We have a problem with staying present. With everything we have going on around us, from our jobs and our friends, to the bills we have to pay and the social media at our fingertips, it’s just not easy being in the moment. And when we aren’t in the moment and instead are focusing on the stress in our lives, we are more prone to experiencing higher levels of anxiety.
Anxiety and depression are at an all time high among adults, and millennials are the most anxious generation yet. There are numerous reasons for high anxiety in our society such as accessibility to personal technology and financial difficulty, and it is definitely a problem worth paying attention to. Because of a rise in stress and anxiety among adults, there has been a corresponding rise in the popularity of mindful meditation.
Mindfulness is simply the state of being aware in the present moment. Mindful meditation is the practice of getting you there. This practice has been proven to help lower anxiety and increase levels of happiness and contentment, and it’s easily accessible to everyone. In case you’re interested but have never given it a try, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide to mindful meditation with tips on how you can start practicing today.
The Benefits of Mindful Meditation
The rewards of being mindful are endless. One of the greatest benefits is that it lowers your levels of anxiety because you are actively focusing on where you are in the moment, which takes your focus off of the things you can’t control. If your mind is occupied with what you’re experiencing right now, it can’t be occupied with the stressful things that are trying to come to the surface. Mindfulness aims to take up the space in your brain that your anxiety is trying to occupy.
Another benefit of mindfulness is increased happiness and gratitude. A foundation of mindful meditation is bringing your awareness to your body and mind, which helps rewire your brain to feel grateful for the moment you’re in. You’ll also notice that the less you think about the stresses you can’t control in your life, the happier you’ll be.
Setting the Stage: Creating the Right Environment for Meditation
If you’re a beginner, you might find that achieving mindfulness can be difficult at first because of the way our brains are programmed to always be busy. This makes setting the stage for your meditation an especially important step in learning how to quiet your mind.
Creating the right environment for meditation can look different for everyone. Some people enjoy meditating in their beds, on the floor of their home, or on their favorite yoga mat. Other people prefer meditating outside on their back porch or in nature. The key to choosing where you want to meditate is to find a place where you feel most comfortable.
Once you’ve chosen the place you want to meditate, your next step is to transform the space into what you need to help you cultivate awareness and peace in the present moment. Remember that mindfulness is about being aware, so you’ll want to think about which of your senses you can bring alertness to. For example, soft music in the background, your favorite scented candle or incense, and a comfortable blanket or mat to sit on are common things people choose to add to their meditation space.
While you’re thinking about what could be helpful to include in the space around you, also consider what could possibly be a distraction. Often times people will choose to leave their phone in another room, turn their TV off, and declutter the area around them. This simplifies your space and intentionally takes you away from things that might add stress. At the end of the day, meditation is a personal practice. The way you choose to cultivate mindfulness in your space is entirely up to you.
Okay, So How Do You Meditate?
Now that you’ve prepared a comfortable environment for meditation, it’s time to begin your practice! There are many different ways to approach mindful meditation, and we’ve highlighted a few of our favorites.
Posture and breathing
A great place to begin is focusing on your posture and pattern of breathing. You’ll want to sit up as straight as possible while still being comfortable. It should feel more like a natural posture than a forced one. If you’ve ever been to a yoga class, you might have heard your instructor talk about an “imaginary string” that stretches from the base of your spine to the very top of your head. Picturing yourself pulling the string upwards helps you straighten your posture so that your body is fully aware.
Breathing is one of the foundational ways to stay mindful during meditation. Focusing on your breath helps your body relax and your mind stay in a rhythm of attention. To practice meditative breathing, start with inhaling through your nose for three seconds and exhaling through your mouth for four seconds. You may want to adjust this as you get more comfortable with your practice, but this is a good place to start. Whenever you find yourself slipping away into distracted thoughts during your meditation, you can always come back to your breathing!
Total body check-in
A total body check-in is an amazing tool for mindfulness, and you can either begin your meditation with one or choose to use it as your main practice for the day.
The idea behind this is that in order to be fully present in our moment, we want to make sure that we are present in our mind and body. To do a total body check-in, you’ll want to start at the tip of your toes and work your way up through the top of your head, or vice versa. As you maintain your posture and rhythm of breathing, focus on each part of your body one by one. How do your hips feel? Are your shoulders relaxed? Is there any pain in your hands? Checking in with your body is a simple and effective way to be more aware in your present moment.
Another great way to meditate is focusing on a mantra, or saying, that you find helpful. Once you find a saying or two that you want to reflect on, you can apply it to your meditation practice. While maintaining your posture and breathing, repeat the mantras aloud or in your head. If you’re working on feeling less anxious, an example of a meditation mantra could be, “It might not be okay now, but it will be okay soon enough.” If you’re working on cultivating more happiness in your life, you could use a mantra like, “I’ll change what I can and make peace with what I can’t.”
If you’re finding that these forms of meditation aren’t what you’re looking for, you can also try guided meditation. Guided meditations are extremely popular and available on multiple platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, and mobile apps like Insight Timer. You can choose from multiple topics such as happiness, healing, letting go, and anxiety. Someone will then lead you through a mindful meditation on this topic. These are great for days when you’re feeling especially distracted or exhausted and need some extra help.
Awesome Meditation Tools
If mindful meditation is something you want to add to your life, it’s a good idea to have helpful some tools by your side. Here are a few of our favorites:
Insight Timer is one of the best rated and most popular meditation apps for your phone. The free version has over 15,000 guided meditations to choose from, and it allows you to search based on category, rating, or length of time. They offer a premium version for only $5 a month, which allows you to access additional meditation courses and cool features as well.
Headspace is an app that offers guided meditations, daily exercises, and a variety of peaceful sleep sounds. CEO and co-founder, Andy Puddicombe, is a former monk and expert on mindfulness meditation. They offer a free trial period, but users have to pay $7.99-12.99 per month after that.
If you want something a little more traditional than a meditation phone app, this daily journal is an excellent choice. With simple prompts and goal-setting features, this journal is a fun addition to your meditation practice.
Conclusion: Start Small and Keep Going
As you can see, mindful meditation can look very different depending on who is practicing. If this is something you want to try in your life, we hope this guide has been a useful tool for helping you begin.
It is important to remember that when it comes to meditating, it’s okay to start small. If you’ve never done it before, begin with just five or ten minutes. The key is to keep trying, even if you find yourself getting frustrated. If it feels too hard one day, put it aside and try again tomorrow. You won’t achieve perfect mindfulness overnight, but if you stick with it, you really will see the amazing benefits that mindful meditation can offer.