Mindfulness, or the ability to be fully present in the moment, can have many health benefits. From decreased stress, anxiety, and depression, to increased levels of focus, happiness, and better sleep, research has found that the practice of mindfulness can have a positive impact on one’s mental health. Let’s take a closer look into what mindfulness is and the various techniques that can be utilized.
What is mindfulness?
When practicing mindfulness, a person is fully engaged with what is happening and what they’re doing in the present moment. They are aware of their thoughts and feelings, free from distraction, and without getting caught up in emotion. Instead of reacting quickly to situations, mindfulness helps people pause and calmly take a step back to reflect on what is happening.
The difference between mindfulness and meditation is that mindfulness is not a temporary state of mind, a person can practice mindfulness during meditation; however, mindfulness becomes a way of living. While practicing mindfulness, a person is able to be fully present in the moment, developing a greater sense of awareness of one’s thoughts and surroundings. By becoming more aware of unpleasant thoughts and emotions, it is easier to acknowledge and let go of them and then move forward.
Recent research revealed that patients with anxiety disorders had “sharply reduced stress hormone and inflammatory responses to a stressful situation after taking a mindfulness meditation course.” Given the results of the study, the researchers believe that mindfulness helps to improve resilience to stress by forcing people to focus on the present, as opposed to “the traumatizing past or worrisome future.”
Further studies found that in as little as two weeks of practice, mindfulness could significantly improve one’s reading comprehension, working memory capacity, and ability to focus.
What are some techniques for practicing mindfulness?
According to Headspace, a popular meditation app, these are the 8 most common techniques for practicing mindfulness in meditation.
This is one of the most popular forms of meditation. This technique uses the breath to focus the mind and maintain awareness. Whenever the mind starts to wander or get distracted, return the attention back to the breath, focusing on the rise and fall of the chest.
This technique involves scanning the body from head to toe and drawing awareness to any discomfort, aches, or sensations that may exist.
This technique involves making a “note” of a particular thought or feeling that occurs when distracted during meditation. This practice helps us create space and let go of emotions. It also helps us to learn more about our habits and thought patterns.
This is a unique technique, that involves focusing on the image of different people. This could consist of people that we know, don’t know, people we like or dislike. This practice helps us direct good feelings and positive energy to ourselves, as well as to others. It also helps us to let go of any feelings of negativity.
While practicing skillful compassion, the focus is on a person that we know or love. It involves paying attention to the feelings and sensations that arise from the heart. This technique is helpful in opening our hearts and minds to other people, while it creates a sense of happiness in our own minds.
Visualization works by having us focus on a person or something more abstract, to hold our attention. The familiar image is then supposed to help create and maintain a “relaxed focus.”
This technique involves letting the mind rest and as thoughts enter your mind, it lets them pass through and leave, as opposed to distracting you from the present moment. This does not involve focusing on the breath or a visualization.
When using this technique, we ask ourselves a question in the second person (or the “you” tense — for example, “What are you most thankful for?”). Instead of answering the question, we are able to draw awareness to the thoughts and feelings that arise when we focus on the specific question.
In short, it is evident that incorporating mindfulness into our daily routines can greatly benefit our mental health. It’s important to take care of our minds and allow time to process our thoughts and feelings, becoming more aware of our surroundings and the present moment. This will not only help us feel happier but also much calmer, as we go about our lives.