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Meditation is an ancient Eastern practice used today to lead to a mentally healthier and happier life. It can help you to cope better with everyday life, reduce stress and improve your overall wellbeing.
Mindfulness is a type of meditation, which is growing in popularity and backed up by a growing body of academic research. Mindfulness is a simple meditative technique that can be easily learnt and applied in any context, resulting to many benefits including reduced worry, improved working memory and attention, and increased wellbeing. (Course-Choi, et al. 2017)
Mindfulness is a state of awareness and attentiveness to present experiences without judgement. It is observing your thoughts, feelings and sensations and being fully aware of your surroundings. Mindfulness is not about judgement or control – but rather observation, grounding and being truly present. You work towards connecting the mind and body through various techniques. You can be mindful by focusing on one thing, such as your breathing, surrounding sounds, your body movements and feelings.
Research has found that mindfulness meditation increases emotional and attentional control, as well as altering the contextual evaluation of sensory experiences like muscle fatigue. This is achieved because mindfulness requires focus and attention, which exercises pre-frontal mechanisms (the part of the brain that regulates inhibitions). Strengthening pre-frontal mechanisms helps filter irrelevant and distracting information (e.g., catastrophising or worrying thoughts), which allows the brain to dedicate more resources and energy to goal-relevant information (e.g., the next placement of your foot on a dirt track). (Zeidan, et al. 2012)
The need for mindfulness in today's world
We live in a fast-paced world where it’s easy to live on autopilot. From the moment that we wake up in the morning to the moment that we get to bed at night, our day can be filled with endless thoughts, activities and stressors. You may find yourself caught up in the past or worrying about the future, when in fact the safest place for you to be is in the the present moment. Because of this, mindfulness has become an important component to quieten our mind and live a healthy and prosperous life.
What are the benefits?
There are many benefits of regular mindfulness practice, for both physical health and mental wellbeing. It can be used to:
What are the types of mindfulness practice?
There are many different types of mindfulness practice – which one you commit to depends on your personal preferences. Here we will explore four types:
How to integrate mindfulness into your everyday life
The first step is to introduce a daily routine. Like any exercise, mindfulness benefits from regular practice. Researchers often use a mindfulness intervention plan that takes place across many weeks (Mackenzie, Poulin, & Seidman-Carlson, 2006; Hofmann, Sawyer, Witt, & Oh, 2010). Try just a few minutes each day, perhaps when you wake up in the morning to prepare for the day ahead, or right before you go to sleep at night, to help you unwind, detach from the day and prepare for sleep.
Commitment is key when it comes to mindfulness. Try to commit to daily practice and stick to it for a few weeks. After a few weeks of daily practice, you will likely find that it’s become an integral part of your daily routine and something that you may even depend on!
Here are three mindfulness practices for you to try in your own time:
This is a technique which will take you through your five senses to help remind you of the present. This is a calming technique that can help you get through tough or stressful situations.
Take a deep belly breath to begin.
5 - LOOK: Look around for 5 things that you can see and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I see the computer, I see the cup, I see the picture frame.
4 - FEEL: Pay attention to your body and think of 4 things that you can feel and say them out loud. For example, you could say, I feel my feet warm in my socks, I feel the hair on the back of my neck, or I feel the pillow I am sitting on.
3 - LISTEN: Listen for 3 sounds. It could be the sound of traffic outside, the sound of typing or the sound of your stomach rumbling. Say the three things out loud.
2 - SMELL: Say two things you can smell. If you can’t smell anything, then name your 2 favourite smells.
1 - TASTE: Say one thing you can taste. It may be the toothpaste from brushing your teeth, or a mint from after lunch. If you can’t taste anything, then say your favourite thing to taste.
Take another deep belly breath to end.
Breathing practice - 4-4-8 Breathing
The 4-4-8 Breathing technique is great to use when you feel stressed or tense because it can help to calm the nervous system, clear the head of distractions and reduce stress.
Breathing practice - Square/Box/Mindful Breathing
Box breathing is a simple but powerful relaxation technique that can help return your breathing pattern to a relaxed rhythm. It can clear and calm your mind, improving your focus.
Step 1: Breathe in counting to four slowly. Feel the air enter your lungs.
Step 2: Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Try to avoid inhaling or exhaling for 4 seconds.
Step 3: Slowly exhale through your mouth for 4 seconds.
Step 4: Repeat steps 1 to 3 until you feel re-centred.
Repeat this exercise as many times as you can. 30 seconds of deep breathing will help you feel more relaxed and in control.
There is so much to gain from regular mindfulness practice. No matter what you can commit to, know that any amount of practice is nourishing your mind, body and soul. If you’re struggling with mental health challenges and would like further support, the Drake WorkWise team is here for you on 1300 135 600.
Ref. Course-Choi, J., Saville, H., & Derakshan, N. (2017). The effects of adaptative working memory training and mindfulness meditation training on processing efficiency and worry in high worriers. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 89, 1-13.
Reference. Zeidan, Grant, Brown, Mchaffie & Coghill (2012)