Mindfulness meditation is “simply the act of paying attention to whatever you are experiencing, as you experience it,” explains Kate Hanley, author of "A Year of Daily Calm." “By choosing to turn your attention away from the everyday chatter of the mind and on to what your body is doing, you give the mind just enough to focus so that it can quiet down.” Mindfulness meditation can involve breathing practice, mental imagery, awareness of body and mind, and muscle and body relaxation.
What are the benefits?
A little bit of mindfulness meditation daily can improve cognitive ability, relieve stress, insomnia and physical health, like your heart or immune system.
Researchers found that brief meditation (up to 4 days) lead to enhanced verbal fluency, visual coding and working memory. Further research showed small amounts of mindfulness can improve attention span.
The key impact of mindfulness meditation is stress reduction, which has been connected to serious health issues like heart disease and immune response. In fact, a review showed 47 clinical trials that linked improvements to stress with mindfulness meditation, which increased overall quality of life.
Improve Sleep Quality
A study showed improvement in sleep quality and daytime impairment among older adults with sleep disturbances, which resulted in significant improvements to sleep quality by remediating sleep problems, which carried over to daytime impairment.
Improve physical health
Managing chronic pain without medication has been a focus of current research. Mindfulness-based stress reduction, a therapy that combines meditation with yoga have shown improvements in pain, anxiety and well-being.
Alongside chronic pain, using mindfulness meditation to improve stress levels decreased risks of serious ailments such as heart disease.
How can you practice it at home?
Although more extensive practice can bring drastic changes to overall quality of life, practicing mindfulness meditation doesn’t have to be a 3 hour venture. It could be a ten minute exercise or even practiced during daily activities like the ride home from work, exercising or even doing the dishes.
The main takeaway from this practice is to focus on the present. Try to put aside thoughts of the past or future. Instead, concentrate on each breath, feel the rise and fall of your stomach and your breathing patterns. If you’re running, turn off distractions and concentrate on your breathing and the friction from your feet hitting the pavement. If you’re washing the dishes after dinner, concentrate on your hands running under the hot water and the stiffness of the sponge, the circular motion of washing a pan.
Don’t feel discouraged if your thoughts wander. Recognize their presence and let yourself feel the pain, fear or anxiety and let them go by concentrating on your breathing and movements.
Once finished with the exercise, give yourself a minute or two to close, feel where you are at that moment and then go about your day or night.
Mindfulness meditation can have immense effects on your physical and mental health. There is a reason this practice has been developed over thousands of years, which is reason enough to give it a try.
Cognitive ability: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1053810010000681 Stress: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1809754