The benefits of mindfulness meditation and why it’s worth trying
As we scramble to keep up with the stress of everyday life, learning to take time for ourselves can make all the difference. One practice that’s been proven to help is mindfulness meditation. Psychiatrist Shilpa Srinivasan, MD, explained what mindfulness meditation involves and how it can help.
What is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness is a state of being aware, non-judgmentally, about what is going on within and around you.
“It’s an awareness of our emotional and physical states, as well as our environments, with a sense of curious attention,” Dr. Srinivasan said. “We are not trying to ascribe a value to what we are feeling, but rather notice and acknowledge what we are feeling in the moment. So, it’s being very present in the moment.”
Meditation is a way of achieving that state of awareness.
“Mindfulness meditation is just one of many different forms of meditation,” she added. “The whole premise is to be in a non-judgmental state of awareness about yourself and be in the moment versus letting your mind fast forward into the future with ‘what if’ thinking, or reverse into the past, dwelling on what you did or said.”
What mindfulness meditation is not
Mindfulness meditation is not a one-time occurrence. It’s something that can be incorporated into day-to-day life with very little to no equipment. You don’t need a gym membership or a yoga membership to practice mindfulness meditation.
“It’s often thought that meditation involves emptying the mind, and that’s not the case,” Dr. Srinivasan said. “With mindfulness meditation, it’s accepting how we’re feeling – kindly, compassionately and non-judgmentally – so we’re not beating ourselves up, but rather allowing ourselves the opportunity to feel those emotions and move on through the use of other strategies, like deep breathing and relaxation.”
Mindfulness meditation is also not something that’s used only when there’s a problem. “With regular practice, it can feel more fundamental and natural, and when there is a stress, the use of these techniques becomes a natural response and not something that has to be deliberately mobilized in the moment,” she said.
How do you practice mindfulness meditation?
Strategies that can help guide meditation include the use of guided imagery or deep breathing exercises. One way to do this is through what’s called a body scan – starting with the toes and working your way up with an awareness of what that part of the body feels like, how tense or relaxed it is and how the air around the body feels, but not forcing the body or the mind to be in a different state.
In times of stress, a helpful acronym for mindfulness meditation is STOP:
- S = Stop what you’re doing in the moment.
- T = Take stock of the situation. That could be through some deep breaths, maybe the body scan, or a brief activity like a walk.
- O = Observe what is going on internally with your feelings as well as outside in the environment.
- P = Proceed from that point through next steps with a sense of awareness and mindfulness.
Is ASMR a form of mindfulness meditation?
ASMR stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, which refers to a tingly feeling you get that typically starts from the head and works its way down, kind of like a shiver. ASMR is triggered by mouth sounds such as gentle whispering or clicking of the tongue, the sound of crinkly paper, or the sound of preparing or eating food.
It’s gaining popularity on social sites as a relaxation tool, and it can serve as a mindfulness meditation technique.
How is mindfulness meditation helpful?
“Mindfulness meditation has been shown in research to change neuroplasticity, or brain connectivity, to enhance one’s ability to be more resilient in the face of stress,” Dr. Srinivasan said. “It can even help with conditions like anxiety or depression, along with other treatments. The best part is this is a practice that can be utilized by anyone, anywhere, at any time.”
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