HOW TO ESTABLISH A MINDFULNESS MEDITATION PRACTICE IN YOUR ROUTINE?

 

I am a great believer in the daily practice of mindfulness meditation.  Why?  Let’s start by exploring what mindfulness is.

According to Jon Kabat Zinn, Emeritus Professor of Medicine at the University of Massachusetts http://www.mindfulnesscds.com/, and now a well-known proponent of mindfulness studies, mindfulness is ‘Paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally’.

It’s about really being here and not charging through life in distracted mode, being worried about the past, anxious about the future or caught up in your reaction to what a boss may have said, or a passing comment by your spouse.

One of the best ways to be mindful is through meditation. It’s effective in stopping the chatter in your mind, and in reaching a level of peace and quiet.

However, when I talk to people about starting mindfulness meditation, I come up against a number of common concerns, the three most frequent being:

-       I’ve tried that before, it doesn’t work

-       I don’t have time for meditation

-       Isn’t there a pill I can take for this?

 How do I respond to these? Here’s how:

I’ve tried that before, it doesn’t work

       Firstly, don’t be so hard on yourself.

       Secondly, meditation is a practice.

       There is no one way to do it. Meditation teachers may tell you to approach it in a particular way, but the reality is, your goal – from a clinical perspective, not necessarily a spiritual one – is to learn how to focus your attention on what matters to you.

       There will be easier days, and more difficult days.

       Sometimes you will have a co-operative brain and other days you will feel scattered. Both will push you towards your aim.

       With ongoing practice you will reach a point where you are able to recognise unwanted thoughts and dismiss them.

I don’t have time to meditate

Look at your meditation sessions as a time dedicated to yourself, to be by yourself. This may be challenging to begin with, because any ‘efficient’ modern human might be inclined to say: “If I had those spare blocks of time, I’d already have them allocated to other more ‘important’ tasks!”

There’s no way around it - you will need to schedule the time in or the practice will be squeezed out by other seemingly higher priorities.

Try rising a little earlier, and follow the practice until a new habit is formed.

Isn’t there a pill I can take?

Yes, you can take pills. They’re called anti-depressants. They definitely have a place at the pointy end of the disease state.

However wouldn’t you prefer your first line to be something that was natural and free? If the answer is yes, it’s time to explore meditation.

Resources to get started

The easiest way for you to start mindfulness meditation is to try a self-guided app like one of these:

·      Calm (free app)

·      Headspace (subscription-based, from the UK)

·      Smiling Mind (free app developed by Australians)

It’s important that the audio style works for you. If you find the voices on the above options annoying, please contact me for some alternative resources.

The longer and more frequent, the better

Aim for 10 minutes per day for 6 out of 7 days when you start meditating, so you can achieve the most positive change for your brain.

Your brain does change the longer you meditate. That’s because of neuroplasticity. The brain is plastic and malleable and we can mold and train it. Like you go running to improve your cardiovascular fitness, or lift weights to improve your strength, you also need to meditate to improve the muscle of your brain.

The benefits

There are hundreds of clinically-documented benefits that come from meditation. For now, I am going to concentrate on three:

1)   Decreases anxiety, stress and burnout. A stronger connection forms between your pre frontal cortex (thinking brain) and the limbic brain (emotional brain). [1]With practice, you can stop your emotional brain from hijacking your thinking brain during stressful situations, which allows you to respond and behave in a more rational and objective way.

2)   Improves empathy, engagement and social connections. A stronger connection forms between your thinking brain and the insula (where empathy is created). [2]This healthy connection enhances your capacity to understand where another person is coming from, i.e., you can imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes.

3)   Improves Memory. The size of your hippocampus (responsible for memory) increases.[3] Participation in an 8-week mindfulness-based stress reduction course (MBSR) is often associated with changes in gray matter (blood flow) in the hippocampus. Which makes you less likely to forget your keys, your phone or someone else’s name.

For many of us, our busy lives demand instant results. Often if we do not like something immediately we are tempted to rush headfirst into something else. However by doing an 8-week MBSR course, you are encouraged to use your restless and churning mind as an opportunity to look more deeply into it.

The outcomes and benefits will be unique for you, and the peace and freedom you will feel will be unparalleled.

If you’re looking for mindful tips to get you started, follow us on Instagram @eqconsultingco

Modern life can be complicated. If you or your organisation wants to invest in your psychological wellbeing contact us at Chelsea@eqconsultingco.com

 

 

 

 

[1] Lazer., S. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density, Journal of Psychiatry Research, 2011 Jan 30; 19 (1): 36-43

[2] Lazer., S. Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density, Journal of Psychiatry Research, 2011 Jan 30; 19 (1): 36-43

[3] Williams, M., Penman, D., Mindfulness a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world, Little Brown Book Company, London 2011