Mindfulness meditation is a powerful and ancient meditation technique that is proven to help reduce stress, alleviate anxiety and depression, and even help with pain and illness.
By re-training your mind to stay present and calm in the moment, mindfulness meditation changes the physical structure of your brain, creating long-lasting changes and positive, healthy habits.
You might think something so powerful must be difficult or require a lot of training, but think again! Mindfulness meditation is free, easy to do, and the only effort it requires is sitting still for 10-30 minutes every day.
Anyone, regardless of age or ability, can practice mindfulness, and in this mindfulness meditation guide, we’re going to show you everything you need to know about mindfulness meditation.
We’ll tell you all about the scientifically proven benefits, give you tips to get your practice started and show you exactly how to do a mindfulness meditation.
The Origin & Meaning Of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation has been around for thousands of years. Though its exact origin is unknown.
Instructions for mindfulness meditations have been found in the ancient texts of nearly every major religion including Hinduism, Buddhism. Judaism and Christianity.
However, it’s Buddhism that really helps us understand the origin of mindfulness meditation because it is integral to the Buddhist path. In Buddhism, it’s important to cultivate a non-judgemental awareness of yourself, your feelings, your mind and your surroundings. This distance and observation can be trained through a series of mindfulness meditations.
For many religions, mindfulness meditations were used as a way to step back from the world and connect with your spiritual self. Sometimes this connection was used as a way to resist temptation, while other times it was used as a way to realize and understand the connection between “self” and “other.”
Today the meaning of mindfulness meditation has shifted away from its religious connections. While some still practice it within the context of religion, mindfulness meditation has been adopted by psychologists, healthcare professionals and other secular organizations as an effective way to deal with the stresses and illnesses of the modern world.
Though many unique styles and techniques have been developed, all mindfulness meditations have the following in common:
- Awareness Is Key
All mindfulness meditations focus on developing awareness. Sometimes this awareness is of the body or breath, while other times it may focus on the outside world or internal thoughts.
- Non-Judgement Is Essential
Mindfulness meditations all focus on experiencing awareness without judgement. In other words, mindfulness is about witnessing an experience or sensation without attachment or criticism.
- It Cultivates Peace
Witnessing something without attaching meaning or value creates an important detachment that results in a calm and peaceful mind. Though your feelings are valuable and important, mindfulness teaches you how to find serenity despite them.
The Benefits Of Mindfulness Meditation
Though the spiritual effects of mindfulness meditation are well-known, there are also profound and scientifically-proven emotional and physical benefits.
Many of these benefits have only recently begun to be studied, but the past decade has seen a huge shift toward attempting to understand how mindfulness meditation works, how it affects the brain and what the subsequent results and benefits are.
Before you get started with your mindfulness meditation practice, you may want to know some of the benefits you can expect.
Below, we’ve listed some of the most powerful ways mindfulness meditation can help you. There are many, many more benefits beyond what we’ve listed, but, in general, mindfulness meditation can help you become a calmer, healthier, and happier person.
Emotional Benefits Of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness is an extremely effective tool for dealing with stress-based reactions like anxiety, depression, obsessive thinking, insomnia and generalized worry.
One team of researchers analyzed the data from nearly 40 studies on mindfulness meditation and found that 95% of study participants found relief from their stress-based symptoms after practicing mindfulness meditation.
The most incredible result from that study is in regards to who was affected. As it turns out, age, number of weeks in treatment, and type of technique did not have an effect on the results, and the vast majority of participants retained their positive results long after the study was complete.
It’s been known for a long time that mindfulness makes you feel great, but now researchers and scientists have been able to prove that a mindfulness practice is one of the best things you can do to help and heal your emotional life.
Physical Benefits Of Mindfulness Meditation
Long-term stress is linked to a variety of illness. When your emotional life isn’t healthy, your body responds.
Decreased immune systems, increased risk for viruses and infections, asthma, diabetes, obesity, ulcers, digestive disorders, heart disease, migraines, autoimmune disorders, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even cancer have been linked to stress.
So it’s no wonder then that practicing mindfulness meditation can prevent, alleviate the symptoms of and even cure many diseases and illnesses.
Here are just some of the ways mindfulness meditation can improve your health:
So you’ve learned that mindfulness meditation is a traditional meditation that can greatly improve every aspect of your life, and you’ve also learned that it doesn’t take a lot of effort, time or energy.
You’re probably eager to jump right in… but how?
We’ve come up with 12 tips that can help you start your mindfulness meditation practice today. Read on to find out what they are!
12 Tips To Get Started With Mindfulness Meditation Today
If you’ve never meditated before, or you’ve been meditating your whole life, you’ll find these tips helpful as you begin your mindfulness meditation practice.
1. Do It Today
It’s easy to read tons of articles on the internet and get really motivated and excited about something. It’s another thing altogether to actually take action. That’s why you should make the commitment right now that you’re going to practice mindfulness today. Your journey starts right here and now. Commit to it and try it out.
2. Set Aside The Time
Depending on the type of technique you want to try, and whether or not you want to follow along with a guided audio recording, you’ll need to set aside 10-30 minutes for your meditation.
If you’re thinking to yourself that you don’t have the time, consider the spaces in between things where you normally browse the internet, scroll through social media or watch TV. Somewhere in those spaces, you’ll find at least 10 minutes that you can devote to mindfulness.
3. Find A Quiet Space
Mindfulness is all about observation without judgment, so it’s important for beginners to eliminate the amount of sensory information they get when they first start out. If you’re surrounded by too much noise, your untrained brain will struggle to take in the moment. It’s best to begin your practice in a completely quiet, solitary environment.
4. Set A Timer
It’s easy to get lost in mindfulness meditation. The respite from noise and stress is usually quite welcome. So, if you’re not following along with a pre-recorded guided meditation, you should set a timer for 10-30 minutes (your choice).
This will prevent you from wondering how long you’ve been meditating. Time will usually pass by very slowly during your mindfulness meditation, so your mind may begin to wander towards thoughts of time if you don’t set an alarm and forget about it.
5. Get Comfortable
Mindfulness meditation is not like some traditional meditations that require a bit of uncomfortableness. Many people insist on sitting in the traditional meditation pose, but that’s not possible or comfortable for everyone.
If your physical discomfort is distracting, change your position. It’s more important to be comfortable and focused, than to challenge yourself with discomfort. Be sure not to get too comfortable and fall asleep!
6. Find Your Breath
Before you begin your meditation, close your eyes and just listen and feel your breath. Many guided meditations will instruct you to do this, but it’s best practice to do this before starting any meditation.
Listening and feeling your breath gives your brain the signal that you’re ready to be calm, relaxed and focused. Don’t force your breath; just breathe normally and experience it.
7. Don’t Judge, Just Observe
During your meditation, you may find yourself distracted, uncomfortable, anxious, bored or experiencing any number of thoughts and feelings. These experiences are important for the practice of mindfulness.
By simply observing them like clouds passing in the sky, you are training your brain to detach and observe instead of judge and react. When an emotion or feeling comes up, simply say in your mind “I see that I am thinking _____.“
8. Don’t Judge Your Judging
When you first begin to practice mindfulness, you’re going to judge. It’s part of the challenge and the rewiring of your brain.
You may feel discouraged or upset by how much judgement you have for your own thoughts and feelings. For example, you may have a serious of thoughts and feelings, then, you may react by thinking, “Stop being distracted. You’re terrible at this!”
That’s judging your judging. Instead, try to just stay focused on observing everything, and don’t beat yourself up for distraction or judgement. It is going to happen! It’s completely ok. The practice in mindfulness is learning how to detach from all of that and simply be in the presence of it without judging it or trying to change it.
9. Return To Your Breath
When you feel yourself going down the judgment and reaction spiral (and trust us, you will), simply return back to the rhythm of your breath that you observed at the beginning of your meditation.
Even if you’re listening to a guided meditation and you lose focus on what they’re saying, always return to your breath. Each time you return to your breath, you send a signal to your brain that says, “I’m ready to be calm. I want to be calm. I am calm.”
10. Practice Everyday
Practice makes perfect. Your brain is literally reshaping itself when you practice mindfulness meditations, but it has a lot of work to do to re-work all those years of judgment and reaction.
Be patient with yourself and realize you are working with a lifetime of brain connections. It’s going to take some time to re-wire those connections, so be sure to practice it every single day.
Don’t worry, it won’t take an entire lifetime to undo what your brain has been trained to do. This is because conscious re-wiring is vastly more powerful than all that subconscious, mindless wiring you’ve been used to. Intention and focus are infinitely powerful.
11. Start And/Or End Your Day With Mindfulness
Starting your day off on the right foot is a great way to shape your reactions throughout the day. Beginning a day with a morning mindfulness meditation tells your brain how you’d like to process and handle the day ahead.
When you go to sleep at night, your brain often tries to sort out everything that’s happened, which can leave you feeling stressed and unable to get a good night’s rest. Practicing mindfulness meditation helps your brain detach from the day and stay in the present moment.
12. Practice Mindfulness Outside Of Meditation
Mindfulness meditation isn’t the only time you can practice mindfulness. To supercharge your experience, step back a few times a day and focus on your breath. Instead of going into a full meditation, just sit quietly and observe and witness the moment without judgment.
Our 4 Favorite Guided Mindfulness Meditation Youtube Videos (Free)
Many beginners to mindfulness meditation find it helpful to have someone guide them through the meditation. Just sitting down and attempting to observe your thoughts, feelings and surroundings without judgement can seem overwhelmingly challenging.
Thankfully, there are hundreds of thousands of excellent, free resources out there to get your mindfulness meditation practice started.
Here are four of our favorites: