Mindfulness meditation has become well publicised in recent years. An ancient Buddhist tradition, mindfulness is the practice of being aware of our actions in the moment whilst suspending judgement of them.
Perhaps one of the most widely known ways mindfulness has become so popular is because of its associations with reducing depression – research has shown that mindfulness is just as effective as medication at treating depression. A trial, published in the medical journal The Lancet, involved over 400 adults suffering from depression who were assigned to mindfulness exercises or medication. The study found that after two years 44% of the mindfulness group relapsed as did 47% of the medication group. These findings highlight that mindfulness can be just as effective as drugs at treating depression and comes without the side effects associated with medication. So with this in mind, here are five easy ways to work it into your day:
This is one of the most common ways to use mindfulness. If you are new to meditation start with 5 or 10 minutes – you can increase this by 5 minutes each week until you reach a time that fits with your lifestyle. Find a comfortable position either on a cushion on the floor or in a chair and take a breath in. Let your mind be solely focused on this and then breathe out. Repeat this process keeping your mind on your breathing, when you catch your mind wondering bring it back to focus on your breath without passing judgement on your thoughts.
Rather than occupy your mind with T.V. shows, the radio or any other outside influence, focus on the task in hand to achieve a sense of inner calm. Use meal times to practice mindfulness by paying attention to the food you are eating. By noticing the smells, sounds, colours and tastes of your meal without attaching emotion to it you train your brain to separate your thoughts and feelings. This is a key component of mindfulness and can be cultivated through every day activities.
If immersing yourself in the outdoors is your thing then when not kill two birds with one stone and use the time to be mindful? Taking a walk outside is the perfect opportunity to take in the nature around you. Again, do not pass judgement on what your mind settles on; just acknowledge what your senses are picking up. This exercise is perfect for teaching us to be more present.
A body scan can enables you to get in touch with your body whilst detaching any worrying thoughts about ill health. Simply lie down and relax. Let your mind wonder over your body from head to toe acknowledging every part of body. If a part of your body poses unsettling thoughts, just let your mind wonder to another part and let any thoughts pass without attachment. As with all mindfulness exercises this one is great for strengthening your sense of focus.
Whilst meditation tries to encourage us to steer our mind away from our thoughts by focusing on the breath, thoughtful mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to the ideas going through our mind. Again, the key is to be aware of what you are experiencing but to suspend all emotions you would normally associate with what is passing through your mind. It may be helpful to acknowledge your thoughts with phrases such as ‘I am having a thought about …….’, or ‘I am thinking about …’. By actively acknowledging your thoughts and deliberately disassociating your feelings from them, you train yourself to see your thoughts for what they actually are: a collection of information and not powerful truths that you can’t change.
Mindfulness doesn’t have to just be a meditation; it can be worked into almost any area of your life. If it seems like meditation is to big a step to right now begin by working mindfulness into your already established routine – even this can bring about many of the associated benefits to your life.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/59217476@N00/17068733341″>Everybody Present: Mindfulness in the Classroom</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>