In the present contemporary world, stress has become an unavoidable reality of life. Stress is not something which only adults face, even the children and teenagers suffer from stress caused by peer pressure, bullying, and family difficulties. And, stress is not something that is only caused because of serious issues like loss of a job or a break-up. It knocks your door every now and then, sometimes in the form of too much work or everyday hassles like getting stuck in the traffic while sometimes it is caused because of money related issues.
Stress is common, however, it is important to keep a check on it. If you’re living with high levels of stress, you’re putting your health at risk. Stress wreaks havoc not only on your emotional wellbeing but also on your physical health. It narrows down your ability to think clearly, make the right decisions and enjoy life. Moreover, stress is a common trigger to anxiety. Now, the question is how to manage this stress and how to prevent the little things to affect your mental health. The answer is – through Mindfulness Meditation.
Mindfulness Meditation for stress and anxiety has brought impressive results. In this article, we’ll be covering how to practice mindfulness meditation to help relieve anxiety and stress.
Contents of the blog
- What is Mindfulness Meditation?
- How you can practice mindfulness meditation in your daily life
- Mindfulness & Meditation: What’s the Difference?
- How Mindfulness Meditation is the Best Technique to Overcome Stress and Anxiety?
- How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation to Help Relieve Anxiety and Stress?
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Most often we got caught up in a pattern of swirling thoughts – ruminating on past events, thinking about the food to be prepared for the dinner or could-be situations of the future. However, we can overcome this slowly and steadily with the aid of Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness Meditation is a type of meditation which involves focusing on the present moment without any interpretation or judgement. Practising mindfulness involves guided imagery, breathing methods and other practices that relax body and mind and reduce stress.
You can simply start practicing mindfulness-based meditation by sitting comfortably for 5 minutes, closing your eyes and focusing on your breath. Practicing mindfulness meditation helps you bring mindfulness into everyday life. Mindfulness meditation is the technique to perform daily, however you can inculcate mindfulness in other daily activities as well.
Here is how you can practice mindfulness meditation in your daily life
Brushing your teeth: Try to focus on how you are brushing, feel the brush in your hand and notice the movement of your arm instead of thinking what all you need to accomplish in a day.
While Driving: Focus on the road, the way you are taking to reach your destination, the music playing in your car.
Doing laundry: Pay attention to the smell of clean clothes, feel the fabric and focus on how well you are folding the laundry.
There are many more such activities that you perform daily, being mindful while doing these daily activities will allow you to live the present moment to the fullest, rather than thinking of the past activities or worrying about the future. This way you can also combat the stress.
Mindfulness & Meditation: What’s the Difference?
Mindfulness and meditation include many similarities and can overlap, but these words aren’t exactly interchangeable. Meditation nurtures and expands mindfulness, while mindfulness supports and enriches meditation.
Meditation is an intentional practice, where you use concentration, emotional balance, awareness and increase calmness. Seated meditation begins with deep breathing where you sit in a comfortable position, bringing all the awareness towards breath and guiding the mind towards a single point of focus. There are many types of meditation, some of these includes:
- Loving-kindness meditation
- Breath-awareness meditation
- Mantra-based meditation
- Visualization meditation
- Guided meditation
“Mindfulness is the awareness that arises when we non-judgmentally pay attention in the present moment. It cultivates access to core aspects of our own minds and bodies that our very sanity depends on,” says Jon Kabat-Zinn, from The Unexpected Power of Mindfulness Meditation.“Mindfulness, which includes tenderness and kindness toward ourselves, restores dimensions of our being. These have never actually been missing, just that we have been missing them, we have been absorbed elsewhere. When your mind clarifies and opens, your heart also clarifies and opens.”
Mindfulness is a specific form of meditation, which involves practices that enable you to reach ultimate consciousness and concentration, to have the ability to self-regular and acknowledge one’s mind. Mindfulness embodies a number of techniques to reach this intense level of consciousness. Some of these include compassion, love and patience.
Mindfulness-based meditation “teaches us how to be unconditionally present; that is, it helps us be present with whatever is happening, no matter what it is,” says Karen Kissel Wegela, Ph.D., author of The Courage to Be Present.
How Mindfulness Meditation is the Best Technique to Overcome Stress and Anxiety
Mindfulness has become a buzzword in recent years, garnering headlines and endorsements from business leaders, celebrities and psychologists alike. According to a new study published in the journal Psychiatry Research, anxious and stressed people who took a mindfulness course which involved different strategies reacted to stress better and had a lower hormonal response compared to the others who didn’t adopt mindfulness practices.
As per Dr Elizabeth Hoge, associate professor at Georgetown University Medical Center, “There’s been some real scepticism in the community about meditation and mindfulness meditation” She and her team wanted to understand whether people only felt better after meditating, or by practising so they are able to experience the real and measurable changes when it comes to stress.
The study involved healthy adults who were experiencing anxiety disorder and stress-related issues. Half of the people in the study were asked to follow a mindfulness meditation training course called MBSR, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Meditation. The other was asked to follow a stress management education course, with lectures on the importance of exercise, diet, sleep and time management. Both courses lasted eight weeks with the same amount of class time and homework.
People who were part of the MBSR course were taught to pay attention to the present moment without judgement through exercises like body scan meditations, breath awareness and gentle yoga. Though the practices have roots in Buddhism, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Meditation is non-religious. According to Dr Hoge, “you don’t have to believe in anything or chant in another language.” The classes were conducted weekly for 2.5 hours.
The real point of the course isn’t to help someone relax in a group environment, and to find out how the person reacts during the moments of stress. Before the beginning of the courses and right after the conclusion, the researchers put the participants through a task that stoke a stress response, which involved eight minutes of public speaking, followed by a round of videotaped interviews in front of an audience of people in white lab coats with clipboards.
The results of the study were as follows: The people who were the part of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Meditation reported feeling less stressed than people in the other group. Also, the group that participated in MBSR, had lower measurements of ACTH, a stress hormone released in the brain. The other group of people were more stressed when they went through the test after the conclusion. This is possible because they knew and anticipated how bad it would be.
“We have objective measures in the blood that they did better in a provoked situation,” says Hoge. “It really is strong evidence that mindfulness meditation not only makes them feel better but helps them be more resilient to stress.”
The study also adds to the evidence that Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction which is becoming popular across the whole US country could be a treatment of anxiety and stress for people who don’t want to take medication or go through the therapy.
How to Practice Mindfulness Meditation to Relieve Stress and Anxiety
There is no right or wrong to practice mindfulness meditation to relieve stress and anxiety. Try to accept whatever your individual experience is. The goal while practising mindfulness meditation is not to achieve perfect focus on your breath, but rather to learn how the mind works. Your mind will wander a lot initially and your job is to catch your mind and bring it back to mindfully control the focus of your attention.
- Find a comfortable spot to sit. Whether you are sitting on a chair in the park or meditation cushion, it should be a stable, solid seat not perching or hanging back.
- Place your leg appropriately. If you are sitting on the floor, sit in a cross-legged position. If you’re sitting on the chair, the bottom of the feet should touch the floor.
- Make sure your back is straight. Don’t make your back stiff, rest your head and shoulders comfortably on top.
- Situate your arms parallel to the upper body.
- Close your eyes. Relax and bring your attention to your breath.
- Notice your breath, how it flows into the body and flows out from the body.
- Your attention might leave the breath and wander to other places. Don’t worry, when you get around to noticing your mind wandering, just gently return it to the breath.
- Continue focusing on the breath for 8 to 10 minutes, and then slowly open your eyes and come back to the room.
Practising mindfulness for stress and anxiety over time calms your mind and makes you less reactive to negative events or uncertainty in any particular situation. It is also effective in helping you process stressful events effectively.
Mindfulness meditation has its roots in Buddhist philosophy, however it is adopted for Western use. Being mindful means having an open and compassionate attitude towards your own experience in the present moment. It means being in the moment, rather than rushing around or constantly worrying about the future.
Mindfulness-based meditation practices have helped people reduce stress and anxiety as well as lower blood pressure and improve the resilience to illness. Mental health professionals use mindfulness intervention to treat depression and anxiety. Practice mindfulness meditation as often as you can!