Meditation and mindfulness have their roots in ancient Eastern religious and spiritual practices, particularly Hinduism and Buddhism. There has been a prolonged trend in the West toward incorporating meditation and mindfulness practices into daily life, following a wide breadth of research outlining the positive health and emotional benefits. Research indicates that such practices have restorative benefits on the brain and improve one’s mood.
Mindfulness is the practice of expanding one’s sense of self-awareness. It is defined as “a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment.” Specific practices that promote mindfulness include, but are not limited to: meditation, guided imagery, yoga, and tai-chi.
Meditation is the practice of directing one’s attention to a single point of reference. It may involve focusing on one’s breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra. All in all, meditation involves one turning their attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing their attention on the present moment.
Research on mindfulness and meditation has outlined the following benefits:
- Reduced Rumination. Decreases time spent thinking, worrying, and experiencing anxiety.
- Stress Relief. Reduces stress.
- Memory Boost. Improves working memory.
- Improved Focus. Increases focus and concentration on a specific experience or task.
- Emotional Regulation. Improves management of emotions in a healthy way, rather than through avoidance or reacting negatively.
- Cognitive Flexibility. Creates new and more adaptive neural pathways, resulting in less rigid and more creative and flexible thinking.
- Relationship Satisfaction. Helps people respond better to relationship stress, resulting in improved communication and greater ability to reflect on positive aspects of relationships, which then leads to greater feelings of satisfaction within relationships.
- Self-Awareness/Insight. Promotes greater understanding of oneself.
Try the following apps and resources to help guide you in meditation and mindfulness:
- A 7-Minute Mindfulness Practice to Shift out of “Doing” Mode
- Mindful Books and Apps Worth Checking Out This Month
- Chopra Guided Meditations
- Self-Compassion Guided Meditations and Exercises