What is Mindfulness Meditation?
It’s a technique of meditation that involves paying attention in a particular way – on purpose – in the present moment without judgment. In this non-reactive state, we do not judge any experience as good or bad. Or if we do make those judgments we simply observe them and then let them go.
How does Mindfulness Meditation work?
Studies show that improving our ability to sustain our attention on our breathing over long periods of time transfers over to other pursuits like studying and taking exams. Stress reduces what’s called “working memory capacity” which is our ability to retain thoughts in our mind. Those who practice mindfulness meditation improve this capacity while reducing levels of stress.
- Improves emotional self-regulation because we can become less reactive and judgmental of our experiences and feelings.
- Improves other types of self-regulation like the ability to direct attention and behavior, suppress inappropriate knee-jerk responses, and demonstrate flexible problem-solving skills.
- Increases activity in the brain associated with positive emotion – the pre-frontal cortex – which is generally less active in people who are depressed.
- Helps to lower blood pressure, which lowers the risk for cardiovascular disease.
- Calms the mind and helps reduce “mental clutter”.
- Helps to lower cortisol, which is a stress-producing hormone that can keep you awake.
How do I start practicing Mindfulness Meditation?
There is a range of ways to meditate, starting with very brief amounts of time. Do not worry about doing this perfectly.
Here are some simple steps that you can use as a guide:
- If you can, find a quiet space to use regularly. This can be very challenging in college! You can try the library; or if the noise in your residence hall isn’t too loud, you can practice meditation that focuses on becoming aware of the sounds around you. For example, you can pay attention to the number of sounds, the quality of them, and how they come and go.
- Sit or stand in a comfortable posture, vertical but relaxed.
- Take a moment to notice body sensations: tightness, tension, etc. There’s nothing you have to do about them; just notice them.
- Establish an intention for the meditation, for instance, to be aware of body sensations, to give yourself compassion or loving-kindness, or to notice that thoughts come and go.
- Use guided meditations to help you to remain focused.
- Once you have practice with guided meditations, you can meditate on your own, noticing what works best for you.
- It’s important to start slowly: try 5 to 10 minutes a day and gradually increase to a maximum of 45 minutes a day. Simply try what will work best for you.
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