I have been meaning to write about this one for some time now. As a part of their wellness plan, nearly all of my clients will get a recommendation for some sort of relaxation activity. Commonly this will include Mindfulness or Meditation.
No longer just the realms of hippies, gurus and strange religious practices, Meditation and Mindfulness are becoming more and more popular. There are a number of studies that show that these practices are helpful with stress reduction and coping with pain, including fibromyalgia and other muscular skeletal issues [1-4].
Meditation and Mindfulness are something that I have practised on and off for years and comes with the different spiritual and self-development work that I have undertaken. As a part of my life for so long, I think I have taken it for granted as a normal activity and have made the assumption that people actually know what I am talking about when I say “I think Meditation would be really helpful with reducing your stress levels”. Unsurprisingly I often get blank looks back.
So here’s where I rectify that!
Meditation and Mindfulness 101
Firstly, I want to say that there are many different types of Meditation. There are probably as many different forms or types as there are spiritual practices and self-help personal development books and apps. There are loads of guided Meditations on YouTube, apps and lovely music to bliss out and drift away to. I am not going to even try to touch on or evaluate all of these, my purpose in writing this is to get people started, without the stress of uncomfortable sitting positions, learning complicated mantras or joining a slightly “out there” group. Basically, the best way to Meditate and practice Mindfulness is the one that suits you, fits in with your life and serves your purpose. It really is an individual thing.
Often the words Meditation and Mindfulness are used interchangeably. From my experience, I like to think that they are two different things and I use the practices differently, depending what is going on. I will often merge a Mindfulness exercise with a longer Meditation when I have time.
Mindfulness is a gentle practice that leads you to being able to still your overactive mind and “be present” by focusing on the here and now – which is so helpful when you are trying to go to sleep or get that important report written but you also have going around in your head what seems like a million and one other things like getting the kids to after school activities, picking up groceries, wondering what the strange smell is in your teenagers room and whether that noise in the car engine means it’s going to break down on the motorway on the way home.
Mindfulness techniques are also useful in other areas of your life. For example if you have clients that you see or interview, Mindfulness techniques can help you to focus on the person in front of you, leading to a more genuine interaction.
Many times the distractions are trivial things, sometimes they are bigger but they all take your focus away from what you are trying to do and can lead to unnecessary stress. Being able to put these thoughts aside is a powerful thing.
So how do I start out with Mindfulness?
- You can be sitting, lying down on the floor or the bed, sitting at your desk or on the bus – as long as you feel comfortable and safe.
- Allow yourself to relax and start by focusing on your breathing. A good way to start is to take 3 deep breaths, and with each one feel yourself relax and your shoulders drop a little more each time. Then just breathe in and out in your normal way, you do not need to change the way you are breathing or do anything special.
- Become aware of the way your lungs are filling and deflating. The way your chest and belly rises and falls. Notice how the feeling of your clothing on your skin changes as you inhale and exhale. You are focusing on here and now.
- If the million other things in your head start to come back into your awareness, just recognise and acknowledge this and put them aside until later, then go back to focusing on your breathing.
- Start with a few minutes and then gradually increase the time as you are able to.
It is as simple as that