There is an art to being "present" especially in a stressed-out culture of distractions, hyper-productivity and social media, however you can learn to think differently and even rewire your brain. Many therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists recommend Mindfulness and MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) to help cope with anxiety and depression. What is the goal with mindfulness meditation? To learn to give your attention fully to whatever you may be doing -- eating, loving, working, parenting, exercising, doing chores, as examples. The application of mindfulness is limitless, and can generalize to good health, life-satisfaction and enhanced well-being.
It's easy. Heres how to begin:
- Find a comfortable seat. Keep your back straight, soften and drop your shoulders. You can close your eyes, or keep them open. Take a deep breath.
- Notice your breathing, without changing it. Focus on the sensation of air moving in and out of your nostrils, notice your lungs expanding and contracting with each breath.
- It is normal to have thoughts that distract you from your focus on the breath. Acknowledge these thoughts and then return your focus to your breathing. Keep doing this.
- Don't judge yourself, simply notice any distractions, sounds in the environment, and especially, that the mind wants to wander. A new thought comes into your mind, notice it, then return to your breathing.
Dedicate 5-20 minutes per day to this practice of mindfulness. As it becomes easier, you can practice being fully present with your daily activities--breathing, observing, noticing whatever may be present for you in these moments with acceptance and equanimity. If you enjoy technology, or you are someone who needs supported guidance, many of my clients prefer to use one of the many apps found on iTunes or Google Play. One of my personal favorites is an app called Headspace, developed by former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe, it is a simple and elegant way to learn this practice. Watch Andy Puddicombe teaching "doing nothing" on TedSalon.
Interested in learning more about the benefits of Mindfulness? Empirically supported benefits of mindfulness include:
- Reduced anxiety and rumination
- Decreased negative affect and depression
- Decreased somatic distress or body complaints
- Reduction of psychological distress
- A boost to working memory
- Increases in attention span
- Less emotional reactivity
- An increase in cognitive flexibility
- More relationship satisfaction
- Better self-awareness
- Improved immune functioning
- An increase in information processing speed
- Improved social relationships
- Am increase in happiness and well-being
- Greater capacity for empathy and self-compassion