The health benefits of meditation and mindfulness have been known for centuries to strengthen the mind, improve focus and heal the body. Over the last few years, meditation and mindfulness have grown in popularity as many Americans look to reduce stress in their lives.
If you’re interested in starting a meditation routine, read on to learn about meditation and the best ways to get started.
Meditation vs. Mindfulness: What’s the Difference?
There is a lot of talk about meditation and mindfulness out there that may give the impression they are the same. However, there are some distinctions between the two.
Meditation is an exercise for the brain that helps you to become more self-aware and bounce back quickly from stressful events. It originated in Eastern countries like India and China before making its way to the West, where it gained popularity.
Mindfulness is a practice within meditation. It is the process of being more self-aware of the present and paying close attention to your current actions without judgment. For example, say you choose to focus on breathing at a steady pace. If you break the pace, make a note of it and try to return to that pace without looking at it as a failure.
Simply put, meditation is like an exercise routine for your brain, where mindfulness would be a type of exercise, like jogging or biking.
We should note that it’s also a common misconception that meditation is the same as relaxing. Relaxation is more passive with a goal of calming the body, while meditation is more active, continuing to return to a point of focus, often in the body, without a specific goal in mind for the experience. This act of bringing the mind back into focus whenever you begin to drift into other thoughts leads to more self-awareness, focus and an increased ability to handle stress, which often leads to feeling more relaxed.
What Types of Meditation Are There?
There are several ways to meditate, and it’s all about finding the right practice that works for you. Walking or moving, focusing on your breathing, reciting a mantra or attempting to reach an internal body state are just a few examples.
Additionally, there are also many resources out there that can put you on a meditation plan that works best for your schedule and personal tastes. If exercise is your thing, yoga or walking can help put your mind at ease. If not, reciting a manta may be better at eliminating negative thoughts and feelings that bring you stress.
What Are the Health Benefits of Meditation?
Meditation and mindfulness help to calm the mind, improve focus and heal the body. This is due to being able to increase your capacity for handling stress. Those who perform meditation regularly find they can handle more stressful events in a day with fewer instances of breaking down.
In fact, the health benefits of meditation and mindfulness are so apparent, many schools across the U.S. are beginning to teach it to their students. Meditation has been shown to help children with ADHD, allowing them to decrease their level of medication while increasing their focus naturally. This type of practice is also useful in improving sleep, managing pain and behavior and giving people more control over their healing ability.
How To Get Started Meditating
Daily mindfulness can be a great way to incorporate meditation into your activities. Start with something simple, like brushing your teeth. Focus on the sensations you feel when brushing, like the taste and smell. Being fully present during these activities is a great way to focus your mind away from stressful thoughts and emotions.
There are also plenty of resources out there to help you get started. Arizona State University’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience offers classes and information for those looking to get into meditation and mindfulness. Apps like Headspace can even guide you through a series of meditation exercises. You can also search for Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction classes or Koru Mindfulness Meditation classes with certified instructors online.
Overall, when starting a meditation routine, do what works for you. There is no special time of day or length of time that allows you to get the most out of meditation. Just find the schedule that works for you and increase it as time goes on. Many adults start with as little as ten minutes of meditation a day and see plenty of results.
Also, don’t get discouraged. There is a misconception that those who meditate are constantly at peace and never get distracted during a session. This is not the case for that vast majority of people. It’s perfectly normal to drift off during meditation and begin thinking about stressful events. Just be mindful of why you’re having these thoughts and work on improving with every session.