure of your sitting bones on a chair, clothing touching skin, any scents or smells, the quality of the light, soft sounds barely audible. This is an informal way of being mindful as you go about your day.

Mindfulness meditation, on the other hand, is a formal way of setting aside a specific time to focus. It’s about setting an intention and a focus for a set period of time.

Meditation offers the space to move away from the automaticity of thoughts that are often negative and self-defeating. It’s a space to release the process of worry, doubt, fear and anger.

Meditation offers tools to relax those automatic thoughts. It helps break the illusion of ‘self’ – our ego and sense of identity to which we cling, unaware of a higher level of consciousness available to us if we let go, release attachment and allow a sense of possibility enter.

The meditation practice may involve music, prayerful thought or loving kindness to build greater empathy. You may find a guided meditation useful to support you as your mind strengthens its ability to focus without distracting thoughts entering.

What’s The Evidence Mindfulness Works?

Mindfulness and meditation are forms of mental training that involve exercising the mind to hold a space, a thought or an idea spatially. When practiced regularly over time, researchers see significant changes to different parts of a person’s brain structure via brain scans (functional magnetic resonance imaging – fMRI scans).

For example, a mindfulness-based training program aimed at reducing stress will include training to assist focus, organization and planning (thickening areas associated with tasks governed by the brain’s prefrontal cortex). Training to help with emotional regulation (strengthening the amygdala, which is part of the limbic system) and memory (thickening the hippocampus) also assist.

Regular mindfulness-based exercise can be as beneficial as stretching physical muscles for greater flexibility, lifting weights to tone arms, and walking briskly to improve heart health.

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The main difference is that you can’t see the benefits of mindfulness (unless you have a pre- and post-mindfulness training fMRI scan), but you can experience the difference.

Who Benefits Most From Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation?

While mindful meditation can enhance most people’s lives, three broad-based groups may gain specific benefits.

1. You’re Experiencing Major Stress and Physical Pain

If you’re looking to change your life because of health problems, then mindfulness and meditation may assist. [3]

Many health-related problems originally stem from stress and anxiety.

Initially showing up as unexplained aches and pain, persistent headaches, muscle tension, decreased interest in sex, stomach upsets, debilitating tiredness or insomnia, many struggle to believe that ‘simple stress ’ can be the culprit. [4]

If stress is left to fester, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes can result.

Chronic stress places your amygdala (the part of your limbic system designed to react to danger) on red alert. Your body is literally fighting a crisis: chronic stress, amplifying physical symptoms until the stress is relieved.

The key here is in changing your relationship with what’s causing the problem. Instead of rejecting the problem or denying its existence, mindfulness and meditation offer ways to ease or minimise the sensations associated with pain and stress.

2. You Crave Greater Personal Freedom, Happiness and Fulfillment

Mindfulness and meditation help us understand what contributes to suffering and contentment. When we see this, we can make wiser choices. And as we make wiser choices we become happier. And as we become happier, we make wiser choices, and so it becomes a spiral achieving greater fulfillment and ease. –Joseph Goldstein

Observing the character of your mind at work helps begin a mindful transformation to live with greater wisdom through making better decisions, which in turn brings greater happiness.

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Each of us have skillful and unskillful thoughts. Meditation helps us see, without the need for someone telling us, the thoughts that are wise and helpful and the thoughts that are not.

Noticing feelings of greed, anger or jealousy – the afflict-ive emotions, helps us see how much better we’d be if we let go of them. If we can recognize mindfully the thought patterns and emotions that allow us to feel happier, like generosity, kindness and compassion, we will experience for ourselves the nature of what we want more of.

Practicing meditation aims to help you create a transformation in your life. Instead of being ‘lost’ in thought and acting-out old patterns of behavior, by observing what’s happening in your mind you can make a conscious choice to skillfully think and wisely act.

3. You Need to Release Anxiety and Unhelpful Emotions

Interrupting thought patterns which induce a range of uncomfortable feelings is a skill mindfulness meditation teaches. Rather than numbing the feelings with food, alcohol, drugs, sex or a range of avoidance strategies, you’ll learn how to change your relationship with emotional pain.

Knowing how to be mindfully aware lets you experience emotions as transitory. Anger fades. Sadness lifts. Love ebbs and flows.

These shifts naturally occur. Knowing this transitory nature exists helps release attachment to a way of being that may seem as if it defines you.

Mindfulness Meditation for True Happiness

Mindfulness and meditation practice are thousands of years old. Originally part of Buddhist culture, these practices are settling well into western culture through programs that have gained positive results from respected practitioners and professionals.

Research will continue measuring results. Brain scans offer physical proof. Yet the only proof that matters is in changes experienced by individuals.

Experiencing a greater sense of peace, feeling happier and freer, being more relaxed or managing pain are positive affects of practicing mindfulness.

The benefits of being mindful and practicing meditation offer ways to become more aware of yourself, others and the natural environment.

It’s a global change on a personal level achieved through the demystifying of a complex language now made readily available. When you manage your emotions and responses, this grass root change reaches beyond personal benefit. You will be affecting others to live and love with purpose and intention.

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Start today practicing mindfulness, and make your world (and the world of others) a happier, more peaceful place

Featured photo credit: Photo by Kevin Laminto on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Umass Medical School: Jon Kabat-Zinn
[2]Taylor and Francis: What Does Mindfulness Really Mean?
[3]Good Therapy: Mindfulness Based Interventions
[4]Mayo Clinic: Stress Symptoms–Effects on Body and Behavior

More by this author

Barbara Grace

Barbara Grace is the Director of the School of Modern Psychology. She believes in living a purposeful life.

How to Set Short Term Goals for a Successful and Highly Fulfilling Life Woman Meditating Meditation Can Change Your Life: The Power of Mindfulness

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Last Updated on August 14, 2018

21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

Many people believe that long distance relationships are never going to work out. Your family may discourage it, and some of your best friends may advise you not to take it too seriously, in case you get your heart broken.

Nobody says it is going to be easy — the extra distance makes many things unachievable. Things could get complicated, and you could get sad and lonely at times.

However, the extra distance also makes the simplest things the sweetest, being able to hold the other person’s hand, eating together at the same table, feeling each other’s touch, taking a walk together, smelling each other’s hair… these small wishes could suddenly mean so much more in a long distance relationship.

Long distance relationships may be tough but they have their own surprises too. To keep your love alive and strong, here are 21 tips to make your long distance relationship work:

1. Avoid excessive communication.

    It is unwise to be overly “sticky” and possessive. You two don’t really have to communicate 12 hours a day to keep the relationship going. Many couples think that they need to compensate for the distance by doing more. This is not true. And it might only make things worse. Soon you would get tired of “loving.” Remember: Less is more. It is not about spamming — you are only going to exhaust yourselves. It’s really about teasing at the right moments and tugging at the right spots.

    2. See it as an opportunity.

    “If you want to live together, you first need to learn how to live apart.” – Anonymous

    View it as a learning journey for the both of you. See it as a test of your love for each other. As the Chinese saying goes, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.” Instead of thinking that this long distance relationship is pulling you two apart, you should believe that through this experience, the both of you will be bound together even stronger.

    As Emma says it to Will in season four of Glee,

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    “I would rather be here, far from you, but feeling really close, rather than close to you but feeling really far away.” – Emma, Glee Season 4

    3. Set some ground rules to manage your expectations.

      Both of you need to be clear with what you expect of each other during this long distance relationship. Set some ground rules so that none of you will do things that will take the other party by surprise. For instance, are you two exclusive? Is it alright for the other person to go on dates? What is your commitment level? It’s better to be open with each other about all these things.

      4. Try to communicate regularly, and creatively.

      Greet each other “good morning” and “good night” every day — this is a must. On top of that, try to update your partner on your life and its happenings, however mundane some of the things may seem. To up the game, send each other pictures, audio clips and short videos from time to time. By putting in this kind of effort, you make the other person feel loved and attended to.

      5. Talk dirty with each other.

        Sexual tension is undoubtedly one of the most important things between couples. Sexual desire is like a glue that keeps both parties from drifting apart. Not only is sex a biological need, it is an emotional one as well. Keep the flames burning by sending each other teasing texts filled with sexual innuendos and provocative descriptions. Sexy puns work pretty well too.

        6. Avoid “dangerous” situations.

        If you already know that going to the club or going drinking with your group of friends late at night will displease your partner, then you should either 1. Not do it or 2. Tell your partner beforehand so as to reassure him/her. Don’t be careless about this sort of matter because your partner is only going to be extra worried or extra suspicious, and of course, very upset, because you are putting him/her in a position where he/she feels powerless or lacking in control.

        Also, It could be easy for you to fall into the trap which you, unconsciously or not, set up for yourself by “hanging out” with your office eye-candy after work, or going out with a girl or guy from your past who has been flirting with you. You need to recognize the dangers before entering into the situation. Don’t just listen to your heart. Listen to your mind too.

        7. Do things together.

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          Play an online game together. Watch a documentary on YouTube or Vimeo at the same time. Sing to each other on Skype while one of you plays the guitar. “Take a walk together” outside while video-calling each other. Go online-shopping together — and buy each other gifts (See #13). You really have to be creative and spontaneous about it.

          8. Do similar things.

          Recommend books, TV shows, movies, music, news and etc. to each other. When you read, watch and listen to the same things, you get to have more topics in common to talk about. This is a good to create some shared experiences even though you are living apart.

          9. Make visits to each other.

            Visits are the highlight of every long distance relationship. After all the waiting and yearning and abstinence, you finally get to meet each other to fulfill all the little things like kissing, holding hands, etc. which are all common to other couples but so very special and extra intimate for people in long distance relationships. It will be like fireworks, glitter bombs, confetti, rainbows and butterflies everywhere.

            10. Have a goal in mind.

            “What do we want to achieve at the end of the day?” “How long are we going to be apart?” “What about the future?” These are the questions you two need to ask yourselves. The truth is, no couple can be in a long distance relationship for forever. Eventually we all need to settle down.

            So make a plan with each other. Do up a timeline, marking down the estimated times apart and times together, and draw an end goal. It is important that you two are on the same page and have the same goals. So that even if you are not living in the same space and the same timezone, both of you are still working together in the same direction towards a future that includes one another.

            11. Enjoy your alone time and your time with your friends and family.

              You are alone but you are not lonely, unless you choose to feel like it. You don’t have to let your world revolve around your partner — you still have you, your friends and your family. Take this time apart to do more with your friends and family. Go to the gym more often. Get a new hobby. Binge-watch shows. There are plenty of things for you to do that doesn’t involve your partner.

              12. Stay honest with each other.

              Talk about your feelings of fear, insecurity, jealousy, apathy, whatsoever. If you try to hide anything from your partner, that secret will sooner or later swallow you up from inside out. Don’t try to deal with things all by yourself. Be open and honest with each other. Let your partner help you and give you the support you need. it’s better to look at the problem during its initial stage than to only disclose it when it’s all too late.

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              13. Know each other’s schedules.

                It’s helpful to know when the other person is busy and when he/she is free, so that you can drop a text or make a call at the right time. You wouldn’t want to disturb your partner when he/she is in the middle of class or halfway through a business meeting. Know the small and big events that are taking place or will take place in each other’s life e.g. college mid-terms and exams, important business trips and meetings, job interviews and etc. This is especially essential when the both of you are living in different time zones.

                14. Keep track of each other’s social media activities.

                Like each other’s photos on Facebook and Instagram. Tweet each other. Tag each other. Share things on each other’s walls. Show that you care. Be cool about stalking each other.

                15. Gift a personal object for the other person to hold on to.

                  There is power in a memento. Be it a small pendent, a ring, a keychain, a collection of songs and videos, or a bottle of fragrance. We often attach meanings to the little things and items found in our everyday life, whether knowingly or not. This is what we all do — we try to store memories in physical things, in the hope that when our mind fails us, we can look or hold on to something that will help us remember. This is why something so simple can mean so much to a person, when others may see little or no value in it.

                  16. Get a good messaging app.

                  This is extremely important because texting is the most frequent and common way of communication the two of you have. You need a good messaging app on your phones that allow interactions beyond just words and emoticons.

                  Personally, I use this messaging app called LINE. I find it highly effective because it has a huge reserve of playful and very funny “stickers” that are free for its users to use. You can also go to the app’s “Sticker Shop” to download (or gift!) extra stickers of different themes (e.g. Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Snoopy, MARVEL and etc.) at a low price. From time to time, the app also gives out free sticker sets for different promotions. This messaging app is cute and easy to learn to use.

                  17. Snail-mail your gift.

                    Mail each other postcards and hand-written love letters. Send each other gifts across the globe from time to time. Flower deliveries on birthdays, anniversaries and Valentine’s Day. Shop online and surprise each other with cool T-shirts, sexy underwear and such.

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                    18. Stay positive.

                    You need to be constantly injecting positive energy into the long distance relationship to keep it alive. Yes, the waiting can be painful and you can sometimes feel lonely but you need to remind yourself that the fruits at the end will be sweet as heaven. One good trick to staying positive is to be grateful all the time. Be thankful that you have someone to love — someone who also loves you back. Be thankful for the little things, like the hand-made letter that arrived safely in your mailbox the other day. Be thankful for each other’s health and safety.

                    19. Keep each other updated on each other’s friends and family.

                      Because gossips and scandals are always the best things to go on and on about.

                      20. Video-call whenever possible.

                      Because looking into each other’s eyes and hearing each other’s voices can make everything feel alright again.

                      21. Give each other pet names.

                      Because it’s cute. It keeps the lovey-dovey going.

                        If you still aren’t sure how to make your long distance relationship work, try to answer these questions with your partner together:

                        Long Distance Relationship Is No Issue If You Have Great Answers to These Questions!

                        Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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