Mindfulness and meditation

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Meditation is about taking time out of the hustle and bustle of daily life to be calm, in the present, and aware of one’s body and breath. There is significant and growing evidence of the benefits of meditation for people with depression, anxiety and stress.

Mindfulness is a type of meditation which focuses on being fully aware or present in the moment. It means noticing and paying attention to where we are and what we’re doing.

Other forms of meditation include: guided visualisations, ‘clear mind’ meditations (which unsurprisingly aim to clear one’s mind!), loving/kindness meditation (also known as ‘open heart’ meditations) which cultivate a feeling of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness towards oneself, one’s surroundings and even the sources of one’s stresses in life. Other types of meditation are more physical - such as yoga or Tai Chi. And some types of meditation use sounds - such as chanting or repeated mantras (e.g. transcendental meditation).

There’s growing research which shows that when you practice meditation and mindfulness, you’re actually rewiring your brain, which in turn can reduce stress, anxiety and depression and generally improve your mental wellbeing.

Why do meditation and mindfulness help?

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Tips

  • Try setting aside 15 minutes every day to do your meditation or mindfulness techniques. I used to take the tube to work and this worked really well as a place for my morning meditations.

  • Don’t worry when your mind wanders. That’s totally normal - the trick is simply to observe that your mind has wandered and take it back to your guided meditation, to your breath, or to observing your body. The more aware you are that your mind has wandered, and the more you ‘train’ your brain, the better able you will be to re-focus your mind during other parts of the day.

 

5 things you can do now

  1. Try this introductory  5 minute breathing meditation exercise  and/or 3 minute body scan exercise.

  2. Download a free meditation app. My personal favourites are Headspace and Calm. Here’s a list put together by Mindful.

  3. Consider a mindfulness course such as Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MCBT) for depression and anxiety or Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) for stress. Look here to find your local provider or speak to your GP to see if you can be referred.

  4. Find your local yoga or meditation centre. Most yoga practices involve meditation/mindfulness techniques and many yoga centres offer introductory courses to meditation.  You could also try your local Buddhist centre (if there’s one nearby).

  5. Sign up to an online mindfulness course. Here are links to the courses run by the Mental Health Foundation, MBSR founders at the University of Massachusetts or try this free online course here.

 

Further reading