A growing body of research has found that mindfulness can help to improve attention and memory, reduce stress and anxiety, and promote empathy and self-regulation. You might hear mindfulness and meditation used interchangeably sometimes, but they are actually two different things that are quite interrelated.
If you're interested in improving your overall health and well-being and tapping into the mental and physical benefits of mindfulness, you might be interested in learning about the growing mindful movement throughout Canada and the western world.
One of the best things about mindfulness is that you can take it with you wherever you go. No matter what you're doing, you can benefit from turning your attention to the present moment.
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is a form of meditation. When you practice mindfulness, you work towards being intensely present. This includes being very aware of the things that you are feeling and sensing in the moment without making judgments or trying to interpret them. According to Certified Mindfulness and Meditation Instructor Susie Kaplan of Mindfulness for Daily Life, "During the pandemic, mindfulness became a real “buzz” word. It’s important to understand that these ancient teachings have been around for over 2500 years. It is not a fad or a trend that will come and go. According to the Buddha , correct mindfulness training can eliminate the stress and suffering in life. It is not a quick fix but a training to be aware of our inner world and live life in the present moment. Much of our time is spent in thoughts of past regrets or future worries. We are rarely living in the present moment. Meditation is an important part of the training as it helps calm the body and mind. We need to carve out the time for this formal practice. Mindfulness on the other hand is an informal practice where we see what is arising in the body and mind in any given moment. Through the training we develop a mind that has the ability to remain calm and grounded during challenging situations"
How Does Mindful Meditation Work?
There are a number of different components to mindfulness. These include guided imagery, breathing methods, and other practices that help to reduce stress and relax both the body and mind.
It can be incredibly draining to spend too much time solving problems, planning, thinking, or daydreaming. These things can also lead you to be more at risk for anxiety, stress, and depression.
When you practice mindfulness exercises, it can help redirect your attention towards the present moment and away from the kind of thinking that leads to anxiety and stress.
Practicing meditation can help benefit your emotional well-being by giving you a sense of balance, peace, and calm. These benefits can help you stay calm throughout the day and even contribute to managing the symptoms of some health conditions.
Who Can Benefit from the Mindful Movement?
Just about everyone can benefit from mindfulness if they are looking to improve their day-to-day well-being. Practicing mindfulness can be very useful for students, as it can help improve attention and focus, reduce stress and anxiety, improve cognitive performance, and much more.
Who Is Mindfulness Not For?
While mindfulness is a practice that is accessible to pretty much everybody, there are a few people who might find mindfulness to be problematic for them.
For example, people who suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder might find that practicing mindfulness can increase their trauma symptoms. People who are very sick also might find it overwhelming to learn a new skill. Lastly, people who have dependencies on alcohol or drugs likely will not be able to fully engage in the therapy.
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What Can the Mindful Movement Help With?
Practicing mindfulness can help with a number of physical and mental health concerns. If you are looking for a practice to help support your overall well-being, mindfulness is a great choice.
Helps to Relieve Stress
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, roughly 1/4 of Canadians say that they feel stressed most days. Practicing mindfulness can help to relieve stress in a number of different ways.
First of all, it can help you become more aware of your thoughts. This allows you to step back from them and have more perspective on the situation. It also teaches you to pause for a moment before reacting to the situation.
Mindfulness also makes you more able to focus. This can help you to have a greater sense of well-being and work more efficiently which can reduce the stress response.
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Lowers Blood Pressure
One study by the University of Waterloo concluded that just 10 minutes of mindfulness per day improves focus. This particular mindfulness program involves body awareness, meditation, and some gentle yoga.
This study involved 56 adult participants in the United States. It was found that those who practice this mindfulness technique had significant decreases in the measurement of their blood pressure when compared to other participants who practiced progressive muscle relaxation.
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One of the most important things that you can do for your overall health is to make sure that you are getting enough, high-quality sleep. When we sleep, our body is able to heal and rejuvenate itself as well as our mind. When our sleep is disturbed or we struggle to fall asleep, it can have a long list of mental and physical health effects.
If you are regularly sleep-deprived, it can make your mood, attention span, and memory suffer.
Practicing mindful meditation and other mindfulness practices can help to improve your sleep. One of the reasons this is the case is because mindfulness is very effective at calming your mind, taming anxious thoughts, and promoting a good night's sleep.
Improves Mental Health
Many psychotherapists have been turning towards mindfulness meditation in recent years. This is because it is increasingly apparent that this practice can be an important element in the treatment of a number of conditions, including anxiety disorders, depression, eating disorders, couples conflicts, substance abuse, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
How to Practice Mindful Meditation
Now that we've learned all about mindfulness, let's take a look at some of the different mindful meditations you can practice.
Body Scan Meditation
There are many benefits to practicing body scan meditation. For one, and help train you to explore and be with the sensations that you seal that are both pleasant and unpleasant. It also makes you more capable of paying attention during real-time experiences.
If you are able to, it is recommended that you put 30 or 40 minutes towards this practice. However, if you have less time than not, it's better to do a shorter body scan meditation than to not do it at all.
To do this practice, you can set up or you can lay down. Some people choose to stay sitting up because it is easier for them to stay awake this way.
You can either half close your eyes or fully close your eyes during this practice. It's now time to bring awareness to the sensation of your body breathing in and out. There is no need to rush during this process, but when you are ready, you can intentionally prevent and investigate whichever part of the body feels right.
Or you can choose to do a body scan either beginning at the feet or at the head.
You might notice sensations such as tightness, buzzing, tingling, temperature, or something else entirely. Remember, your only task is to tune in to what you're experiencing without judgment.
You should primarily be open to what you're noticing and curious. You will eventually notice that your mind has started wandering. When this happens, you will want to gently redirect your attention back to the feelings of your body.
When you're finishing up your session, take a few minutes to fill your entire body at once. Open your eyes and enjoy the moments as you mindfully move through them.
If you're interested in practicing mindful meditation, you'll be glad to know that the ability to perform this practice is something everyone naturally possesses. The beauty is, this is something you can practice on a daily basis.
In every moment, you can practice mindfulness. If you are just beginning to get interested in meditation, it is best to start with a shorter amount of time. For example, consider sessions of just five or 10 minutes.
Eventually, the goal is that you can build up to longer meditation sessions.
In order to practice mindful meditation, you will want to find a quiet and clutter-free spot in your home. You can sit in natural light or leave the lights on. You could also find a spot outside where there won't be any distractions.
You will want to find a comfortable place to sit in your chosen location. Keep your upper body straightened but not stiffened. your arm should hang parallel to your upper body.
It is not necessary to close your eyes, but you can if you want to. Now it is time to relax and bring your attention to the sensations in your body or your breath.
Your mind will inevitably start to wander, particularly when you are first starting out. Don't worry about this. Simply notice that your mind is wandering and gently allow your attention to return to your breath.
When you find your mind wandering, practice observing your thoughts without the need to judge or react.
When you're ready to do so, you can open your eyes if they are closed and gently lift your gaze. Take a moment to notice how your body feels and notice any sounds in the environment. Pause for a moment before you continue, notice your emotions and thoughts.
You can choose to make walking meditation a formal practice or you can practice it informally when you are traveling between different locations. This is a chance to be aware of our environment during a time when we often have our minds elsewhere.
If you are designing a walking meditation session for yourself, it is good to choose a route where there will not be many distractions. You do not need to plan for a long walk. This is not an opportunity to see the sights of your environment but instead of time when you will keep your gaze in front of you and your eyes soft.
There are a number of different speeds at which you can practice walking meditation. You can even practice mindful running if you choose to.
Join a Private, Semi-Private, or Group Class
As with other types of group classes, many find it physically and spiritually beneficial to be in a group setting. We asked Susie a little more about her offerings in her classes. She said: "In my private practice, I coach people in setting up their own individual daily meditation and mindfulness practice. These teachings are experiential, and while it may be interesting to read books, the only way to truly understand mindfulness is by practicing. If your heart is open and you are willing to put forth the effort, the potential rewards can truly be life changing."
Mindfulness can even be applied to your daily meals. While you might not have time every day to spend an hour eating a sandwich mindfully, there are ways that you can incorporate mindfulness into your everyday eating habits. Try a small snack first. Take the time to let your mouth discover the taste and texture of the food before you start chewing it. When you do start chewing, do that slowly and notice how the flavour profiles change. When you swallow, imagine the food being delivered into your body and finally, imagine your body taking in all the wonderful vitamins and minerals your food has to offer.
Mindful eating can help you appreciate your food and also notice the impact that food has on both your body and your mind. It can help you remember that food is the fuel you use to maintain your health and well-being and can also help you deal with any issues you have surrounding food.
When you're eating mindfully, remove distractions and eat slowly. Stay tuned in to how your body feels and stop eating when you are no longer hungry. This practice can help you learn the difference between actual hunger triggers and non-hunger triggers.
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Mindful Movement Activities
You can practice mindfulness during countless activities, not just when you're sitting on your meditation pillow. Consider applying mindfulness to activities like lifting weights, riding a bike, running, and walking. You can also practice mindfulness while engaging in yoga or stretches.
Joining the Mindful Movement
Is it time for you to join the mindful movement? Learning to be mindful is free and can be incredibly beneficial to your overall health and well-being. Whether you are hoping to reduce stress, get better sleep, or manage your anxiety, mindfulness is a great practice to try out.
At Insurdinary, your mental health and wellness is important to us. We want all Canadians to have the necessary tools to deal with the stress of everyday life as well as the physical and mental health challenges they face. That's why we offer health insurance plans with the aim of providing the best coverage for all Canadians.
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