For World Meditation Day, Carlisle Eden Mind’s Sara-Jane shares her own journey with mindfulness meditation and the amazing benefits that it can have on our emotional, mental and physical wellbeing.
World Meditation Day
World Meditation Day is about taking some time away from the stresses of life, and this past year has been a difficult and stressful time for a number of us. There are many different types of mediation but the one most commonly associated with mental health is mindfulness meditation.
My Mindfulness Journey
When I was first introduced to Mindfulness back in 2013, I was sceptical. I thought meditation had to be a spiritual experience and I viewed the practice in this stereotypical way. Despite my preconceived ideas, I decided to go on an 8 week course provided by the charity I volunteered with at the time. I hoped if nothing else it would provide me with some additional tools when working with clients. During this course, I learned more about what mindfulness is and how it can benefit our mental wellbeing. Whilst mindfulness does have roots in Buddhism, you don’t have to be spiritual or have any specific beliefs to practice it.
Being mindful is an ability every human being naturally possesses, however in order to access it, you have to practice regularly. When I first started, I found myself being frustrated, struggling to meditate, believing I was ‘bad’ at it. But the truth is, you can’t be bad at mindfulness meditation. No matter how many times you get distracted, the most important part of the practice is the point when you recognise you are distracted and you bring yourself back into the moment. It is this repeated action that helps to cultivate our ability to be mindful.
The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
So how does mindfulness benefit our mental health? In life we tend to operate on auto-pilot, this coupled with our minds ability to travel, often means we lose touch with the present. We become engrossed in our thoughts, we worry about the future and obsess over the past. This type of ruminative thought can have a huge impact on our mood. When practiced regularly, mindfulness can help us be fully present, experiencing what is happening in each moment. This means that when we drift away, becoming lost in our thoughts, our mindfulness practice can help us to gain control over this, bringing us back to the here and now.
But you shouldn’t just believe the hype, the science behind mindfulness speaks for itself. Studies have shown that when practiced regularly mindfulness can positively alter the structure and function of the brain. It is also scientifically proven to help manage stress, anxiety and depression, amongst other mental and physical health benefits.
So, eight years on from starting my mindfulness journey I am a convert, having experienced firsthand the benefits of mindfulness. In 2016 I started training as a teacher and I qualified in December of 2019. I have practiced meditation daily throughout the pandemic and this has helped to keep me grounded and manage my own mental wellbeing.
How to Practice Mindfulness
- Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
- Sit in a comfortable position, with an upright posture, on either a chair, cushion or mat.
- Close your eyes, engage with your breath, breathing from the diaphragm, in and out through the nose.
- Continue to focus your attention on your breath, noticing the sensations as you breathe in and out.
- It is natural to become distracted, when you do, just bring your attention back to the breath.
- Continue this practice for a minimum of 10 minutes and try for longer periods the more you practice.
You can access some guided meditation practices for beginners on my YouTube channel, SJ Mindfulness. More meditations will be added in the coming weeks for you to try. And you can follow me on Facebook for information and updates.