Mindfulness is an excellent way to reduce your stress and increase your positivity, it is easy to learn and practice, but it’s best to create a routine of mindfulness for the best results. If you find yourself in negative thought spirals, it could be time to consider learning some mindfulness.
In this article, you can learn more about what mindfulness is and where it comes from; you can also benefit from some common mindfulness meditations that are briefly described near the end. Try them for yourself and notice the effects, or join an MBSR course for more guidance.
Key Takeaways: Mindfulness for Positivity
- Mindfulness is an ancient meditation practice that is now offered in a secular way
- Mindfulness is evidence-based and backed by science; it has positive results
- MBSR and MBCT are popular modes of mindfulness practice in the modern world
- There are many mindfulness meditations to try, including mindfulness of breathing
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is awareness; it is also a technology that has a tradition with deep roots in ancient religions. People have used mindfulness techniques for generations as part of their religious practice, but in today’s secular world, mindfulness has been adapted to suit a new sensibility; it is also supported by evidence and backed by science for its good qualities and stress reduction.
Everyone has awareness, whether we are aware of it or not. Even if you spend much of your time in your head thinking about ideas or stressing about the past and future, you are using your awareness. Mindfulness is the practice of using that awareness in a more skillful way to bring attention to the present moment, whether that is internally or externally, in your everyday life.
The Benefits of Mindfulness
Become aware of your awareness is the practice of mindfulness, and it has many benefits for your mental, emotional, and physical health; it can also help you to make better decisions for your life and is, therefore, an excellent practice for younger people or those with major life decisions to make. The benefits of mindfulness are backed by evidence-based research as well.
One of the main reasons people come to mindfulness is to improve their mental health, and it’s a great choice because it’s what mindfulness practice does best. Mindfulness allows you to become more aware of your thought processes and where the originate; it also helps you to let go of unhelpful thinking. Mindfulness can also help to improve your physical and emotional life.
MBSR and MBCT
Modern mindfulness can be separated into two modes of practice: mindfulness-based stress reduction and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. These programs were developed by John Kabat Zinn in the 1970s and Zindel Segal and Mark Williams in the early 2000s. They are secular mindfulness programs that have their roots in Buddhism and other ancient religions.
MBST is an eight-week mindfulness program that offers mindfulness training to people with stress and anxiety issues; it can also be helpful for people with ADHD or anyone that experiences an anxiety attack. Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy is a useful complement to MBSR, but it also stands alone. MBCT is better for chronic conditions such as depression.
How Stress Works
The brain has a primitive center called the amygdala, where our emotions are processed. This center is sensitive to the outside world and sends a distress signal to the hypothalamus when it perceives a life-threatening situation. In the past, a life-threatening situation might have been an animal attack, but in the modern world, it might be more like a threat to the self or reputation.
The hypothalamus sends a signal to the nervous system, and brain chemicals are released; these are adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline gives you the energy to run away, and cortisol gives shuts down your higher functions giving you more focus. Of course, this frightened state is unhelpful if you are in a class and need to speak or you are standing in front of an audience.
How Mindfulness Works
If you are new to mindfulness, you can benefit from in-the-moment stress reduction when you know how to practice in a situation such as the one described above. Entering the learning state or focusing on breathing helps to regularize your emotional center – the amygdala – and prevents the stress hormones from being released. But regular practice has a better effect.
When you practice mindfulness regularly, you create some distance between the amygdala and the prefrontal processing regions of the brain; this allows you to handle perceived threats more skillfully when they occur unexpectedly. Think of this mechanism as a muscle that needs to be trained to be effective. The more control you have, the more positive and successful you can be.
Mindfulness can be practiced formally or informally; most people use a combination of both to build up their practice and improve their life quality. The mind has a tendency to move toward negativity and problem-solve – even when this is unnecessary – so practicing mindfulness meditations can make you feel more positive overall and help you handle most life stresses.
Mindfulness of Breathing
Start with mindfulness of breathing. This is a practice you can try in a few minutes of practice or in a more formal setting with a seat, a stool, or a cushion. The three-minute meditation is a good one to start with; find a comfortable sitting or upright position; alternatively, you could practice this standing or lying down. Close your eyes and imagine you have a wide field of awareness.
In your state of expanded awareness, start to notice how you feel physically and emotionally. Notice your posture and how it feels. Make any adjustments to make yourself more comfortable. Next, narrow your attention to your breathing and feel your abdomen rising and falling; if your thoughts wander, gently steer them back. Finally, imagine your whole body breathing in and out.
Mindfulness of Sitting
Sitting meditation is also a great place to start. If you decide to attend an MBSR course, you will learn how to practice the full sitting meditation in all four parts; these include mindfulness of breathing, body and sounds, thoughts and feelings, and a thing called choiceless awareness.
If you want to practice a simpler form of sitting meditation, find a comfortable sitting position – on a seat, a cushion, or a stool – and setting into your body. If you have any pain or discomfort in your body, train yourself to sit with your experience for a time until the pain or emotions resolve.
Mindfulness of Walking
Many people spend their working lives at a desk in an office or sitting on a chair in the house working on a digital screen, but even those people need to get up from time to time and walk. Whether you are walking to the local shops for some supplies or walking to the kitchen to make some tea for a break, it’s another chance to practice mindfulness of walking in your daily life.
Mindfulness of walking is an excellent way to enter the present moment and to train your mind to be more aware and more positive. The aim of this practice is not to get to a destination; it is to become more rooted in the present moment by becoming aware of our slow body movements. Forget about your destination and enjoy walking in the present moment during your work break.
The Learning State
The learning state is a concept borrowed from Neuro-Linguistic Programming, but it is also part of the mindfulness apparatus. The learning state can be defined as a state of relaxed alertness that is perfect for onboarding new information. It is an excellent place to start yoru mindfulness.
Find a comfortable sitting or standing position. With your eyes open or closed, bring your awareness to the floor, ceiling, and walls front and back and on either side; try to hold your attention on everything simultaneously to frame your mind. Hold your attention in the moment.
Mindfulness for Positivity
Mindfulness can be used to cultivate positivity. The mind is an effective problem-solving machine, but it also has a tendency to overthink and become negative. When you find yourself in a negative spiral, it can be stressful and unhelpful. Mindfulness helps you to find the gap.
Thoughts happen in the mind automatically, and many people live their lives on automatic pilot. Mindfulness practice trains you to notice your thoughts and thinking mind, bringing awareness to them and giving you more choices. Living in awareness like this is enjoyable and positive.
Mindfulness can be used for many purposes; it can be used to reduce stress, improve decision-making, and cultivate a more positive mindset. If you are new to mindfulness, you can start with some of the meditations in the article, or you can sign-up for an MBSR course.
There is never a bad time to start your mindfulness practice, but remember, the more committed you are to a regular practice, the better you can train and strengthen your mind. Mindfulness works best when it is practiced routinely, but that’s easy because it is so life-enhancing.
Photo by Chelsea Gates on Unsplash