Mindful Meditation as a Guide
This has been one of the most stressful years in modern history. Other than science-fiction writers and infectious disease experts, who could have ever imagined that we would be faced with a global pandemic in our lifetime. Although things will eventually get better, hopefully, sooner rather than later, anxiety is now at an all-time high. Until then, you may want to carefully consider practicing mindful meditation to help you cope with all of the uncharted stress ahead.
Nevertheless, even without all of the stress associated with a global pandemic, mindful meditation can help you cope more effectively with a whole host of everyday issues that contribute to stress. These include family relationships, personal finances, health concerns, and all of the other daily issues that have a tendency to clutter up precious storage space in our minds. Ultimately, too much stress can lead to anxiety, which is generally recognized as an intense, excessive, and persistent feeling of worry and fear about everyday situations, for example, going to work or enjoying a social occasion with friends and family. Symptoms of anxiety may include any combination of panic, rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, sweating, and feeling tired or worn out.
Severe and persistent anxiety can negatively impact your diet, mood, sleep patterns, and turn your overall daily routine upside down, creating an unhealthy, and even potentially dangerous situation. People that are suffering with symptoms of anxiety have significantly higher rates of depression, suicide, and substance abuse. For many, myself included, one of the most effective ways to manage anxiety is to reduce the underlying stress that fuels it. With that said, mindful meditation may be one of the easiest ways to help you do this.
Practicing mindful meditation on a regular basis has been proven to improve your overall physical and mental health by significantly reducing stress. Although anxiety medications can help, there are no side effects, nor prescriptions required when practicing mindful meditation. It has the potential to help you improve your ability to cope with anxiety, stress, depression, sleep disorders, and relationship issues from the very first time you try it. The goal of mindful meditation is to essentially gain greater control over your thoughts, so that you will ultimately be at more peace with them. Mindful meditation encourages you to let your thoughts flow along a more harmonious path.
Mindful Meditation as a Guide
Mindful meditation empowers you to be able to stay focused in the moment, while not dwelling on the past, nor taking up valuable head-space worrying about the future. The idea is to focus all of your attention on the now so that you do not find yourself stuck in the past, or trying to fix problems that have not yet occurred.
Step 1: Set Aside the Time
You live a fast-paced life where time is always of the essence, and often in short supply. That’s why it is so important to stay sharp and keep your mind running at peak performance. Mindful meditation can help you accomplish this. Start off by setting aside some personal time everyday to recharge. You need it. You deserve it. And although you may feel as though you do not have the time to practice mindful meditation every day, try to schedule it at the same time every time you practice it. In this way, you can make it part of your daily life routine. Whether you prefer to start off the day fresh with mindful meditation in the morning to collect your thoughts, or use it to wind down after a long day at the office, just try to make it a regular part of your life, and practice it when you can, whatever works best for your lifestyle.
Step 2: Set a Time Limit
You can begin by practicing mindful meditation for about five minutes a day, just to get used to the feeling. More than likely it will take you several times to get into the habit of meditation. I suggest setting a timer so that you do not have to think about watching the clock. Use a soft notification that will do the job without disrupting your serenity. Then try meditating the same amount of time each day. You can increase the duration of meditation once you become accustomed to it.
Step 3: Be Comfortable
Pick a place to practice mindful meditation that is comfortable, quiet, and safe. Try to eliminate as many unwanted distractions as possible. Remember noise should be at a minimum. As a matter of fact, it may be best if you can practice mindful meditation when no one else is around for a more balanced experience. For comfort and peace of mind, you can sit on the floor or on a comfortable chair.
Nevertheless, since not everyone is comfortable with seated meditation. You can also choose to practice mindful meditation while standing. Most importantly, you should practice mindful meditation in a location where you can feel at one with yourself, perhaps in a park, or even at home in your own backyard. In this instance, the further away you are from others, the greater the overall benefit you may receive from the process.
If you want to try practicing mindful meditation while standing, you should start off by standing straight up. Your back should be upright but relaxed, without appearing too rigid. Then clasp your hands in front of you, turn the thumb of your left hand inwards and clench your fingers around it.
Cover your right hand around your left, holding them both parallel to your abdomen. This will also improve your overall balance. Finally, roll your shoulders, look down towards the floor while taking a couple of deep breaths. Either way, no matter which position you choose, there is no need to struggle when practicing mindful meditation. Make the process work best for you.
Lastly, wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes. The idea is to allow your thoughts to flow naturally. Therefore, try to make yourself as comfortable as possible in the process.
Step 4: Let Go
Life is hectic, especially now. You need a way to get away, even though you may not actually be able to do so physically at the moment. To really embrace the mindful meditation process you have to find a way to clear your mind and completely let go of as much stress as possible. So start off by closing your eyes, then rest your hands loosely on your lap, or the arms of the chair. Be sure to focus on your breathing, being aware of each breath coming in and going out. Absorb all the sounds and smells around you. When you become aware of certain sounds, smells, and thoughts that capture your attention, like an alarm or fresh flowers, let yourself acknowledge them and then come back to the moment again.
Step 5: Breathe Slow
Proper breathing is an essential part of effective mindful meditation. Your breathing should be slow and rhythmic. This will help you relax and let go of your unwanted anxiety. Keep your eyes closed, breathe steady, and allow worry, anxiety, and unwanted thoughts to escape from your mind as you exhale. Let your mind rest by completely embracing the moment. Allow yourself the knowledge that your worries are only leaving for a short period of time, so you have to make the most of the moment. Let thoughts come in and out with your breathing, without actually trying to control them. Breathe in through your nose, allowing the calming energy to ultimately take negative thoughts back out as you exhale.
Step 6: Count Your Breath
Try counting your breaths to help maintain a steady rhythm and pace. Take deep, slow breaths while counting up to four and then hold for a count of four. Initially try to sustain this for at least five minutes while you keep your mind focused on your breathing. If you wander off before you get to four, start over at one again. Our minds wander all the time, so allow it to happen, acknowledge it, and then come back to the moment you are in. Just let it flow naturally as you relax.
Step 7: Get Back to the Moment
If you focus on your breathing it will help keep you in the moment and mindful. And remember that being mindful is about being in the moment. You can’t mess this up. There is no wrong way to practice mindful meditation. You just have to give yourself the time to drift off into a peaceful and stress-free headspace. Although your mind is bound to wander from time to time, you will always want to come back to center. And if negative or distracting thoughts keep coming back, that’s a sign that you are stressed out about that issue. I recommend that you process those thoughts until you are able to come back to the moment.
With mindful meditation, you can now experience inner peace whenever and wherever you choose. And with regular sustained practice, it can help you reduce your level of anxiety and thereby improve your overall quality of life exponentially as you take greater control over your emotions. Now, more than ever, coping effectively with anxiety and stress is essential. Being aware of your emotions and how they impact the way you feel provides you with the insight necessary to ultimately feel better about yourself through a greater sense of self-awareness.