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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

What Is Mindfulness Meditation? 7 Ways to Start Meditating

You’ve probably heard about the growing trend in mindful meditation, and all the benefits of the practice. You might even be interested in giving it a try, but don’t know where to start. Maybe you’ve even tried meditating, but had trouble figuring it out.

It took me several years to fully understand meditation, but once I did, I realized that it is actually quite simple. In fact, it is so simple that I can teach it in less than an hour. In this article, I’ll cover the “what, why, and how” of mindfulness meditation in its simplest form, so you don’t have to spend years trying to figure it out like I did.

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation, sometimes called mindful meditation, is a non-religious form of meditation that is basically a training of the mind to help us calm our mind, and live in the present moment. The main goal of the practice is to attain freedom from suffering. We accomplish this by developing self-awareness, or mindfulness, because it is our inaccurate views of the world that trigger our painful emotions and harmful actions.

With mindfulness meditation, we can develop an awareness of the true nature of reality. By observing what is happening within our mind, body, emotions, and the world around us, we’ll begin to see the sources of our suffering. Then we can work to transform them, so we can be free of them once and for all.

There are various techniques in the mindfulness meditation practice. But it generally involves relaxation techniques, breathing techniques, guided imagery, and awareness of the body, mind, and emotions.[1] These techniques are designed to calm your mind, so you can become a more objective observer of yourself and the world around you.

Is Mindfulness Meditation the Same as Meditation?

There is a great deal of confusion about what mindfulness meditation is, as it relates to meditation. The term “meditation” refers to the practice in general. It describes a group of practices that are designed to help calm and focus the mind. The term “mindfulness meditation” refers to a specific form of meditation, as describe above.

You see, there are several different forms of meditation, such as transcendental meditation, relaxation meditation, and contemplative meditation. In addition, most religions have their own form of meditation. While the various practices are similar, their goals and techniques can vary.

My general advice to beginning meditators is to pick one form of meditation, and learn that practice well. Then, if you find that that form doesn’t suit you so well, feel free to try another form.

If you begin by dabbling in all different forms, you probably won’t become proficient with any of them, and your results will be poor. And when you don’t see much results, you’ll just end up quitting within a short period of time.

Why Practice Mindfulness Meditation?

You’re probably wondering why you should practice mindfulness meditation. Well, there are so many benefits that I could write a whole chapter to explain them all, and the scientific research behind them. Here is a summary of what you can expect:

Better Physical Health

Researchers have discovered that mindful meditation helps people overcome many health problems, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and chronic illnesses, which cost millions of dollars in healthcare—not to mention all the pain and suffering. The practice also improves the immune system, and slows the aging process.[2]

Lower Stress

Numerous studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation improves people’s ability to cope with the pressures of modern life, and avoid the health consequences. By calming their mind, they calm their emotions and achieve greater peace of mind. This also leads to better sleep at night. [3]

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Improved Mental Health

Mindfulness meditation is so effective in treating mental and emotional disorders that mental health professionals are now using the practice to treat various conditions, such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, substance abuse, and more. Practitioners are also reporting higher self-esteem and self-confidence.[4]

Improved Relationships

Mindfulness meditation helps practitioners improve their relationships by gaining greater control over their emotions, and by learning how to practice such skills as deep listening, mindful speech, and forgiveness.

Improved Social Skills

Those who practice mindfulness meditation tend to be more outgoing. They develop greater love, compassion, and understanding of other people. This leads to them becoming more open and receptive to others.

Also, as they develop greater inner strength, they become more resilient to personal attacks.

Improved Cognitive Abilities

Researchers have also found that mindfulness meditation helps people enhance their mental capabilities, such as concentration, abstract thinking, memory, and creativity.

Benefits to Organizations

Studies have shown that the practice has many benefits to organizations, such as reduced stress levels, lower healthcare costs, greater teamwork, increased productivity, greater leadership, and increased profitability.

As you can see, the mindfulness meditation practice can improve your life in so many ways. And the great thing about it is that there are no negative side effects, which are usually associated with most medications used to treat physical and mental illnesses.

7 Ways to Practice Mindfulness Meditation

The mindfulness meditation practice is quite diverse. There are various techniques you can incorporate into your busy schedule, some of which don’t require you to sit in meditation. Here are the main techniques.

Sitting Meditation

At the heart of the mindfulness meditation practice is the sitting meditation session. This meditation session usually consists of 3 parts: relaxation meditation, concentration meditation, and mindful meditation. They are described below.

You generally want to pick a quiet time and place to meditate. The time of day you meditate is entirely up to you, but you want to choose a time when you feel alert, as you are trying to develop awareness.

You can sit either in a chair or a meditation cushion, whichever you prefer. Don’t meditate lying down, as you’ll probably fall asleep. The whole idea of the sitting position is to be alert and comfortable. The position of your hands is also a matter of choice. You can either hold them interlaced in front of you, or simply resting on your thighs.

1. Relaxation Meditation

Remember, the goal of mindfulness meditation is to develop mindfulness. That is, we want to be able to observe ourselves objectively. But we can’t do that if our mind is agitated, and we can’t have a peaceful mind if our body is tense. That’s why we usually start a meditation session with a short relaxation meditation.

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To practice relaxation meditation, close your eyes, and begin following your breath. After a couple of minutes, turn your attention to your body, beginning at the top of your head. As you slowly move your attention down through your body, make a conscious effort to relax the muscles in each body part as you exhale each breath. This relaxation meditation should take about 5 minutes.

2. Concentration Meditation

The next part of a mindfulness meditation session is concentration meditation. If we want to observe something on a deeper level, then we need to be able to keep our attention on it. Concentration meditation will help you develop mental discipline.

If your mind is agitated, then your observations will only be superficial. Concentration meditation will help you steady your mind, so you’re able to observe things on a deeper level. This process is the key to developing greater understanding, that is, wisdom.

For example, if we have a painful emotion we don’t understand that keeps coming up, then we need to be able to keep our attention on it in order to identify the source. Only then can we transform it, so that it ceases to cause us pain and suffering.

To practice concentration meditation, begin counting your breaths 1 through 5 silently in your mind. When you get to 5, simply start over again. Keep your attention focused on the air passing through the tip of your nose. When you find that your mind has wandered, immediately bring your attention back to your breath.

Concentration meditation can be challenging, but it’s important to do your best to keep your attention on your focal point. Your mind is going to wander a lot. That’s normal. Just keep bringing it back to the air passing through the tip of your nose. It will get easier as you progress.

3. Mindfulness Meditation

After doing relaxation and concentration meditation, you are then ready to do mindfulness meditation. The relaxation meditation has helped your body and mind relax, and the concentration meditation has helped you focus your attention. You are then better prepared to observe things on a deeper level.

Remember that the mindfulness meditation practice is a training of the mind. We are training our mind to see with greater clarity. Then we take our improved observation skills and apply them to everyday life. It is much like training in the gym, so we can perform better in sports.

After a few minutes of concentration meditation, transition to mindful meditation. Continue observing your breath. However, instead of counting each one, observe the entire breathing process mindfully. Observe it in a more relaxed manner, without forcing your mind like you did with concentration meditation. When distracting thoughts arise, gently bring your attention back to your breath.

4. Emotional Awareness Meditation

An alternative to the mindful meditation portion of your meditation session is emotional awareness meditation. As the name implies, you’re training yourself to observe your emotions. Over time, this type of meditation will help you gain more control over your emotions, and develop greater inner strength.

To practice emotional awareness meditation, do the relaxation and concentration meditations first. When you finish the concentration meditation, turn your attention to your emotions. Ask yourself, “What am I feeling?” Are you feeling happy, sad, angry, lonely, hurt, restless, bored, or some other emotion?

Some emotions arising from your subconscious mind may be quite subtle, and harder to identify. They tend to manifest themselves into a general mood without seemingly any rhyme or reason.

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Emotional awareness meditation can be more involved than this, but for now, simply focus on identifying the emotions. If you feel ready, you are welcome to explore those emotions deeper. Look at the thinking behind them, and try to look at the situations differently, that is, from a broader perspective.

Other Techniques

The mindfulness meditation practice has several tools and techniques besides sitting meditation to help you develop mindfulness. Here are a few simple tools you can use.

5. Walking Meditation

This is something you can do if you are too restless to do sitting meditation. You can also do it in lieu of the relaxation meditation. Walking meditation is another way to help calm your restless body and mind.

The way to practice walking meditation is simple. Preferably, go some place that is quiet, and has beautiful scenery. Begin walking at a much slower pace than normal. Apply the same techniques used in concentration and mindful meditation described above. But instead of focusing your attention on your breath, focus on your footsteps.

Alternatively, you can focus your attention on your whole body as you walk. Notice the movements of each body part as you take each step.

A variation of the walking meditation is mindful walking. The techniques are the same, but instead of making a meditation session out of walking, practice mindful walking during the normal course of your daily routine. For example, when you’re walking around at work, home, or any other place, walk mindfully instead of getting on your cell phone, or letting your mind wander aimlessly.

What mindful walking will do is prevent your mind from getting too agitated. And the great thing about it is that you can do it anytime of the day without taking up any of your valuable time.

6. Writing Meditation

This is a technique I developed to help people reprogram their subconscious by assimilating positive affirmations, mainly the loving-kindness meditation practiced in Eastern traditions.[5] The affirmations are basically meant to help you become more loving, compassionate, understanding, etc. It also helps you stay committed to your practice.

Instead of reciting, listening to, or meditating on the loving-kindness meditation, you simply copy the affirmations by hand in a notebook. You do this for about 10 minutes a day. That’s it. You can do it at any time, and you don’t even need a quiet environment.

After a few days, the affirmations will begin manifesting themselves in your behavior, as your attitudes about other people will begin to change. It is great for healing and improving your relationships.

7. Mindful Activities

You can turn just about any activity into mindfulness meditation. Choose an activity that requires little attention, such as washing dishes or folding clothes. These types of activities are so routine that we do them without thinking, and we usually just let our mind wander off. Now you can use them to help you develop mindfulness.

To perform activities mindfully, start by doing them slower. Don’t be in a hurry to finish them, like you usually do. Pay close attention to every action you are performing. For example, when folding clothes, pay close attention to how you’re folding them, how the clean clothes smell, and how they feel to the touch. You may even want to fold them a little neater than you usually do.

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I know this may sound boring and unproductive, but it’s quite the contrary. What you’re doing is calming your mind, and keeping yourself grounded in the present moment, where all reality is taking place. And when you calm your mind, you’ll begin to see the whole world on a much deeper level. Now, how exciting is that?

Suggested Practice

“It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop.” — Confucius

The great thing about mindfulness meditation practice is that it is flexible. There are several techniques you can combine to suit your lifestyle and busy schedule. You can also change things up, so you don’t get bored, or if things change in your life.

If you’re new to the practice, I would start with about 5-10 minutes of sitting meditation, that is, sitting quietly doing the relaxation, concentration, and mindfulness meditations described above. Gradually increase the duration of your sitting meditation sessions to about 20 minutes or more.

I would also suggest adding some walking meditation, loving-kindness writing meditation, or mindful activity to your routine. These not only will help you calm your mind, but they will also keep your mind from getting so agitated in the first place.

It’s important to practice regularly, such as every day or every other day. It’s okay if you miss a few days. Just try to get back on your routine as soon as you can. Also, don’t be hard on yourself if you struggle with the practice in the beginning.

As you meditate, you may notice things going on in your mind that you never saw before. That’s normal. It is the arising of mindfulness, and part of the learning process.

Over time, you will become more observant, and everything around you will become clearer. Not only will you be able to see everything on a deeper level, but you will also begin to see how everything is interconnected. When this happens, the whole world becomes new and exciting again. This is enlightenment.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, mindfulness meditation is not as complicated as you may have thought, and the benefits are tremendous. Sure, there is more to the practice than I have described here, but the basics are quite simple. Remember that you don’t have to do it perfectly to get the benefits. You just have to do it.

One of the great things about the practice is that you can realize some of the benefits rather quickly, especially with the loving-kindness writing meditation. That is a simple practice that yields tremendous results.

The benefits are real, and well within your reach. Just imagine what your life would be like with better health, more control over your emotions, better relationships, and better sleep. Your life would certainly be much more fulfilling.

Here I’ve given you a blueprint to help you get started. If you’re serious about learning how to meditate, I suggest you print this article, read it again, and keep it as a reference. Then get started, and soon you’ll begin to realize the peace and happiness you’ve been searching for your whole life. Good luck!

More About Meditation

Featured photo credit: Martin Sanchez via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Charles A. Francis

Author, meditation teacher, and director of the Mindfulness Meditation Institute

How to Start Living in the Moment and Stop Worrying 20 of the Best Guided Meditations for Sleep and Insomnia How to Learn to Let Go of What You Can’t Control How to Cope with the 5 Common Stressors In Life and Feel Better 10 Ways a Silent Retreat Improves Your Mental Health

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1 How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips 2 6 Health Benefits of Meditation (Backed By Science) 3 How to Clear Your Mind and Be More Present Instantly 4 How to Do Transcendental Meditation (Step-by-Step Guide) 5 How To Do Focused Meditation Any Time

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Published on May 3, 2021

How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips

How To Get Over Anxiety: 5 Professional Tips

Anxiety is killing our mental energy. It is, after all, the leading mental health issue in our society today.  In 2017 alone, more than 284 million people experienced anxiety across the globe, making it the most prevalent mental health disorder globally.[1]

If you are asking the question, “how do I get over my anxiety?”, then this article is for you. I’ve put together a list of my top strategies to help you get over your anxiety. These are the same strategies that have worked for many of my clients over the years, and I think they can work for you too!

Anxiety is, in general terms, as uneasiness or nervousness about an undetermined outcome. Sometimes, this worry and uneasiness is quite excessive and goes from something that we can manage on our own to something for which we need professional help.  If your worry or apprehension includes panic attacks or compulsive behaviors, consider reaching out to a therapist or a doctor for more professional help.

I like to think of anxiety as information—a sign that something is off in your life. It could be a global pandemic, a challenge at work, instability in relationships, or the sign of a larger mental health issue.  Whatever it is, it’s good to think this through and be asking the questions that will help you uncover the parts of your life that could use some adjusting.

Again, consulting with a therapist or counselor, even just for a brief period of time, can help decipher some of these questions for you.  And if you want to give it a go on your own, well that takes us to the first of my five tips on how to get over anxiety.

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Here are 5 tips on how to get over anxiety and live a more fulfilling life.

1. The Mighty Journal

You will be amazed by the power of journaling—the path of self-discovery it can lead you down. The best part of journaling is that there is no right or wrong here. It is a private place where you can work through the stuff in your head and figure some things out.

There are lots of formats for journaling, and I have personally changed my own approach several times depending on what was going on and what I was looking for.  It could be that narrative of your day or bullets with highlights or thoughts of the day.

To make the most out of your journaling I would encourage you to push yourself and go beyond a recount of the day’s events. What you really want here is to get into your thought process and understand the feelings behind the thoughts. Timelines can also be a great way to gain some understanding of relationships and the different events in your life. Again, it is a matter of what works for you.

The pen truly is mightier than. . . the meds?!? My own little psych-mashup.

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2. Schedule Your Self-Care Time

What are the ways you treat yourself? Life is busy and when life demands increase, self-care is often one of the first things to fall by the wayside. But it is critical that you build in your “you time” because when stress levels increase, so will anxiety.

If self-care is not something that you are accustomed to thinking about, I listed some ideas for you to consider.  Keep in mind that if you schedule it with someone else, it might help with accountability.

Think about working smaller chunks of time into the workweek and then something a little more extensive on the weekend, like a hike, excursion, creative home project, or even the occasional weekend away.

Self-care ideas:[2]

  • Take your lunchtime away from your desk, and get outside for a walk or join a colleague for some casual chitchat.
  • Schedule a massage or trip to the spa/salon.
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show, either on your own or with your favorite person/people.
  • Work out, inside or out—anything that gets your heart rate up.
  • Go on an evening or afternoon walk.
  • Tap into your creative outlet, break out that knitting, woodwork, artwork, or instrument.
  • Dance, at home with your kids, partner, or on your own.  Play your favorite tunes and do your thing!

You can also try these 40 Self Care Techniques To Rejuvenate And Restore Yourself.

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3. Listen to Your Music

Music speaks to our soul. It is a go-to for many of us when in need of a pick-me-up or just blowing off some steam. But sometimes, life gets busy, and we don’t incorporate it into our life the way we once did—finding ourselves in a music deficient rut, listening to the same boring stuff on the radio.

Let this be a reminder to explore the new music out there. Streaming services have revolutionized our access to music and have made it easier than ever before. Explore it and find your jam.

Additionally, music therapy is a growing form of therapy built on the research that it helps decrease pain, blood pressure, and—you guessed it—anxiety while also increasing mood, healing, and overall positivity.[3]

Medical Doctors are using it more and more in operating rooms and incorporating it into their practices. If you subscribe to Spotify or Apple Music, you can just type in “relaxing music” and you will be sure to find something that will do the trick, bringing calm and focus into your life.  In my research for this article, I came across some great ones., and they are now a part of my daily rotation.

4. The Five Senses Exercise

When we experience heightened anxiety, I think of it as the physical energy rising from our feet to our head like a thermometer. Sometimes, this energy can even bring us to a place where we feel disconnected from our bodies. The 5 senses exercise will help you reconnect yourself to your body and bring your anxiety levels down to a more manageable level.

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The 5 senses exercise is a mindfulness exercise where you connect your 5 senses to your present environment. This is a great way to ground yourself and bring your attention and your energy to the here and now.  What I love about this exercise is that it can be done anywhere and at any time. If you start to feel your anxiety creep up, this could be a good strategy to center yourself and possibly ward off a panic attack or prolonged anxiety.

The process is simple:

  1. Start by taking a few deep breathes, inhaling as you count to 3, and then exhaling as you count to 3.
  2. Next, identify 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you can touch and feel, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.
  3. Take it in, give yourself a few minutes.
  4. Repeat if needed, and carry on.

5. Mindset Matters

This last one is a big one. A lot of times, anxiety waxes and wanes with how we think about something. Be mindful of your negative self-talk, keeping it in check and working to incorporate perspective. If you know that you are headed into something challenging, prepare yourself for it mentally and allow yourself to be ok with the challenge. After all, the challenge helps us grow and develop.

Also, remember that life is full of choices—granted the options in front of us may be less than ideal, but remember that they are there.  Incorporating some of these above strategies could be one of the first choices you make to create change in your life and get a hold of the anxiety

A quick easy way to get some perspective is to acknowledge the things that you are grateful for (this is also a mindfulness practice).  The gratitude journal is one way to do this where you write down three to five things that you are grateful for every day. Try it out for a week or so and see how you feel. Of course, the more time you practice this, the more you will feel the benefits.

Summing It Up

Anxiety is something that we all experience from time to time, working to identify the source of your anxiety will help you discover the best strategies for you. However, there are some definite best practices that you can incorporate into your life that are sure to minimize your anxiety and keep you living the active and fulfilling life you want.

More Tips on Coping With Anxiety

Featured photo credit: Fernando @cferdo via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Our World in Data: Mental Health
[2] NCBI: Social Anxiety Disorder: Recognition, Assessment, and Treatment
[3] Harvard Health Publishing: How music can help you heal

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