Why mindfulness is a superpower
Why practice mindfulness and meditation?
Here are just some of the potential benefits of developing a regular practice of mindfulness meditation, according to recent scientific studies:
- improve focus and concentration
- improve pain management
- reduce stress, and stress-related symptoms (e.g., flair-ups of existing conditions, such as asthma, IBS, etc.)
- improve sleep
- manage emotions and impulses
- reduce symptoms of anxiety, depression, loneliness, etc.
- improve impulse control –> make wiser and healthier choices
- long term benefits may even include improved brain and cellular health in aging (reductions in age-related cognitive decline, and improved telomere maintenance)
- improve overall life satisfaction and well-being, which is associated with greater overall health outcomes
Meditation is also used by top athletes like Michael Jordan & Kobe Bryant, CEO’s and the military to optimize performance.
“Meditation is as important as lifting weights and being out here on the field for practice. It’s about quieting your mind and getting into certain states where everything outside of you doesn’t matter in that moment. There are so many things telling you that you can’t do something, but you take those thoughts captive, take power over them, and change them.” ~ Seattle Seahawk’s offensive tackle, Russell Okung, in an interview after winning the 2014 Superbowl.
The following blog provides additional details on the benefits of mindfulness, including a section related to college students.
Mindfulness teaches us to tune into to our lives, as it unfolds (like the dog, by seeing what is right in front of us), instead of being caught up in our heads (like the person below).
Key Elements to Mindfuless
- Being in the present moment
- not on autopilot, not thinking about the past or future, but instead being fully present in each moment as it occurs (sometimes it might feel like being in the zone, or in a state of flow)
- we can’t force this to happen, but we can invite it in by taking a deep breath, relaxing, focusing, and paying attention to the sensations in the body, and/or taking in what’s happening around us right now through our senses (e.g., noticing colors, smells, etc.)
- not judging yourself, or others
- don’t get mad at yourself when you notice yourself ruminating about the past or worrying about or anticipating the future, this is natural. Just try to notice and catch when this happens, then bring the mind back to the breath, mantra or other object of focus.
- letting go of expectations
- not striving to do or achieve anything
- seeing things how they are, which will help you to experience life more fully
- beginner’s mind – approaching life with a child-like wonder and awe
- be curious about what you are experiencing right now, in your body, in your surroundings, in this moment
- what does it feel like to be alive right now? what does it feel like to be you in this moment?
- be kind, gentle and forgiving towards yourself and others
- smile 🙂
- mindfulness is a life skill you can strengthen like a mental muscle; training occurs through practice
Basic Instructions for Seated Meditation with Mantra
The most basic mindfulness meditation instruction is to sit quietly and focus on the sensations of the breath, and each time you notice the mind wander, bring it back to the breath. **Simple does not mean easy.** The idea is to do this over and over, using the key elements of mindfulness.
Mantra meditation provides an additional tool besides the breath that many people find helpful, by giving the mind an internal sound to focus on during their seated meditation.
Instructions: Sit in a quiet, comfortable place, preferably with back support. Slowly close your eyes. You will notice thoughts, streams of thoughts. That is fine. Just observe them without minding them. Take a few long, smooth, deep breaths to become aware of the sensations of the body and help calm the nervous system. After about a minute or two, introduce the mantra … I AM… and begin to repeat it gently and effortlessly in the mind. We use the mantra I AM for the sound, not for the meaning. If your mind wanders off into other thoughts or you get distracted from the mantra by anything else, it is natural. When you realize you are off the mantra, gently come back to the mantra. This is all you have to do. Easily repeat the mantra silently inside. The meditation is this simple procedure of thinking the mantra, losing it, and coming back to it. Do not resist if the mantra tends to become less distinct. The mantra does not have to be with clear pronunciation. I AM can be experienced at many levels in your mind and body. When you come back to it, come back to the level that is comfortable, not straining for either a clear or fuzzy pronunciation. Continue like this for the entire meditation period.
At the end of the meditation, rest with eyes closed for a couple minutes before getting back to activity, perhaps stretching the body gently like a cat waking up from a nap.
For best results, work up to performing this procedure for 20 minutes, twice a day, before you start your day and again at night. Give it some time to work, and pay attention to the changes you begin see in various aspects of your life.
UConn Health – Additional Resources
Internet Links for Guided Meditations
*Note: Most Apps require you to create an account by providing name, email and creating a password. They do NOT require you to pay anything to access the base material, but allow you to ‘unlock’ additional material for a fee. We suggest just using what is available for free.
Free items include:
1) guided meditations of several different lengths, for various purposes, with world renowned mindfulness teachers
2) allows you to set daily reminders
3) interviews/courses with expert instructors
4) allows you to ask questions to experts, who will reply within a day
Stop, Breathe and Think App
Free items include:
1) written instructions
2) guided meditations of several different lengths, for various purposes, you can choose male or female voice
3) tracks progress (time and emotions)
Free items include:
1) cartoon-illustrated instructions
2) guided and unguided meditations, various times
3) tracks your ‘journey’
4) allows you to add buddies
*Note that this is a 10 day trial
User choice of:
3) sleep stories
Contains meditation timer, and meditations for various purposes (calm, stress, anxiety, focus, happiness, gratitude, etc. – the first of each is free, then you have to pay).