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Lifehack Presents: The Mindfulness Meditation Mini Guide

Lifehack Presents: The Mindfulness Meditation Mini Guide

    We as knowledge workers, creatives, and entrepreneurs have a lot on on our plates like numerous projects, meetings, ideas, phone calls to make, and decisions to come to. Not only that, but there is an entire other side of our life; the personal one. In our personal lives we have a family to take care of, difficult decisions that have to be made about friends and family, as well as making sure that our family is set up for the future.

    If you have been reading Lifehack for any length of time then you probably already have some kind of productivity system in place and have taken advantage of our tips on how to get more and better work done. But even after getting things done, sometimes things don’t feel right. We feel like we are robots. We feel that our lives our unbalanced, that we spend too much time at work and not enough with the ones that we love. We feel that the work we are doing isn’t what we want to be doing. We end up with a feeling of dread and dissatisfaction in our lives.

    This is where the practice of being mindful comes in. Rather than running the rat-race of getting things done in your life; you have to stop and understand what your life really is by becoming and staying mindful.

    What mindfulness is and what it isn’t

    Being mindful means “inclined to be aware” and mindfulness is the act of that. Some would say that practicing mindfulness and using forms of meditation to become more mindful is a Buddhist “thing”. While that is somewhat true, you don’t have to practice Buddhism to practice mindfulness meditation. In fact, there are many members of other religions that practice forms of meditation that moves them towards mindfulness. Practicing mindfulness means that you have to have an open mind and have to be open to a new experience as well as a different way of thinking about things.

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    Becoming mindful does not mean that you go into a trance, become god-like, learn to levitate, or some other crazy thing you may have heard of. Becoming mindful allows you to see yourself and the world around you just as it is without any preconceived notions of what it “should be”.

    It’s hard to talk about becoming mindful without speaking about some form of meditation. What we will discuss here is a sitting meditation that is concentrated on the breath. We won’t delve into the ins and outs of meditation but there are some good resources for that:

    The Benefits

    There are many benefits to practicing mindfulness through your day. Some of these benefits have to deal with overcoming stress and overwhelm, but there are even links from mindfulness meditation to lowering one’s blood pressure, improving memory, and ridding yourself of depression and anxiety.

    These aren’t all of the benefits that we as knowledge workers are looking for (although they are a great to have). What mindfulness meditation gives us is a place we can go to re-frame our world; to accept our current situations and therefore understand ourselves and our surroundings. This is the first step we need to make the right changes in our lives. We see the reality in front of us and based on that new found reality we can make the decisions of where we should be spending our time and attention.

    Not only that, but mindfulness meditation will lower our stress as we try to get things done throughout our day which makes work feel much more natural and less threatening.

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    Get started

    Getting started with mindfulness meditation is easy. Find about 15 minutes of spare time, a quiet room or place you can go to with the least amount of distractions, a pillow for sitting on the ground (or a chair if that isn’t possible), a timer of some sort (there are a lot of good ones for your smartphone), and no expectations of what will or won’t happen. We need to approach meditation and the practice of mindfulness with as little preconceived notions as possible. The less we expect from practicing and being mindful, the better it will “work”.

    Sit down in your quite room in a comfortable position, set your timer, and close your eyes. All you need to do now is be aware of the breath that is coming in and out of your nose. Breath in slow through your nose and concentrate on how the air feels hitting your nostrils. While breathing in, breath deep through your stomach, not your chest. As the breath in starts to slow down concentrate on the split second between the end of your breath in and the beginning of your breath out. Then feel the breath going out of your nostril. Once again, concentrate on the split second that your breath changes from going out to coming back in.

    The reason that you concentrate on your breath is because it is something real; it is reality. You will notice as you sit there for an extended period of time thoughts will enter your brain like crazy. The idea is not to “block” or “stop” your thoughts from happening. That will lead to frustration. Instead, concentrate on the reality of your situation and allow your thoughts to enter and exit your mind as your breath enters and exits your nostrils.

    Sit and meditate and breath for the set amount of time. When your bell or alarm goes off, slowly open your eyes and go about your day.

    This is the practice of mindfulness meditation in a nutshell.

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    Some issues

    The above sounds easy, right? Just sit and concentrate on your breath. Not so much.

    Many people that try to start a mindfulness practice find themselves abandoning it after one or even a few days of practice. Mostly because meditation and being mindful is hard as many different issues can come up:

    Being uncomfortable

    Sometimes people tend to get uncomfortable with the thoughts that come up or even physically uncomfortable while they are seated.

    When it comes to the thoughts that come up a good rule of thumb is first to move your attention back to your breath and to let the thought go through it’s natural progression through your mind while you aren’t attached to it. The thought can keep coming up, especially to someone that isn’t “trained” in mindfulness yet. If it is completely uncomfortable then you may need to stop your practice for the day and come back at a later time to try again.

    When it comes to physical uncomfortableness you may need to move your body a little bit or find another position that is more comfortable for you. Something to remember though is to feel some of the minor pain or restlessness or your body as you sit there as it is reality. You of course don’t want to cause yourself injury, but there will always be small issues that come up with our bodies as we sit. Try to sit through them.

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    Expectations

    Going into a meditation and mindfulness practice you want to have the least amount of expectations as possible, but after some weeks or even months of practice you may find yourself expecting some sort of revelation and peace in your everyday life. When this doesn’t happen you will probably give up on the practice all together because it “doesn’t work”.

    While meditation and mindfulness will end up bringing you peace, understanding, and lower overall stress levels, it doesn’t mean that you will experience it immediately. Remember we are shooting for feeling reality for the way that it is. Keep moving forward and shift your expectations.

    Where we are going

    Okay. So you sit and meditate every day. You concentrate on your breath and live in the moment. But why?

    Well, as we continue our mindfulness practice some peculiar things will start to happen. As you live your life and do your work throughout the day you may find yourself slowing down and concentrating on your breath as you become stressed or overwhelmed. This will ground you and help you realize what the current reality is. Rather than reading an email and then instantly fantasizing about what it “could” mean, you can step back and read it for what it is and not get excited or upset.

    The projects that you have been working on (or haven’t been working on) start to look a little different. You may be able to slow down and ask yourself, “why am I doing this?” If the answer isn’t apparent you may just want to cut the project entirely. In the past, cutting or declining projects may have been perceived as a weakness. After seeing things for the way they are you can simply see that these project may not interest your or may not help you further your career in any real way. You start to see the reality of all situations in work and life.

    Practicing mindfulness start a chain reaction in your life. The simplest of tasks (sit and concentrate on your breath) can turn your life around because you bring that simplicity into everything you do. That’s why we as entrepreneurs, creatives, and knowledge workers need to practice mindfulness.

    (Photo credit: Face huge stress, meditation via Shutterstock)

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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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