A Beginner’s Guide to Meditation
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
If you have ever explored strategies to reduce stress or better control anxiety, chances are you’ve stumbled across the term “mindfulness” on your search. Mindfulness is a process in which a person focuses exclusively on the thoughts, feelings, and sensations they are experiencing in that present moment. When you are in this mindful state, you are less likely to feel overwhelmed by what is happening to you or around you. Bringing all of your attention to the present moment prevents your mind from either revisiting the past or imagining the future; a common tendency for individuals who struggle with anxiety. It may also provide you some relief from those uncomfortable thoughts and feelings that seem to take up permanent residence in the back of your mind.
Being Mindful when your life is Chaotic
Modern-day life does not always lend itself to a mindful perspective. You likely face the demands of fulfilling multiple roles, each associated with their own pressures and responsibilities. At times, it might even seem as though some of those pressures and responsibilities are in direct competition with each other. So, what can you do to cultivate mindfulness in the midst of your busy life? This is where meditation comes in. Meditation has been proven to be an effective method for achieving the psychological benefits associated with mindfulness.
At this point, you may be thinking to yourself “I can’t do that” or “that’s not for me” for a variety of reasons. Many people have tried to meditate at some point in their lives but far fewer incorporate meditation into their daily routine. If you have ever written yourself off as an unsuccessful meditator, it might be worth redefining your definition of what meditation is (and also what it is not). Although there are different styles and forms of meditation, there are a few key concepts that are universal to its practice.
1) Increasing awareness while avoiding evaluation
It takes both time and practice to feel comfortable in a meditative state. Meditation is an active process in which thoughts and feelings will naturally arise. When they do, simply label them without judging them as good or bad. Remember that you are more than your automatic mental patterns – practice kindness towards yourself.
2) Returning to a point of concentration again and again (and again)
Your mind will wander. There will be times that you lose focus. That’s okay. The practice of meditation is just as much about training yourself to redirect your thoughts as it is about maintaining engagement in the present moment. Notice patterns but always gently return to the present.
Meditation is not:
1) Trying to achieve emptiness or blissfulness
A common misconception about meditation is that the goal is to “turn off” your mind. You might be surprised to find that meditation is not relaxing at all. Instead, think of meditation as an opportunity to acknowledge and honor your thoughts and feelings. Give those disruptions a venue to be noticed before refocusing.
2) Producing change or a means of accomplishing
The whole reason that you’re meditating is to feel better. That being said, when an uncomfortable thought or feeling arises it might be tempting to try and “fix” it, whether by analyzing or justifying or minimizing. Substitute a mentality of striving for a mentality of acceptance. Change doesn’t happen overnight!
Practice makes perfect
Over time, with consistent practice, meditation can help you de-condition your mind and body from reacting to a wide range of thoughts and emotions with anticipatory anxiety. Use meditation as a tool to explore which of your current mental habits are creating the most stress as you navigate your many commitments (and alternatively, which provide you with increased feelings of well-being).
Next time you find yourself going through the motions in life- or maybe the next time you find yourself folding laundry while keeping one eye on the kids and the other on the television- consider taking some time to reconnect with yourself by meditating. After all, who doesn’t want to achieve a greater understanding of themselves? Make mindfulness a healthy habit to incorporate into your daily life in 2020.
Benefits of Mindfulness
Mindfulness has been shown to reduce your stress, increase your feelings of calmness, and help you live a more fulfilled in-the-moment life. If you would like to learn more about how Catalyss Counseling incorporates mindfulness into our therapy practice, contact us for a free 20-minute phone consultation or schedule an appointment online with one of our experienced counselors on your way to bringing mindfulness into your daily life.
Dylan Mackie-Hernandez is a licensed professional counselor at Catalyss Counseling in Englewood, CO. Dylan is passionate about helping adults learn mindfulness to help with their anxiety, depression, and work-life balance. Follow Catalyss Counseling on Facebook or LinkedIn.