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Mindfulness Meditation

Last Updated: May 9, 2022

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Explore the history, science, and variations of mindfulness meditation while getting frequently asked questions answered.

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

Mindfulness meditation is a mental training practice dating back to 5,000 BCE. It teaches one to slow down thoughts by focusing on the physical self.

Attaining mindfulness means deepening the connection with body and mind and tuning into emotions. Mindfulness can help to lead to a profound state of relaxation.

Many types of meditation techniques are classified as mindfulness meditation, and they all typically include a combination of deep breathing and isolating awareness.

Setting aside just 30 minutes each day for mindfulness activities or integrating them into one’s daily routine can result in significant self-improvement.

This article explores the science behind mindfulness to outline how it works to improve the body. It also investigates several benefits that one may acquire through regular practice and several mindfulness exercise variations. 

How Mindfulness Meditation Works

Mindfulness supports and enhances mental and physical well-being. Mindfulness is beneficial for self-awareness, emotional control, and self-regulation

Research suggests that changes in the brain's structure are related to mindfulness. The anterior cingulate cortex is a region in the brain associated with attention and has positive changes in response to meditation regarding activity and structure. 

Meditation reduces stress and regulates emotions. Mindfulness meditations engage the fronto-limbic networks in the brain, allowing for improved management of intense emotions.  

Mindfulness can help people become more aware of themselves and others around them. Consistent mindfulness practice can effectively change how the brain works and foster more regular mindfulness in everyday life. 

Research also suggests that regular mindfulness practice can be beneficial in treating clinical disorders that significantly negatively affect a person’s well-being.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is an important figure in mindfulness meditation, and he is widely recognized for bringing mindfulness into mainstream medicine and psychology. 

"Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally." - Jon Kabat-Zinn.

The Benefits of Mindfulness

Practicing mindfulness meditation for just a few minutes has extensive advantages for the mind, body, and soul. Here are four of the many benefits you may develop through regular practice:

Chronic pain management

Research supports the connection between regular mindfulness practice and decreased pain. 

This research suggests activating specific mind areas through mindfulness helps the body process pain, supporting pain reduction and decreasing pain intensity. 

Decreased stress and improved wellbeing

One study published by PubMed found that a brief mindfulness meditation practice multiple times per week can improve stress and well-being, with potentially lasting effects. 

It allows one to access a deep state of relaxation. Further, data suggest that meditation reduces cortisol - a hormone deeply linked to stress.

Better sleep quality

Studies show that there is evidence that mindfulness can improve and treat aspects of sleep disturbance while preventing daytime fatigue. 

Research suggests that meditating enhances melatonin production, a critical hormone essential for rest.

 It helps people fall asleep faster, preserves deep sleep, and enhances rapid eye movement (REM) sleep states.

Anxiety and depression symptom reduction

The effects of mindfulness improve symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Data from a randomized control trial of mindfulness meditation on individuals with anxiety disorder and depression suggests that the intervention led to significant improvement. 

It changes the way that the mind reacts to stress and anxiety. For example, it overrides triggers that the prefrontal cortex and amygdala stimulate so one can respond calmly and contently. 

Types of Mindfulness Meditation

Breathing meditation

This practice has one focus on the senses of breathing, incorporating deep breathing to relieve stress and clear the mind instantly. 

To perform breathing meditation, find a tranquil space:

  • Sit tall in a comfortable position.
  • Slow your breathing and tune into the breath, feeling the air moving in and out of your lungs. The body should naturally calm down.
  • As the mind wanders or takes notice of sounds coming from the next room, be patient and gently bring it back to focusing on the breath.
  • Stay here for five to seven minutes, then slowly open your eyes and continue with the day.

Body scan

Body scan meditation practice is an effective mindfulness-based stress reduction technique. 

It has the practitioner involve themselves in the present moment, complete a scan, and sense the entire body.

To perform body scan meditation:

  • Get comfortable in a seated or lying position.
  • Take deep breaths to relax.
  • Scan your body, starting from your feet or head. Focus on each body part, noticing sensations.
  • Be non-judgmental if your mind wanders; return to the body.
  • Conclude by acknowledging your whole body.

Loving-kindness meditation

This practice has one manifest positive feelings of love for others, oneself, and the world around you. 

Evidence suggests that those who regularly practice this meditation develop greater compassion, forgiveness, acceptance, etc.

To perform loving-kindness meditation: 

  • Sit comfortably, elongate your spine, close your eyes, and start breathing deeply.
  • Imagine yourself experiencing complete inner peace and overall well-being. Feel unconditional love for yourself and all you are, knowing that you are enough and are just right. 
  • Feel completely content and calm as you breathe in feelings of love, tension, and negativity.
  • Repeat loving mantras like "May I be safe, healthy, happy, and appreciated."

Observing-thought meditation

This mindfulness practice teaches people to take notice of thoughts that arise and label them (potentially as positive or negative) without judgment.

 It helps one view thoughts and feelings objectively so they can learn and adapt, helping develop a stronger sense of self.

To perform simple observing-thought meditation:

  • Find a comfortable position.
  • Focus on your breath as an anchor.
  • Let thoughts and emotions arise without attachment.
  • Observe thoughts without judgment, like leaves on a stream.
  • Learn from these observations and return to your breath when ready to conclude.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where does mindfulness meditation come from?

Mindfulness meditation originated from Buddhist philosophy, dating back close to 2500 years. However, Jon Kabat-Zinn only introduced the practice to the Western world in 1975.

How do you practice mindfulness meditation in daily life?

A busy schedule can make it hard to fit mindfulness into the day. Between work, taking care of your kids, and running errands, we rarely give ourselves a moment. 

If you can’t find a break in your day, there are ways to incorporate mindfulness meditation into everyday activities. 

Here are some activities you can use to concentrate on the physical body and breath:

  • Brushing your teeth
  • Doing laundry
  • Driving
  • Tucking kids into bed
  • Doing dishes
  • Exercising

During these daily exercises, shift the awareness inside and clear the mind. Focus purely on the breath, the physical body, or the activity you are partaking in. This is an excellent way to start the practice of mindfulness meditation.

References

Less stress, clearer thoughts with mindfulness meditation – Harvard Gazette

The neuroscience of mindfulness meditation

Randomized controlled trial of mindfulness meditation for a generalized anxiety disorder: effects on anxiety and stress reactivity

Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

The effect of mindfulness meditation on sleep quality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Mindfulness - Wikipedia

Disclaimer

The contents of this article are provided for informational purposes only and are not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making any health-related changes or if you have any questions or concerns about your health. Anahana is not liable for any errors, omissions, or consequences that may occur from using the information provided.

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