Mindfulness has gained tremendous popularity in the past decade to improve cognitive skills and bring cognitive development to children. The 2,500-year-old practice has moved from a largely obscure Buddhist concept to a mainstream psychotherapy construct today. It benefits self-control, objectivity, affect tolerance, enhanced flexibility, equanimity, improved concentration and mental clarity, emotional intelligence, and the ability to relate to others and one’s self with kindness, acceptance, and compassion.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is defined as a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment. It refers to a psychological state of awareness, the practices that promote this awareness, a mode of processing information, and a character trait. It is a state and not a trait.
Methods of Mindfulness Training
Yoga, Qigong, and Tai Chi are some of the practices and disciplines that can help you to cultivate mindfulness but mindfulness meditation proves to be the best method. These self-regulating practices focus on training attention and awareness to bring mental processes under voluntary control for the greater good and foster general mental well-being and development.
Mindfulness meditation promotes metacognitive awareness, decreases rumination via disengagement from perseverative cognitive activities, and enhances attentional capacities through gains in working memory. These cognitive gains, in turn, contribute to effective emotion-regulation strategies.
Effects of Mindfulness Meditation
Mindfulness meditation helps to increase density in the gray brain matter. It helps to improve:
- learning and memory processes
- emotional regulation
- emotional salience
- the ability to take on different perspectives
The aforesaid changes help in improving your focus and enable you to remember what you read thoroughly. Practicing it helps you to take control of what you think about, remembering what you have just read, enabling more space for learning new things, and increasing long-term memory.
Techniques of Mindfulness
There are several ways to practice mindfulness, but the goal remains the same for all. It helps to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This lets your mind refocus on the present. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation.
- Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing. It lets thoughts come and go without any judgment.
- Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without any judgment and let it pass.
- Noticing sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches without any judgment and letting them go.
- Allow emotions to be present without any judgment. Accept their presence and let them pass.
- Cope with cravings and allow them to pass. Let the craving go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside.
Types of Mindfulness Meditation
There are several ways to practice mindfulness meditation like breathing techniques, visualizations, and more. Mindfulness meditation can be a good way to start. Know a few here:
- 60 Seconds— Focus only on your breathing for just 60 seconds. Doing this several times a day helps you to begin thinking and have clear attention. Gradually, you can extend this duration.
- Conscious Observation— Pick an object and devote all your awareness and attention to it. This method of observing gives you an alert feeling and puts you in the present moment
- Slow Count to 10 — Count to 10 slowly in your mind and find yourself thinking of anything you need to do. Start doing this a few times until you feel comfortable meditating.
- Slow Eating — Sink into the present moment by eating slowly. Mindful eating slows down your meal and helps you to appreciate it by paying close attention to the taste, smell, and what the food looks like.
Mindfulness meditation is built upon concentration practices. Some types primarily involve repeating a phrase or focusing on breathing sensations, and allowing thought parades to come and go. Concentration meditation techniques such as yoga or tai chi induces a relaxation response that helps in reducing the body’s response to stress. Here are some tips for you to keep in mind:
- If your mind wanders into daydreaming, planning, or criticism, find out where it has gone and gently redirect it to the sensations in the present.
- Practice accepting your experience during mindfulness meditation as it becomes easier to accept whatever comes your way during the rest of your day.
- Keep trying. If you miss an intended meditation session, just start again.
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