With the stresses and day-to-day challenges we’re faced with at work and at home, it can be difficult to find our zen or overcome negative emotions. This is probably why mindfulness meditation has gained increasing interest, and why many psychologists and wellness coaches are placing an emphasis on learning meditation techniques and exercises.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
There are many different types of meditation, some aimed at helping you relax, others aimed at producing altered states of consciousness. Mindfulness meditation is unique in that it doesn’t seek to change your state of being so much that it aims to shift your focus. Specifically, mindfulness meditation encourages you to focus on the present moment and simply be aware of the thoughts passing through your mind, whether they’re good or bad.
At a glance, it may seem counterintuitive to focus on the present if your present moment is one of chaos or suffering. But what mindfulness meditation teaches is that by becoming present with ourselves and simply becoming aware of our thoughts, we can discover an inherent wisdom and inner balance that will prevent us from being quick to judge our experiences as good or bad. There is a shift from trying to change everything around us to looking inward and using our intuition to overcome discomfort or suffering.
Meditation Techniques and Mindfulness Exercises
There are plenty of ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday routine. Below are just a handful of easy meditation techniques and exercises you can use to practice mindfulness:
With this mindfulness exercise, you practice a meditation technique centered around breathing. You can carry out this exercise anywhere, so long as you have a place to sit comfortably. After finding a comfortable spot, make sure your upper body is upright with a long, straight spine.
Focus on finding a slow and steady breath, then begin counting inhales and exhales from one to ten: inhale one, exhale one; inhale two, exhale two, and so on. When you’re done, repeat the counting, but this time count backward. This cycle is repeated five times to create a steady rhythm and calmness with your breathing.
Once you’ve finished the cycle, continue breathing in this rhythm for another few minutes, and visualize your breath going through your passageways and into your lungs and body, embracing the physical process of breathing.
Similar to breathing meditation, this exercise focuses on the breath. Rather than counting the breaths, however, you simply focus on following your breath. Each time you breathe in, focus on the inhale of that air. Then when you breathe out, follow the exhale. It doesn’t matter if your breaths are long or short, you simply want to follow the inhale-exhale process all the way through, and repeat this for every breath.
This is an excellent way to increase your mindfulness and sustain awareness without interruptive thoughts. It will also help you cultivate slower, more harmonious breathing over time, without you trying to force it.
When we listen to sounds, music, or people talking, we’re often quick to let our minds wander. Whether it’s a memory that a song reminds us of or forming a judgment in regards to something someone says, we move past listening very quickly.
Next time someone is talking to you, practice truly listening to the words that person is speaking and the way he/she is speaking them. Focus on the uniqueness of their voice, tone, and word choice rather than forming a judgment or thought about what that person is saying.
If you’re listening to a song, truly listen to the rhythm and words of the song rather than allowing your mind to wander to a memory or thought the song may remind you of.
This meditation exercise is probably one of the easiest to practice on a daily basis because you most likely eat every day. The exercise focuses on the sensory technique of meditation.
Next time you are going to eat something, take a moment to look at the food in front of you and observe its color, shape, and aroma. As you place the item in your mouth, reflect upon its texture, temperature, and taste. While you are doing this, you are focusing entirely on the food rather than any other thoughts, and simultaneously awakening your senses to become more aware.
Like the other mindfulness exercises, walking meditation seeks to shift your focus to your present moment. When you go for a walk, you have multiple opportunities for mindfulness meditation. Whether you are focusing on your breath as you walk, concentrating on each step you take, or simply listening to the sounds of nature around you, there are plenty of chances for you to simply be aware of your present moment.
Walking is also a wonderful way to connect the mind and body, as you practice appreciation and awareness of the miracle that is your body and its capability to take you anywhere.
Mindfulness Meditation Benefits
If you can practice some of the meditation techniques and exercises shared here, there are several benefits you can obtain. The most common benefits associated with mindfulness meditation include:
- Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
- Increased immune function
- Lowered blood pressure
- Lowered heart rate
- Increased awareness
- Improved mood
How often you practice mindfulness meditation is dependent on whichever meditation exercise you are utilizing. If you want to practice meditation when you eat, this is something you can do at least a few times a day. If you are meditating by going for a walk, then this may be something you do once a day or once every other day.
To increase the benefits you get from mindfulness meditation, it’s best to combine meditation exercises on a daily basis, using any opportunity you get.