The practice of mindfulness/meditation is a means to quiet your mind by paying close attention to your thoughts, feelings, actions, and body sensations in objective and non-attached ways. It involves focusing on the here and now. By giving deliberate and nonjudgmental attention to the present moment, one acknowledges and accepts every thought, feeling, and sensation in and around at the given moment.
Researchers have found that as little as 5 minutes a day of the practice can result in powerful physical and mental health benefits. It is also one of the most powerful and effective method of managing stress.
The following are long-term benefits of mindfulness practice:
- Improved physical health
- Enhanced immunity
- Improved mental and emotional health
- Faster rehabilitation after illness
- Clearer thinking
- Greater self awareness
- Reduced feelings of stress
- Greater resilience to pressure
- Improved sense of spiritual fulfillment
- Improved quality of life
A study conducted on group of people undergoing eight-week training program in mindfulness meditation revealed the following:
- In measuring electrical activity in the brain before, immediately after, and then four months after showed that left-sided of the frontal brain activation, a pattern known to be associated with positive mood, was found among the meditators and not in the non-meditators. The study also revealed that meditation eases anxiety by 44% and reduces the symptoms of depression by 34%.
- Long term meditation was found to slow age-related loss of brain cells, particularly in the brain regions associated with attention and sensory processing.
- Immunity boosting – Richard Davidson and his colleague at University of Wisconsin along with Kabat-Zin conducted a study on the stressed biotech employees and found that at the end of the study, the group that completed the eight-week program who were given flu vaccines followed by blood test for immunity level assessment, the meditators were found to have higher antibody level than the non-meditators.
- Strengthen relationships: A study conducted at University of North Carolina found that couples who completed the course felt significantly more satisfied with their relationship than before and reported less stress in the relationship as compared to non-meditators.
- Improve memory: A study conducted in Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that regular mindfulness meditation slow down age-related cognitive decline.
Common elements required for meditation :
- A quiet environment
- A comfortable posture, whether sitting, lying or standing
- Focus of attention : mantra, your senses, or your breathing
- An ability to observe without judgement
Tips of mindfulness practice for beginners:
- you may train yourself to be mindful by hourly practice 60 seconds of observing your breathing
- during meals, savor each bite of your food and observe the taste, texture and consistency of the food you eat and avoid distractions such as TV
- while exercising – close your eyes for one set of repetitions and concentrate on the movement of your body
By regularly practicing the above you bring about awareness and that indirectly helps you to bring yourself to the present moment. And to bring yourself to a higher level of meditation you may join groups or look for instructors to guide you. Setting a regular quiet time daily for you to reflect and practice mindfulness by observing your breath or doing deep breathing daily may be a good start if you have a busy schedule and is not able to join a group or a retreat. The guideline below may be helpful for you to start mindfulness practice:
- Breathe easy
- Lie down or sit comfortably in a quiet room
- Play soft music without defined beats
- Close your eyes
- Breath in deeply and slowly through your nose.
- Pause briefly
- Breath out slowly and steadily
- Gradually increase the duration the out-breath so that it is about twice as long as the in-breath
- Slow down the breathing cycle, do it comfortably and do not strain
- Continue for 10-15 minutes
- Repeat daily
Source: Ultimate Wellness -The 3-step plan(2013) by Professor Kerryn Phelps AM; Prevention(Walk off Weight) Chapter 13