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Even though mindfulness meditation has been practiced in the east for centuries, it’s only really been looked at in the west since the 70s. With a resurgence in popularity for taking care of oneself from within, mindfulness meditation is finally catching on in the west. Since it’s gaining popularity, naturally you probably have a few questions about it.
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Mindfulness meditation is the act of meditating by focusing on your surroundings. It is a practice that keeps you in the now and aware of your mind, body, and soul. A quick exercise is to press your toes firmly against your shoe or the floor. Focus entirely on the feelings you’re experiencing. There are more in-depth guides to doing full-on mindfulness meditation, this is just a very small example. You can do this while sipping coffee or tea. Pay attention to the warmth, the flavor, how you feel while drinking it.
What Does it do to Your Brain?
Even though practices such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, and other similar practices have been gaining ground, there are still plenty of skeptics out there. After a mere eight-week course, MRI scans showed that practitioners of this had their amygdala shrink. This is the part of your brain that controls the ‘fight or flight’ response, fear, and emotion. It also tells your body when to be stressed.
The pre-frontal cortex, which is most commonly associated with ‘higher thinking’ functions such as decision-making, concentration, and awareness grew. Tons of research and studies are still being done, so check out news surrounding mindfulness meditation for some truly mind-blowing science!
What’s the Difference Between Mindfulness and Meditation?
Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who has studied mindfulness for over three decades, has come out saying that when you practice mindfulness, you’re actually meditating. This is because mindfulness is awareness. It’s something that people don’t’ usually take the time to practice. However, when you devote concrete time (usually about 20 minutes), to awareness, you are in fact meditating. Don’t let that amount of time scare you away. Try short bouts to begin with and work your way up to it.
How do you Practice it?
Though there are other factors that come into play, such as sticking with it and going with the flow, when it comes to the actual practice of mindfulness meditation, it’s actually pretty easy.
1 – Sit either on the floor or in a straight-backed chair.
2 – Focus on your breathing. This can be the swell and fall of your stomach as you breath, or the feel of the air flowing through your nostrils and out of your mouth.
3 – Once you are fully concentrated on this, expand your focus. Allow yourself to become aware of other things, such as sensations, sounds, and your ideas.
4 – Now you have to consider and embrace each and every sensation and thought without judgment. Don’t decide right now if it was good or bad. This will only get your mind racing. If your mind does begin to take off, center yourself again by focusing on your breathing, and repeat the process.
Take a few moments right now to try it. See if it helps to calm and relax you. At first, you may notice that your mind wanders, a lot. Just notice it and come back to what you are doing right now. Time will go by quicker than you thought. You may want to try a mindfulness app to begin with to give you some framework. If you tend to be an anxious person, try just 5 minutes in the morning to see if it helps your day.