Mindfulness is being aware of your own thoughts and feelings. According to Dr. Janet Taylor, community psychiatrist for Centerstone, “Mindfulness goes beyond simply recognizing what is happening in your mind — it also involves being able to accept those thoughts and feelings.”
One of the best ways to exercise mindfulness is through meditation. Meditation is the practice of focusing the mind for a period of time to center oneself and relax the mind, with or without a religious connection. What meditation looks like can vary from person to person, but it can reap the same benefits for all.
You may be asking yourself, “Why should I meditate instead of sleeping?” There is no denying that both sleep and play are important for keeping you healthy and balanced. However, meditation is also tied to overall improved health and well-being.
“Meditating to increase mindfulness can be the antidote to stress, help you think through solutions to problems that you are unable to do while sleeping or playing,” Dr. Janet Taylor says. “It provides you the time to take full stock of the situation at hand and approach it calmly and productively.”
While meditation may not get change a problem on its own, it can help you work your way to a solution.
And there are many more benefits to meditation and mindfulness than just problem-solving. Mindfulness helps you remember your core values, allowing your behaviors to reflect your thoughts and feelings and making you more at peace with yourself. Increased mindfulness can also lead to increased empathy, helping you relate to others better.
There are also physiological benefits to meditation. It can improve your mood throughout the day, help you sleep better and lower your heart rate. Meditating regularly can even cause positive changes in your brain, making you more focused and calm and less fearful moving forward.
How to meditate
You are the only one in the way of your own mindfulness. If you feel you don’t have the time to meditate, try it for just a few seconds. Take some deep breaths and see how you are feeling in your body and mind. Repeat this, and over time, these few seconds of meditating can naturally grow into minutes or even longer.
Adjust your environment to be more meditation-friendly. For some, this may look like having quiet music in the background; and for others, it may look like complete silence. Do what you need to do to eliminate distractions and focus on yourself. You may even benefit from using guided meditation tools, such as the Calm app. If you have a hard time sitting still for long periods of time, try a walking meditation. In this case, notice how your body feels as you move around, and actively engage all your senses. Ultimately, it does not matter how you meditate as much as it does that you increase your mindfulness.
John Markley serves as regional CEO in Illinois, serving residents in eastern and southern Illinois through more than 30 locations that provide treatment, support and educational programs and services to individuals who have mental health and addiction disorders and specialized services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Centerstone employs over 525 staff in Illinois and serves more than 17,000 individuals annually.