These two M’s, Meditation and Mindfulness are two “M” words that we are hearing more about than ever. I have friends that meditate, however, I have not given it much energy to learn about this activity until now. Regarding the other “m” word, I, myself, have used the word “mindfulness” in my own vernacular and understand its importance as most of my work experience has been in the mental health field. My son’s second grade class is also talking about mindfulness through the pandemic. So, bear with me, hang in there, please take the time to read the rest this blog, because I now want you to have a better understanding of meditation and mindfulness. I was a sceptic to at least half of this subject, but I feel more of a nudging to understand each of these deeper and how they complement each other.
Meditation: What, Why, How?
Let’s start with the most mysterious, I think, of the two “M’s”, meditation. There has been a lot of talk in the last several years about the Headspace app for smart phones. It is an app that provides guided meditation via your phone. Now, the act of meditating has been around for an exceptionally long time, but with more and more discussion of the benefits of medication, Headspace has brought a guided version of this activity to your ears. Via the Headspace website, meditation is about:
Training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgement. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.
A well-known expert in the field of health does not only share on medicinal means of healing, but also on this alternative means of health. The Mayo Clinic says that meditation is:
A type of mind-body medicine, that has been practiced for thousands of years. During meditation, you develop intentional focus — minimizing random thoughts about the past or future. Many forms of meditation exist, but most have in common a quiet setting, a comfortable position, focused attention, and an open attitude. Meditation may offer many benefits, such as helping with concentration, relaxation, inner peace, stress reduction and fatigue. Research has found that meditation may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. When combined with conventional medicine, meditation may improve physical health. For example, some research suggests meditation can help manage symptoms of conditions such as insomnia, heart disease, pain, cancer, and digestive problems.
I, myself, had meditated (I think😊) only about 2 or 3 times until recently and now I have meditated for the last week. I had not given meditation much time before now, because to be honest, I did not really understand it. I did not get how to do it or what it provided. But, for whatever reason my brain has been more open to this practice as of late and I believe I am starting to understand the benefits as well as it’s connectedness to being mindful. I have noticed more concentration, self-awareness (mindfulness) and I’m hopeful it will assist in managing a heart condition I have.
Mindfulness…becoming more self-aware
Now, the less mysterious, but maybe still abstract of the two “M’s”, let us focus on mindfulness. Mindfulness refers to being aware of what you are thinking and how it is making you feel. Is self-awareness not the ultimate evolution of ourselves? It is also being fully present in the moment. Two definitions for mindfulness from the beloved Google search are:
Mindfulness – noun
1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.
2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.
I am working on being more mindful and as I am thinking about what it means to be mindful, I think how helpful this skill could be in preventing relational arguments or in helping my children develop their self-awareness. Being mindful is a bit hard on the ego, it entails being aware of how we are feeling or thinking and bringing it to light, at least to ourselves. Mindfulness is almost like a teacher inside your brain, helping you to be present in whatever you are doing and recognizing the distractions or misperceptions.
Meditation Promotes Mindfulness
So, now, how are the two connected, meditation and mindfulness? Meditation truly is an exercise of the brain, kind of empowering if you think about it. I believe meditation could possibly aide me in becoming more mindful, as well as set me up for my best day in a headspace that is clearer and more cared for. You will hear meditation instruction talk about coming back to “center” if your thoughts drift. Center is a place that gives us perspective, calm and clearer thinking. If you are a caregiver reading this, meditation and mindfulness can be helpful for you, too. Caregiving can be all consuming and 5 minutes of meditation may be a simple, quick practice to add to your daily regimen to provide you better safeguards against the stress of caregiving. I also cannot end this blog without showing how Care Managers can assist in this journey… When we look at our client’s health and healing, we look at it from a holistic approach. To be honest, when we know more about things like meditation and mindfulness, we can suggest more to our clients on how to live their most healthy life.
Some after thoughts…
We probably have all heard that it takes 21 days to start or stop a habit, so, I am going to commit to meditate for 21 days. I will meditate for at least 5-10 minutes each morning and I will report back via a blog or Facebook Live on the experience.
Here are some brief instructions, and all you need I think, to try meditating.
1. Find a quiet place. I like to sit in front of a window.
2. Sit comfortably and up straight on the floor, in a chair or wherever you feel most relaxed.
3. Set a timer and start with 5 minutes of meditating, it will fly by I promise!
4. Focus on your breaths, 3 counts in, 5 counts out (the out is the most important for lowering blood pressure).
5. Think of the center of your brain as center to your thinking; if your mind wanders to what you are hearing or to thinking about your to-do list or how someone made you feel, exercise your brain and bring it back to center. Focus only on your breathing. Keep a record of what you notice after this experience in your day. You might just be surprised!