Mindfulness Meditation: Benefits, Basics & Apps
With so many distractions in daily life, it’s challenging to be fully present in the current moment. Too often we become overwhelmed by external factors and find it difficult to focus on our own thoughts, emotions, and sensory experiences. With a little practice, however, anyone can learn mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation is a gentle way to try to focus on our internal lives without judgment. Curiosity about our minds and kindness to ourselves are integral to the practice, which can be done in a quiet place anytime, anywhere. Most compellingly, mindfulness meditation can actually change our brains and improve our health and well-being, including boosting our immune systems and reducing pain, anxiety, depression and insomnia.
Mindfulness is not about unconditional positivity; rather it’s about being more present and awake to the moment, whatever you are thinking or feeling. Start with a simple meditation practice. Here’s how:
1. Sit comfortably.
Find a comfortable place to sit on a chair with your feet on the floor or on a cushion with your legs crossed in front of you. Sit upright, but not stiffly. Relax your shoulders and rest your palms on your legs.
2. Soften your gaze.
Don’t focus on anything in particular, or close your eyes if you find you are distracted.
3. Focus on your breathing.
Notice the air moving in and out of your nose or mouth and the expanding and contracting of your belly and chest. When your mind begins to wander, notice your thoughts without judgment and then gently return your attention to your breath. You can count your breaths up to ten and then repeat if that helps you focus.
That’s all there is to it! When you are finished, after 5, 10, or 30 minutes, begin to notice your surroundings and focus on your thoughts and emotions.
Community centers, schools, gyms, fitness studios, mindfulness centers and more offer mindful meditation trainings and groups. There are also a number of helpful apps, most with free trials. Here are three to try:
Calm offers comprehensive mood tracking, both guided and freeform meditations, a music section, and meditations geared to kids. Free basic version or $70 per year.
Headspace has lots of options for all levels, including targeted meditations addressing specific issues like stress, anxiety, insomnia and more. Free basic version or $70 per year.
Healthy Minds Program is a straightforward app that focuses on awareness, connection, insight and purpose, with meditations for each. Free.
by Lisa Isenman, LGPC Intern