Are most of your thoughts in the future? in the past? or in the present moment?
If your mind spends too much time in the future or the past then you would benefit from mindfulness. Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, through a gentle, nurturing lens (Greater Good Magazine). Mindful living leads to a happier and more fulfilling life.
Years ago, I read “Wherever you go, there you are” and it was captivating. The way he writes and the things he says make you feel you can have more peace. This book is a must read if you really want to learn mindfulness (being in the present moment and having greater awareness). You don’t have to trust me though, it is a national best seller. If you read my blog on gratefulness and want to learn how to to be more mindful, this book will help with that.
Many times we are focused on the past or the future we want to have. A lot of the time we are only slightly aware of this. “What is more, we are also only partially aware at best of exactly what we are doing in and with our lives, and the effects our actions and, more subtly, our thoughts have on what we see and don’t see, what we do and don’t do (Kabat-Zinn).” This quote is from the introduction (I would love to quote the whole introduction because it is riveting, but of course I won’t).
Concepts from Wherever You Go, There You Are
Are you living here in the present? Many people feel as though they know who they are and what they are doing. But if your mind is wrapped up in the past or future, that isn’t so. The book describes it as living in a dream state and mindfulness helps you wake up from it. Being more mindful means developing greater wisdom, knowing yourself so much better, and the list goes on… We can make better decisions on our journey through life when we wake up with mindfulness.
As I was rereading the intro, one of the things that spoke to me is the understanding that each moment is influencing what happens next. Lately I have been caught up in things happening too slowly. But maybe if I took the time to write down the things I’ve achieved or learned in just one week, I would see that things are not happening slowly at all.
Many people look outside theirselves for answers to happiness and fulfillment, and society has all sorts of ideas on what we “should” be doing and how we “should” be living. This book helps you to look into your own mind to find the answers. This book will teach you about meditation, but also the concept of mindfulness.
Moving on from the book…
First off, if you have ever thought of it as religious, some strange spiritual concept, or a form of hypnosis, it is not. It is simply breathing and being present in the moment.
When I first learned about meditation I thought it was a complicated concept where I had to reach this deep relaxed state where my mind is completely silent and I don’t even feel my body anymore. But that doesn’t need to happen, you can get benefits from meditation without having that happen. Actually, my husband took a class on meditation and he was able to get to that point, but it took him a lot of practice and he had an instructor to help.
Over 8 years ago, I took an interest in mediation after hearing a lot about the benefits and needing a way to better manage my stress. So I would practice quite often, sometimes for 30 minutes at a time. I used the recording my husband had from his class. I started to manage my stress better and become more mindful even though I never reached that point of losing all feeling or sense of self. I’ve also done meditation for just 5-10 minutes and have felt more relaxed and mindful afterward.
The Goal of Meditation is Not About Being More Positive
You don’t have to be positive all the time. It’s perfectly okay to feel sad, angry, annoyed, frustrated, scared, or anxious. Having feelings doesn’t make you a ‘negative person.’ It makes you human. – Loris Deshene
I have personally had many times in my life where I have felt bad for my feelings. In fact, not even that long ago. Sometimes I have to remind myself to just be at peace with whatever I’m feeling in the moment. I can feel it without judgement, and then make a decision on whether I need to change it or feel it a bit longer.
There are days where being mindful might just be sitting with our sorrows, are pain, or whatever we are feeling and just feeling it. Mindfulness can help us to examine those feelings without feeling guilt or judgement. But also intense feelings of anger, anxiety, or fear can become less intense through meditation.
As I mentioned in my gratefulness blog, we also don’t have to feel guilty if being grateful is not helping much when we are struggling. It can help in any situation to be mindful and grateful, but if we are not more positive it doesn’t mean we are doing it wrong.
Mindfulness is helpful for everyone and is a great thing to practice regularly. There are some schools where kids are given the chance to learn mindfulness and do some yoga exercises. I think that is an incredibly helpful thing to learn at a young age. Kids can learn to better handle their emotions, understand them, and make better decisions.
How Do You Meditate?
Meditation can be something you do while sitting, laying down, or even while standing. You can meditate in silence, listen to calming music, or do instructor led meditation.
There are Youtube videos on all types of meditation. You to do a progressive relaxation focuses on relaxing the body. So you lay or sit comfortably, close your eyes, silence your mind, and go through a scan of your body relaxing every part. Mindfulness meditation is even simpler it is just relaxing the body and then paying attention to your thoughts and observing them without judgement. You don’t need any instruction to do it. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated.
Other Popular Meditations Include
- Focused meditation where you concentrate on your breathe the sound of a gong, a candle flickering, or another object.
- Visualization meditation you imagine a scene such as a waterfall, a beach, or any imagery that feels relaxing to you. You focus on what you would see, but also what you would feel, hear, touch, or taste.
- Movement meditation is practicing qigong, tai chi, or a type of yoga.
- Mantra meditation is where you make a sound or repeat a word or phrase. This is a great choice is you struggle to focus on your breath.
- Transcendental meditation (TM) you repeat a word or sound until you reach an ultimate state of inner peace. It is recommended to work with a certified TM practitioner to learn it, although it isn’t hard. This type of meditation is supposed to provide the most benefits, and there is a lot of research on it. Many celebrities rave about the benefits of it.
- Loving-kindness meditation is used to strengthen feelings of compassion, kindness, and acceptance toward oneself and others (Bertone & Hoshaw, 2021). This helps with anger and bitterness toward others.
My experience is mostly with progressive relaxation, mindfulness, focused, and visualization meditation. I’ve been interested in transcendental meditation for awhile, so I might have to try that too.
“The effect size of TM on overall self-actualization was approximately 3 times as large as that of other forms of meditation and relaxation.” — Journal of Social Behavior & Personality (meta-analysis of 42 scientific studies) (Transcendental Meditation).
There are a ton of resources on how to meditate for beginners, and guided meditations that are 5, 10, 30 minutes to 2 hours long. There are a ton of options!
Benefits of Meditation
Meditation calms the nervous system. It can actually help reduce inflammation which is the reason for a lot of chronic health issues.
Improved Mental and Emotional Health
Meditation leads to greater psychological wellbeing.
Stress reduction is a huge benefit! Meditation, which focuses on calming the mind and regulating emotion, can help to reduce chronic stress in the body and lower the risk of its side effects (Mejia, 2023). Studies have shown long term benefits for people who struggle with anxiety and depression and practice meditation regularly.
Meditation can also help sharpen your memory and focus better. It actually increases emotional intelligence. You may find it easier to calm yourself down after something upsets you. If you are calmer during busy traffic jams you are definitely doing something right!
With greater awareness from meditation many people are more innovative, better at problem solving, and have greater awareness of their actions.
Meditation can also strengthen relationships with people often being more cooperative, more empathetic, and less reactive. When you are more focused on the present you become more self-aware. This improves your relationship with yourself and others.
Improve Physical Health
Other physical improvements include improved sleep, reduced pain, slowing brain aging, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease.
Lastly, if you struggle to fall asleep at night because you have too many thoughts racing through your mind, meditation may help with that.
“The effects of regular meditation can be far reaching, both physically and mentally. In as little as eight weeks, meditation programs can profoundly affect aspects of brain functioning that influence self-awareness, empathy, and stress (McGreevey, 2011).”
Mindfulness Without Meditation
If you struggle to relax and do meditation you might just try some mindful activities. You might walk and just notice the way the breeze feels, the sound of your feet hitting the pavement, what you smell, or what you see. When you eat you think about the texture of the food, the temperature, etc.
Activities like coloring or drawing can also work great as mindfulness activities. The goal is to practice awareness of what you are doing, seeing, smelling, feeling, hearing, or even tasting.
The book “Wherever You Go, There You Are” has several chapters on applications and perspectives on applying mindfulness to your life and the benefits of doing so.
One of the benefits though of doing meditation is that you may find yourself doing some mindfulness activities naturally.
View more mindfulness tips here.
Lastly, The Benefits of Doing Nothing
I have been adding the art of doing nothing a lot into my life and I do see the benefits. Often I will just sit and stare out at nature while drinking a cup of coffee and it is a great way to relax and do nothing.
Chris Griffiths and Caragh Medlicott say “It’s true that doing nothing alone won’t help you get more things done, but when you use the power of doing nothing correctly, it can actually increase your productivity and boost your energy so you can better tackle a heavy workload (Scott).” Your brain actually needs a break from constantly thinking about different things. Just like rechargeable batteries, our brains need time to rest and recharge.
Your brain can actually become more creative and you can better solve problems when you practice the art of doing nothing.
Science shows that when our brains are daydreaming the part of the brain that is responsible for complex problem solving and ideation actually lights up. If you have ever found your best ideas come when your taking a shower or falling asleep you have seen this work.
When you take breaks during your workday are you on social media? surfing the web? or do you take some time to just do nothing? I could definitely use more nothing time. I take walks on my lunch breaks and get away from technology, but I usually have a lot of thoughts running through my head.
During the height of COVID my husband and I would just sit on our couch swing outside, maybe have a glass of wine, talk for a bit, but also spend some time in silence. We were doing a lot of de-stressing activities at once with nature, conversation, wine to relax us, and swinging for some reason is super calming.
I paused for 10 minutes in the middle of writing this to do be in a mindful state and do nothing. At first I found myself resisting, and then once I gave in I was really relaxed. I also came up with more things to add to this blog. I don’t meditate so much as dong mindfulness exercise, and it is just a preference. Could I benefit from meditating more? Yes, probably! This blog has made me interested in spending more time meditating.
Try meditation, being more mindful, try doing nothing, and see if it has an impact on your life.
Scott, Ellen. STYLIST/Doing nothing is good for you – here’s the science behind it. Retrieved from: https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/productive-power-doing-nothing/739933
Welch, Ashley. (2023, January 17). EVERYDAY HEALTH/Meditation 101: A Scientific Guide on How to Meditate for Stress Reduction and More. Retrieved from: https://www.everydayhealth.com/meditation/
Sutton Ph.D., Jeremy. (2019, June 19). Positive Psychology/20+ Health Benefits of Meditation According to Science. Retrieved from: https://positivepsychology.com/benefits-of-meditation/
Greater Good Magazine/What is Mindfulness. Retrieved from: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition
Mejia, Zameena. (2023, May 3). Forbes HEALTH/10 Science-Backed Benefits of Meditation. Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/health/mind/benefits-of-meditation/
mind/Mindfulness exercise and tips. Retrieved from: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/mindfulness/mindfulness-exercises-tips/
Vacayou/How to Meditate in 7 Simple Steps. Retrieved from: https://vacayou.com/magazine/meditate-7-simple-steps/
Bertone CNHP PMP, Holly J. Hoshaw, Crystal. (2021, November 5). Healthline/Which Type of Meditation is Right for Me?. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/types-of-meditation#mindfulness-meditation
Kabat-Zinn, Jon. Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life. Hyperion, 1994.
Transcendental Meditation. “Transcendental Meditation: Home.” https://www.tm.org/home.
McGreevey, S. (2011). Eight weeks to a better brain. Harvard Gazette. Retrieved February 9, 2023, from https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/01/eight-weeks-to-a-better-brain/.
I am a business owner, marketer, innovator, writer, and artist. I have a passion for wellness with a wealth of knowledge surrounding: wellness, flaws in healthcare, root causes for chronic illnesses, and alternative treatments. My expertise includes over 5 years of marketing, research, and developing content for holistic health businesses. Plus, my own personal journey of becoming chronically sick: understanding what went wrong, and finding a way to heal and live a healthier life.