Your life may feel chaotic. You may be looking for a way to calm your mind. Or you may just want to be present and more aware of what is happening. You may find that your life is so busy that you’ve never allowed yourself to sit, just be in the moment, and breath. Mindful Meditation is a great tool that allows you to train your brain. While it may sound complicated, it’s really a simple practice that involves breathing, relaxing your muscles, and allowing yourself to be present.
Why is Mindful Meditation Important? What About the benefits?
Even if you are considering the practice of Mindful Meditation, it still might sound strange. Why do it? And, why now? Beyond allowing yourself to have a moment of peace, Mindful Meditation has real and lasting effects on your health. Science tells us what meditation can actually do for you and your body. Here are just a few benefits:
Reduces Stress: Mindful Meditation can reduce the release of cytokines, the inflammation-inducing chemicals, caused by stress. Addictions can be directly tied to stressors, with visible indicators that may have first surfaced with signs of depression, anger, anxiety, and sleeplessness. Even while you’re in addiction therapy and treatment, stress can cause you to revert or relapse into habits and tendencies that lead back to substance abuse. Mindful Meditation can counteract those effects, and act as a coping mechanism.
Increases Attention & Focus: Studies show that Mindful Mediation has a measurable effect on your ability to stay focused on a task while reducing daydreaming or mind wandering.
Promotes Emotional Health & Wellness: Mindful Meditation could also help you self-regulate your emotions. In other words, it may help you feel more balanced. That regulation of cytokines can also improve your mood, and even reduce the effects of long-term depression.
Increases Self-Awareness: As a part of addiction therapy, Mindful Meditation can help you manage your impulses and urges. With meditation, you practice observing the addictive thoughts and desires, but then setting them aside and gently redirecting your focus back on your breath.
Replaces “Feel Good”: Drugs and alcohol activate the prefrontal cortex, giving you the “high” of intoxication. Mindful Meditation can also stimulate the prefrontal cortex giving you a natural elevated feeling without drugs or other addictive substances, but it can also flood your body with endorphins, which further enhances the pleasurable effects.
Supports Long-Term Sobriety: Continued practice in Mindful Meditation can allow you to alter your state of consciousness, specifically affecting your brainwave patterns. A 2005 study in The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse indicate that the change in those alpha and theta waves can statistically improve your chances of long-term sobriety.
How to Practice Mindful Meditation?
With so many amazing benefits, you might think that practicing Mindful Meditation must be difficult, even impossible. While you may not “get it” overnight, the practice of Mindful Meditation is easy. At a very basic level, it is just a matter of finding a quiet, distraction-free space. It could be a room in your house, a place you borrow from a friend, an empty park, or a quiet room at the community center. The goal is to find an environment that feels good, safe and is not filled with distractions or noise.
The next step is to find out how you want to sit. You may find that you prefer to sit on the bare floor, in a chair, or even on a pillow. There is no one right way to sit, but if you’re not able to relax when you’re sitting one way (in a chair, for example), try something different the next time.
In the sitting position, with your knees supported if needed, you can sit up in a comfortable position. The idea here is not to stiffen up, but also not to lie down and fall asleep. Here are some quick tips:
- Close your eyes.
- Focus on your breath.
- Notice the way you are taking the air in and breathing it out.
- When you start to worry or think about the past or negative thoughts, gently nudge yourself back to focusing on your breath.
- Avoid focusing on whether you’re doing it right or wrong.
- Just be present.
The practice of Mindful Meditation is a process. It may not feel right the first time, but you will likely notice the important benefits as you continue to work on it, letting yourself just be in the moment. For some, the practice just feels too strange. There is too much to worry about, and the stresses of life just overwhelm. If the very idea of Mindful Meditation is too difficult to accept right now, why not try something simpler. Go to the park when nobody is around, and just sit there. You can focus on your breathing and close your eyes, or just sit there. Allow yourself to be in the moment. Notice that your muscles ease up. Find your park. Find your safe place, and make Mindful Meditation right for you.