Ten million people in America practice mindful meditation. That’s quite a lot.
Mindful meditation has become popular as more and more people enjoy living a better, less stressful, more productive life.
Why are these people turning to meditation to improve their daily lives? The easy answer is, meditation works.
The more complex answer is that today, we are suffering from information overload and stress more than previous generations. Some meditators want to reduce stress and enjoy greater peace. Others seek more awareness to create a more purposeful life. Still others want to gain greater awareness and align their thoughts with their actions. Mindful meditation is useful for all of these purposes.
What is true for everyone, however, is that the more you know about your thinking, the more you are in control of your life.
Whatever the reason, mindful meditation can be a powerful force. Like music, life has many layers, and mindful meditation can help you become aware of all the nuances.
Mindful meditation isn’t magic. It allows you to concentrate your awareness on the here and now. All too frequently, our attention can scatter into the past or the future. We become distracted and unable to focus on what is important in the present.
Mindful meditation gives us power to focus on the here and now. It increases our mental energy, allowing us to perform better and achieve more. Quite simply, mindful meditation makes us more efficient in many areas of our lives.
More importantly, it puts us in control. The mind is an extremely complex labyrinth, where the subconscious can rule and throw roadblocks in our path. There are times we behave in certain ways without being consciously aware of why.
Mindful meditation increases our awareness and opens our minds to more answers. Our senses are heightened as we enjoy the present more fully.
Everyday activities, from what we eat, how we enjoy art and listen to music, and how we respond to friends and family become more vivid as mental walls crumble.
Mindful meditation relaxes us. With awareness, stress and unpleasant thoughts become less threatening and easier to handle. We become more relaxed and are able to let more joy and peace into our lives.
Today, we live in a state of impermanence more than ever before in history. More than a hundred years ago, most people spent their lives in the town in which they were born. They knew all their neighbors. Their station in life determined their job. It may not sound ideal to us, but it certainly wasn’t stressful.
These days, we live very fragmented lives. We may move regularly and barely know our neighbors. We switch jobs and friends on a regular basis. Constant change has become the one permanence on which we can rely.
There’s no denying that modern knowledge and conveniences have brought us untold advantages. However, at the same time, we have lost our connection to others and our surroundings.
Mindful meditation brings back that important lost connection to what is happening inside of us and around us. It’s not an antidote to the problems of living in the 21st century, but it can provide the skills to help us cope with many of its problems.
Did you know that you don’t have to be a yogi to reap the benefits of mindful meditation?
The more you practice, the better you will become. It’s like exercise for the mind. You know what daily exercise does for your body. It strengthens and firms those muscles. In much the same way, daily mindful meditation strengthens your mind and hones your thinking process.
It’s both simple and complex, and at all times, it’s a choice. Hopefully, this video course will help you make the right one for you. Consistency is the key to successful practice. Even a short meditation period every day is more effective than sporadic longer meditations.
Like physical exercise, mindful meditation is a process. Success doesn’t happen overnight. But it will happen. When you begin your meditation journey, you may find it difficult to sit quietly for 15 or 20 minutes at a time. You may start making excuses why it’s okay to skip meditation for just one day. This will make it harder to resume meditating the following day, and you’ll easily find an excuse why you shouldn’t.
You’re too tired, too busy, too frustrated … any excuse will do. That’s why making a commitment to regular meditation is necessary. Ask yourself what motivated you in the first place. Make a pact with yourself that you will get up half an hour earlier in the morning to meditate. With a firm commitment, you will gain momentum and see the results.
Mindful meditation is unrivaled in its ability to open your mind.
If you are new at mindful meditation, it is helpful that you ask yourself what has motivated you to start meditating at this time. There is, however, no right or wrong reason.
Mindful meditation is proven to help reduce stress and deal more effectively with change. And the office is a place where you’ll find an abundance of both.
Work is where you spend most of your time. If you’re stressed out at work, this will affect you psychologically, physically, and impact other areas of your life.
Work-related anxiety is known to cause headaches and insomnia.
If it persists, it can cause high blood pressure, depression and weaken your immune system. To add to the problem, many people suffering from work-related stress resort to unhealthy means of coping, such as smoking, binge eating, alcohol, and even abuse of those closest to them.
The ability to control our responses to others is critical at the office. It’s a bad idea to tell the boss off, and annoying your co-workers will only add more stress.
When we are aware and in control of our emotions, we are more able to suppress improper, aggressive responses and reactions. When we are in a problem-solving environment, such as work, it is crucial that our brain remains in an open, resilient mode instead of getting bogged down by negative thoughts and feelings.
Dealing with daily change and pressures is a necessary skill for high-level performance and consistent inner calm, and mindful meditation can make work a challenge instead of an emotional hazard zone.
The good news is that many companies are starting to embrace mindfulness and are organizing on-site meditation programs.
If your company doesn’t have a program, you can still engage in mindful meditation. Short breathing meditations can be done at a desk and can quickly shift your mind to problem-solving stance instead of panic mode.
When work pressures become overwhelming, use mindful meditation to keep yourself in a calm zone. All kinds of ideas may be flowing through your mind. “My report isn’t good enough.” “The boss will fire me.” Your mind is scattering into all kinds of areas except focusing on the report.
As you take control and change those intruding thoughts, it will be easier to approach the problem in a more productive way.
Tell yourself two reasons why the situation won’t be as bad as it appears. Then, give yourself two ways of dealing with a worse-case scenario. If the boss really does hate the report, what actions can you take to resolve the problem? Instead of merely reacting, you are proactively seeking solutions.
A quick mindful meditation at your desk, or away from your desk, when necessary, will have immediate soothing consequences. If possible, practice the Happy Place meditation described in this video course, as it is excellent preparation for facing adversity.
Instead of remaining overwhelmed by what the boss may do, you will be prepared to listen mindfully to what is being said and form a more reasoned response.
Many of us don’t listen carefully when we are upset. We are too busy preparing our reply. To really listen and hear what is being said, look into the speaker’s eyes.
Keep your mind focused on what is being said instead of thinking about how you will answer. It’s all too common to talk without thinking and say things that we wish we could take back.
Mindful listening improves how we communicate with others. You hear the words, and the intent behind the words. When people notice that you are genuinely paying attention, they are far more likely to listen to what you have to say.
More mindful actions you can take at work:
- Before leaving for work in the morning, tell yourself that you will remain calm and mindful. This will set the tone for the day before you leave the house.
- Become aware of how your thoughts add to your stress. Expecting things to go wrong will also set the tone for the day, although in a very negative way.
- Have lunch with a friend or eat alone instead of lunching with co-workers. Getting away from the office, whether physically or mentally, can relieve work-related anxiety.
- Take regular mindful breathing breaks.
As you learn to understand yourself, you will develop a better understanding of why you act in certain ways. Some habits may be helpful, but other automatic behavior may be holding you back.
That’s what makes mindful meditation so effective. Greater awareness leads to opening doors in many areas of your life.
Recent studies on mindfulness have shown that the benefits of regular mindful meditation go far from what was originally believed. The mind and body do work together as a team.
The practice has shifted from guru-led-hippies-chanting to scientific studies at institutions such as John Hopkins University and physicians recommending the practice to their patients. And the results have been phenomenal.
Let’s take a look at some of the proven benefits of mindful meditation.
- Mindful meditation can reduce pain
Many of us suffer from chronic pain. While mindful meditation is not a cure-all, studies have shown it can greater alleviate the suffering. In clinical trials, mindful meditation has shown that mindful meditators experience over 50 percent less chronic pain, while long-term meditators have reduced their chronic pain by 90 percent.
How is that possible? Pain can come in two forms: physical and mental. When the brain reacts negatively to pain, the pain becomes amplified. By controlling how we react to the pain, we can greatly reduce its intensity.
Mindful meditation includes actually focusing on the areas of the body that feel pain, observe, and release the struggle both physically and mentally.
- Mindful meditation can improve sexual experience.
Many people find it difficult to discuss sexual dysfunction, even though it can be a pervasive problem. From low libido, poor self-esteem and body image to feelings of anxiety and depression, the brain can wreak havoc with sexual enjoyment. Nonjudgmental mindfulness enables partners to communicate more effectively about sexual needs and concerns.
- Mindful meditation can improve mood
We all have “moods.” The happiest person can feel down for a while, and the bluest person can feel up on occasions. But many people’s moods get bogged down with chronic depression and anxiety until there is little else. Research has shown that people with severe mood disorders actually show changes in certain areas of the brain.
People suffering from depression and anxiety frequently live in the past or the future. Their mind can ruminate on hurts and injustices that happened years ago, with mental narratives obsessing around “should haves.” Or else, they can worry about things that have not yet happened, and aren’t likely to happen. Mindful meditation is the perfect tool to bring troubled thoughts back to the present.
- Mindful meditation enhances empathy
Stress, anxiety and depression can keep the brain stuck in negativity and self-absorption, thus reducing opportunities for compassion and empathy toward others. Through mindful meditation, the brain can be retrained to enhance these positive emotions.
- Mindful meditation can enhance focus
We live in a world of distractions. People proudly boast of multitasking, although multitasking decreases efficiency rather than increasing productivity. When we check email while on the phone and at the same time read an important report, neither task has our full attention.
Our brain, too, can “multitask.” When we need our attention on a project, it can intrude with worries about unpaid bills, an unhappy relationship and an updating event for the weekend. And while our mind is attempting to deal with this mental tsunami, we remember an overdue library book and phone messages we failed to return.
For many people, this out-of-focus state of mind is a normal occurrence. When the brain is overwhelmed with a flood of unrelated thoughts and keeps jumping from one thought to the next, it cannot concentrate on the task at hand.
Regular mindful meditation lets us in control our wandering mind. We learn to recognize interruptions and set them aside for a more appropriate time. Mindful meditation allows us to get more done because it keeps our mind focused on the present.
- Mindful meditation reduces stress
We have already discussed that mindful meditation will relieve stress. It’s such a critical, it bears a closer look. We experience thoughts and emotions every moment of our waking life. It’s important to understand that emotions are neither good nor bad. They simply are.
The problem is not the emotions themselves, but how we respond to them.
These negative emotions are frequently caused by something that happened long in the past or hasn’t happened at all.
By increasing our awareness, mindful meditation keeps us from dwelling on these negatives that are utterly irrelevant to the present.
When our brain becomes jumbled with emotions, mindfulness helps us clarify what is important and what is not. As we let go of mental stressors, our body automatically functions on a higher level, enhancing health and alleviating life-threatening diseases.
Statistics from the Center for Disease Control reveal that 110 million deaths each year are the result of stress-related illnesses. That is a staggering number. Mindful meditation can greatly increase your chances of not becoming a statistic.
- Mindful meditation and resilience
Bad things can happen to good people. To quote Nelson Mandela, “Do not judge me by my success, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
That is the essence of resilience – not our failures, but how we deal with them. Resilience lets us deal with the ups and downs of life. Change and challenges are seen as just another opportunity for growth.
Resilience is the ability to get back up after adversity. Due to the unpredictability of life, there will always be joys and sorrows. Resilient people are able to greet change and difficulty as an opportunity for self-reflection, learning, and growing.
How we react to life’s stressors is a choice. We can turn fearful, bitter and blame the world for being unfair. Or, we can use mindfulness to change our thinking. We can’t control the world, but we certain can control how we react to it.
A study published in the Journal of Personality and Individual Differences showed that mindfulness helps people cope with hard times – and there will always be some hard times. Instead of reacting, mindful meditation allows us to hit a mental “pause” button and simply accept.
“Bad” feelings or thoughts aren’t the enemy. The problem is our reaction to those thoughts. When we use mindful meditation to become aware of these thoughts, we have the power to accept and move forward.
- Mindful meditation boosts creativity
By creativity, we’re not just talking about art and music. Every day, we face situations and questions where some creativity could move us to the head of the line. “How do I get the boss to notice my report?” “How do I approach this popular person and ask for a date?” “How do I dress for success on my limited budget?”
The reptilian part of our brain approaches these situations with severe caution. Its sole purpose is to ensure our survival, so anything new and different is automatically seen as dangerous. This part of our brain immediately calls for safety. Don’t make waves. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t do anything crazy.
Anything new and creative has a hard time getting past this reptilian brain. But mindful meditation can calm the reptilian brain and make it less reactive. This allows new, creative ideas to flourish.
Some of the world’s most creative companies, such as Walt Disney, General Mills, and Google, encourage innovation and creativity in their employees by making meditation rooms available to their employees.
Studies have shown that people who practice mindful meditation are less rigid in their approach to new ideas and problem-solving methods. The next time you’re stuck while preparing a report, let mindful meditation help you stand out from the crowd that plays it safe and get noticed.
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