The Benefits of Mindfulness and Meditation
Bayshore | | Health and Wellness
Over the past nine months, the global pandemic has had an alarming impact on Canadians’ mental health. Uncertainty, fear, isolation, health concerns and financial strain as a result of COVID-19 have all taken a toll on our well-being. Recent news about effective vaccines has been encouraging, but it will be a while yet before life returns to normal.
To cope with pandemic stress, many people are turning to various methods of self-care. Many have found support through mental health services. Others are boosting their mood (and staying fit) with regular exercise, or by staying connected with family and friends. Many of us are also exploring other techniques, including mindfulness and meditation, to soothe our frazzled nerves.
What are mindfulness and meditation?
The words “mindfulness” and “meditation” are often used interchangeably. They’re closely related, but they aren’t the same thing.
Mindfulness means being present in the moment – aware of your thoughts, feelings, movements and behaviours without judging or interpreting. You can practise mindfulness anytime by paying attention to what’s around you, what you’re doing and what’s going on in your mind. It’s about engaging in the moment with all of your senses, rather than doing one thing and thinking about something else.
Meditation is a more formal and intentional practice – taking time out of your day to sit, ideally in a quiet place, and practise mindfulness. Meditation might involve guided imagery or focusing on something specific, such as your breath, a sound, an object or a mantra (a short phrase). You can meditate by yourself or with others. The aim is to quiet the chaotic mental chatter that often dominates our thoughts.
Health benefits of meditation
Mindfulness and meditation can help you calm your busy and distracted mind. If that’s not reason enough to give them a try, maybe this will convince you: they’re also good for your health.
Research studies have found that meditation can help reduce negative feelings, including stress, anxiety and depression. It can also decrease pain, improve sleep and boost immunity. Regular meditation may also benefit the brain by keeping it agile and protecting it from the effects of aging.
There are other benefits, too. Mindfulness has been linked to better memory, attention, concentration and decision-making. It can help us feel more compassion towards ourselves and others. Mindfulness can also increase our self-insight, intuition and morality, as well as temper our response to fear. People who are mindful also tend to feel more satisfied about their relationships.
Two more great reasons to practise mindfulness and meditation, especially during a pandemic: they cost nothing, and you can do them in the comfort of your own home.
How to start meditating
As anyone who has tried meditation can tell you, it’s not easy to stop the mind from wandering, even for one minute. At first, it might even feel uncomfortable to sit with your thoughts. But don’t get discouraged – simply observe each thought as it arises, and then gently let it go. It’s okay for your thoughts to drift; simply try to notice when they do, and refocus your attention.
You can start to practise mindfulness and meditation anytime. For guidance and motivation, check out the helpful, beginner-friendly resources below. Start with short sessions, just a few minutes at a time, and gradually extend to 15 minutes, half an hour or longer – as much time as you need to feel mentally refreshed and centred.
How to Practice Mindfulness (mindful)
How to Meditate (mindful)
How to Meditate (Yoga International)
Meditation for Beginners by Jack Kornfield
Unplug: A Simple Guide to Meditation for Busy Skeptics and Modern Soul Seekers by Suze Yalof Schwartz with Debra Goldstein
Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
Mindfulness: An Eight-Week Plan for Finding Peace in a Frantic World by Mark Williams and Danny Penman
Bayshore Home Health offers a wide range of home care services to help Canadians live independently for as long as possible. Contact us at 1-877-289-3997 for details.