It’s easy to get caught up in the fast pace of day-to-day life, and too often we neglect the importance of simply slowing down and taking a moment (we know, it’s definitely easier said than done). This idea of slowing down and taking the time to check in with both you and your surroundings is the thinking behind the popular practice of mindful meditation.
But what exactly is mindful meditation, how can we practice it and what are the benefits? Allow us to explain all.
What is mindful meditation?
While the name sounds somewhat intimidating, the premise of mindfulness meditation is actually very simple. The practice of mindful meditation combines meditation with mindfulness, which is the mental state of being focused on ‘the now’, giving you the chance to accept thoughts and feelings that you might otherwise overlook.
“Mindfulness meditation involves becoming aware of the present moment and gently focusing on it. It entails paying attention to your senses, thoughts, feelings, and surroundings and accepting everything as it is,” says Chris Toulson, the founder of Meditation and Mindfulness.
Techniques for practicing can vary but on the whole, it usually involves deep breathing and the awareness of body and mind.
How is mindfulness meditation beneficial?
“Among the benefits of the practice are stress and anxiety reduction, greater emotional regulation, improved memory, and relationship building. Studies have also shown that it helps combat depression,” says Toulson.
Mindfulness meditation has also been proven to help promote better sleep (something we could all do with), after a 2019 study found that mindfulness meditation significantly improved sleep quality.
How do I practice mindfulness meditation?
When you think of mindfulness meditation, your mind might wander to picture a range of candles, essential oils and mantras, but it turns out that you don’t actually need any of that stuff. To get started all you need is three to five minutes spare, a comfortable place to sit and a judgement free mindset.
Like anything, getting started is always the hardest part. All you need to do is focus lightly on the sensation of your breath, and when your attention drifts, make sure you return your attention to your breathing once again.
This seems relatively simple, and in theory it is, but it can be quite hard to maintain focus and attention when practising on your own. If you find this is the case, Chris recommends a guided meditation.
“In addition to gently introducing you to meditation, guided meditations will introduce you to various particular meditations other than focusing on your breath. These include loving-kindness meditations (which entail sending pleasant thoughts to others) or body scan meditations (which involve tuning into the sensations of your body),” he says.
When it comes to guided meditations there is something for everyone. If you prefer practising in the comfort of your own environment in your own company, then there are hundreds of apps available such as Headspace, Calm and Insight. This works perfectly if you have busy schedule and want to grab five minutes to centre yourself. But if you’re the type of person who likes a group environment, then live classes might be for you. Classes take place in a variety of locations both virtually and in person, so you can pick which works best for you.