What Does Mindfulness Have to Do with Meditation?

What Does Mindfulness Have to Do with Meditation?

A photograph of a black man in a white t-shirt, showing him from the shoulders to the top of his head. His eyes are closed and his face is slightly raised upward in a relaxed pose. The image represents the benefits of mindfulness and relaxation

What Does Mindfulness
Have to Do with Meditation?
How Does It Improve my Health?

What Does Mindfulness Have to Do with Meditation? And How Does It Improve my Health?

You probably know that you don’t have to devote your life to sitting on a mountaintop to get the serenity you see glowing from a Tibetan monk.

Yet people make mindfulness and meditation practice way more complicated than they are. Just three minutes a day—the time it takes to brush your teeth (if you’re doing it right)—can yield a calmer mind and promote a longer, healthier life.

What does Mindfulness even mean?

Mindfulness is being fully present in the moment – with your kids, at work, with your spouse. It’s accepting that you can’t be in two places at once and instead focusing all your attention on what’s in front of you.

Non-mindfulness is ruminating about your child’s problems at school while you prep for an important work presentation.

Actually, as you’re reading this, you’re already in a mindful state. And even if you’re eating a sandwich while you do it, you’re focusing most of your attention on what you’re reading. Mindfulness follows a chain of command: Your thoughts control your mind and thus your body, in that order. i.e., If your thoughts are following the words, then your mind is engaged with what you’re reading and your body reacts in big or small ways. Sighing, nodding…perhaps chewing.

We’re constantly reacting to what we think.

What does meditation have to do with mindfulness?

Meditation promotes mindfulness by training us to focus intentionally. It’s like a baseball player performing drills to ensure he makes the big catch during the big game.

But make no mistake. Meditation is not about getting rid of your thoughts. It’s about observing them not with judgment but with curiosity.

Meditation can be as simple as a quick body scan or as in-depth as sitting quietly for three minutes or an hour if you choose. The benefits are the same—if practiced every day.

Is interrupting my day for this worth It?

It is if you value your health. Anxiety and depression pose great risks to both our physical and emotional health. Anxiety affects almost every system in your body: cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, and neurological. Depression affects your concentration, appetite, and sleep and can lead to suicide.

Aside from anti-depressives, mindfulness and meditation are the most effective ways to ease both.

Is interrupting my day for this worth It?

According to empirical research, meditation:

  • Improves sleep
  • Lowers cortisol, a stress hormone
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Boosts memory, focus, and cognitive flexibility (there’s growing research that mindfulness training can alter your brain’s structure—not a bad deal if you’re concerned about the brain cells you may have killed during those college drinking binges.)
  • Regulates your mood, which helps improve your relationships, which, as we all know, can be a major source of stress itself

And not for nothing, but daily meditation can reduce insurance costs. Heart disease is in the top three insurance underwriting risks. And anxiety accounts for a good many heart problems. Meditation and mindfulness calm anxiety.

Other than taking time out to sit quietly for a few minutes, there aren’t any downsides to mindfulness or meditation. Plus, Lebron James, Jeff Weiner, Michael Jackson, and Bill Gates do it. So why not give it a go?

How do I practice mindfulness meditation?

  • Set aside time in your schedule for however long you’ve chosen to practice—even if it’s three minutes.
  • Sit. You can choose a chair or the floor, wherever you’re comfortable.
  • Close your eyes and observe what’s going on in your body through your muscles and your senses. If you need something to keep your thoughts in the moment, observe your breath as you inhale and exhale.

Most importantly, don’t judge what comes into and out of your mind. Take an “oh that’s interesting” approach rather than an “Ugh, my shoulders are tight. I should schedule a massage.”

If the “should” thoughts become louder than the “that’s interesting” thoughts, just keep breathing. Awareness is a marathon, not a sprint. The more you do it, the easier it comes.

If you want to really dive into the topic, here’s some resources:

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Nicholas Trawinski

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