The practice of mindfulness has been widely used in different settings to improve the well-being of individuals. It offers numerous benefits for the mind, body, and overall well-being.
We all experience our lives with our minds. Our happiness in life, fulfillment, and positive relationships come from within us.
Therefore, it is definitely worthwhile to spend only a few minutes to train and protect our minds.
A 10-minute meditation exercise to apply mindfulness practice to your daily life.
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What is meditation and mindfulness?
Meditation is a practice where an individual trains attention and awareness to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.
It is both a skill that needs to be trained and an experience that has its intrinsic value.
The change that practicing mindfulness can bring to you may be minimal after one or two practices. It doesn’t aim at changing you into a new or better person. Instead, it is more about awakening your consciousness and intentionality.
After developing a habit of practicing mindfulness, you can experience the positive impact that it will bring to you. This positive change includes an increased level of awakening and understanding, which unconsciously changes how you feel about yourself, and about others.
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What are the benefits of meditation?
Reduces stress: meditation helps to calm the mind and relax the body, reducing the production of stress hormones and promoting a sense of relaxation.
Acts as a therapy: meditation has been used to heal different kinds of symptoms and illnesses relating to stress, including but not limited to anxiety, depression, anger, reliance, obsessive behavior, insomnia, muscle tension, etc.
Enhances emotional well-being: meditation cultivates a sense of inner peace and tranquility, helping to reduce anxiety, depression, and other negative emotions.
Improves emotional intelligence: emotional intelligence is your awareness of your own and other people’s feelings. It encompasses self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills. Cultivating emotional intelligence can greatly improve your productivity
Improves focus and concentration: regular meditation practice can enhance your ability to concentrate, leading to improved productivity and mental clarity.
Boosts self-awareness: by practicing mindfulness during meditation, you can develop a greater awareness of your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, allowing you to make positive changes in your life.
Promotes better sleep: engaging in meditation before bedtime can help calm your mind, enabling you to achieve a deeper and more restful sleep.
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What are the three elements of practicing mindfulness?
Practicing mindfulness includes three key elements, namely:
- (1) How to approach meditation techniques
- (2) how to connect with these techniques
- (3) how to best integrate and apply these techniques
Step 1: Approaching meditation techniques
There are different meditation techniques and training. To practice mindfulness, you can use tools available online like the following meditation apps to help you get started:
- Insight Timer: this is a free app with a lot of guided meditation. It is designed for sleep, reducing anxiety, and eliminating stress.
- Headspace: this is a meditation app that focuses on helping you get more goodnights, find more joy, and make every day happier.
- Calm: Calm is an app that helps you manage stress and anxiety, get better sleep, and feel more present in your life.
Alternatively, here are some simple exercises that can help you to have a glimpse of what meditation techniques look like.
Exercise 1: Experiencing stillness
- Close your eyes.
- Sit still for one to two minutes.
- If there are a lot of thoughts coming up, let them come and go.
- Experience the feeling of sitting still and doing nothing.
Exercise 2: Feeling your senses
- Sit still in your present position.
- Focus your attention on your sensation, preferably your auditory or visual sensation.
- Listen to the sounds around you and close your eyes.
- Focus on the sensation in a relaxed and comfortable way.
- If you are distracted by your thoughts or other sensations, turn your attention back to the object you were previously focusing on.
Exercise 3: Feeling your physical sensations
- Focus your attention on some kind of physical sensations you have. This could be the feeling of your body pressing into your sofa, the feeling of your feet on the ground, or even the feeling of your hands on a book.
- If you are experiencing a lot of thoughts or emotions, try to imagine that underneath all the thoughts and emotions, there is an area that is peaceful, open, and clear, so that you can shift your attention back to your physical sensations.
Exercise 4: Feeling the emotions behind your sensations
- Slowly close your eyes.
- Focus on a particular pleasant or unpleasant sensation in your body. This could be a sense of lightness in your arms and legs, or tension in your shoulders.
- Gently share your pleasant feelings with others while focusing on them.
- Stay relaxed about experiencing unpleasant feelings or look after the unpleasant feelings.
Exercise 5: Becoming aware of our emotions
- Close your eyes.
- Start by noticing what you are feeling in your body. This will give you clues as to what your deeper emotions are.
- Ask yourself these questions: Do you feel this emotion as heavy or light? Is there a sense of serenity or restlessness in your body? Do you have a sense of constriction of openness?
- Mobilize your mind and take 20 to 30 seconds to answer each of the questions.
- Focus your attention on your breathing. What experience does your breathing bring you – is it fast or slow, deep or shallow?
Exercise 6: Scanning your body
- Gently close your eyes.
- Do a quick scan of your body with your mind, starting at the top of your head and working your way down to the tips of your toes. This should take around 10 seconds.
- For the second body scan, do it for around 20 seconds.
- For the third body scan, do it for around 30 to 40 seconds.
- As you fully scan your body, notice which parts of your body feel relaxed, comfortable, and at ease, and which parts feel painful, uncomfortable, or restrained. This should be done without judgment or analysis, but simply with the aim of understanding how each part of the body feels.
- If a thought distracts you from time to time, you can gently pull your mind back to where it was being interrupted.
Step 2: Practicing meditation techniques
Below is a 10-minute meditation practice that you can repeatedly practice to foster the meditation skill.
- Find a place to sit comfortably with your back straight.
- Make sure you will not be disturbed by people or things during your meditation.
- Set an alarm for 10 minutes. You can do so using Insight Timer.
- Take 5 deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth, then gently close your eyes.
- Focus your attention on the sensations you feel as your body settles into the seat and the sensations you feel as you place your feet on the floor.
- Scan your whole body, noticing which parts of your body feel comfortable and relaxed, and which parts feel uncomfortable and tense.
- Pay attention to your emotions, including what mood you are in right now.
- Notice where you feel the ups and downs of breathing most intensely.
- Notice how each breath feels, and notice the rhythm of each breath, whether it is long or short, deep or shallow, heavy or smooth.
- Slowly count the number of breaths as you focus your attention on the ups and downs.
- Count 1 one inhalation and 2 on one exhalation, all the way up to 10.
- Repeat the process 5 to 10 times.
- Stop focusing and let the mind wander or relax as it wishes for 20 seconds.
- Bring the mind back to your sensations.
- When you are ready, slowly open your eyes and stand up.
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Want to apply the 10-minute meditation exercise above? Download our exercise guide below to apply this practice in daily life.
A 10-minute meditation exercise to apply mindfulness practice to your daily life.
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Step 3: Integrate and apply meditation techniques
Meditation will not be beneficial to you unless you actively apply it to your daily lives. To do so, you can start by practicing the 10-minute meditation described above every day.
In addition, here are some mindfulness practices that can be applied to different aspects of your life.
Mindful eating is a great exercise to help us focus more on our meals. Very often we tend to multitask when we eat, for example, we watch television while having our dinner, hence forgetting the importance of savoring the food, understanding the value and origin of the food, and being grateful for what we can eat.
This exercise is perfect to bring our attention back to all these simple things.
- Sit down at the table away from all external distractions.
- Take a few deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth to settle your body and mind before picking up the food you eat.
- Take a moment to appreciate the food. Ask yourself where did your food come from?
- Take a moment to be thankful that you have food to eat and don’t feel guilty because you want to eat it.
- Notice the texture, temperature, and the color of your food.
- After you put the food in your mouth, pay attention to the taste, texture, and temperature of the food.
- Notice the reaction of your mind towards the food. Do you like or dislike the food? Do you accept the food as it is, or do you resist certain aspects of it? Do you find the food too hot or too cold, too sweet or too sour?
- As soon as you notice the mind wandering away, gently bring your attention back to the eating process and the different tastes, flavors, textures, visuals, and the sound of chewing.
- Be mindful of what your breathing looks like while you are eating.
- Towards the end of the meal, notice if you feel a sense of disappointment or relief, and take some more time to savor that last bite.
- Before you leave, take a few deep breaths and think back to what it was like when your plate was full of food and what it is like now when it is empty. Notice what is constantly changing and has a beginning and an end. Notice how the mind becomes more and more at ease with the passage of time.
Walking is a process that is very automatic and conditioned and very few of us would take the time to notice how we feel when walking. This exercise helps observe the way you walk and experience walking deeply.
- Before you start walking, notice how your body feels. Do you feel heavy or light, stiff or relaxed?
- Notice your posture and how you raise your hands and feet. Be aware of how you feel when you walk.
- Pay attention to what is happening around you. Notice the vehicles, other people, traffic signals, and what is going on around you. Pay attention to the colors and shapes of things, and observe how dynamic or static things are.
- Pay attention to the sound around you. Notice the sounds as if they are just coming and going in your realm of awakening.
- Turn your attention to the smells and take in the smells, some of which may be pleasant and some of which may not be so pleasant. Notice how the smell reminds you of a place, something, or someone.
- Pay attention to any sensations or emotions you are feeling as you walk.
- Don’t try to stop thoughts from entering your field of awakening but simply notice them coming and going.
- Gently turn your attention to the sensations of your body as it moves, noting how the weight shifts smoothly in rhythm from the right side and the left side and back again. Try to avoid artificial speed adjustments and try not to walk at a particular pace.
Below is a mindfulness practice that you can do when you go for a run.
- Before you get ready to go for a run, make an effort to know how you feel and what is going through your mind. You can take a few minutes to sit down and let your mind settle before you start running.
- When in your workout clothes, you can begin to notice how your torso feels.
- Take a few deep breaths before you set off, which will help you to focus and will give you a strong sense of contact with the ground. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Do this at least 4 to 5 times before you set off.
- After you start running, you can use whatever breathing style feels most natural to you.
- Stay intensely aware of what is happening around you while bringing your attention to your body. How do you feel when you are active? How do your muscles respond to your movements? Notice the rapid changes in your breathing as your body moves.
- Be aware of how the mind responds. Did you feel a sense of pleasure when you got out of the house, stretched your legs, and breathed in the fresh air? What are the thoughts that run through your mind?
- Notice the stabilized rhythm as you grow accustomed to running. Does this rhythm make you feel comfortable? How does it feel in your body?
- Bring your attention to things around you, like other runners, cars, parks, fields, buildings, or even anything you pass by.
- If you notice any unpleasant feelings, instead of trying to get rid of the physical discomfort, see what happens when you focus on the feeling. Try to think of yourself and the pain as one, and think more about the simple, direct experience of “pain”.
Preparation: Before going to bed
- Make sure you have been to the bathroom, locked the door, turned off your phone, and done everything you would normally do before going to bed.
- Make some preparations for the next morning or make a list of things to do the next day.
- Tuck in the covers and lie flat as if you are going to sleep.
- Put a thin pillow under your head.
- Lie down and take a moment to realize how it feels to sink to the bed, how it feels to have your body supported by the bed, and how it feels to have nothing more to do for the rest of the day.
- Once you are comfortable, take five deep breaths, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. As you inhale, feel your lungs fill with air and your chest expand. As you exhale, you can visualize that the thoughts and feelings of the day have disappeared without a trace, and all the tension in your body has dissipated.
Step 1: Check-in
- Pay attention to your physical and spiritual feelings.
- Pay attention to the points of contact between your body and the bed. Bring your attention back to the kind of sensation your body feels when it makes contact with the bed. Notice how your body feels as it sinks into the bed and the part of the body where the contact feels the strongest.
- Pay attention to any sounds of other sensations. Recognize whether a sound is something you can change or something you can’t control or do anything about it.
- Understand how your body actually feels. Does the body feel heavy or light, restless or quiet?
- Scan your body more precisely with your mind, from the top of your head to your toes, gently empathizing with any tension.
- Don’t try to change the rhythm of your breathing in any way but let your body go with the flow. Pay attention to whether your breathing is deep or shallow, long or short, smooth or irregular.
- Place your hand on the area where you feel the strongest activity. Track the rise and fall of your breath as you move your hand back and forth.
Step 2: Review your day
- Start with the first point in the day that you can remember, after you woke up in the morning. Do you remember how you felt when you woke up?
- Quietly observe as your mind replays the events, meetings, and conversations you experienced during the day.
Step 3: Relax and sleep
- Bring yourself back to this moment.
- Bring your attention back to your body. Focus on the little toe of your left foot, visualize going to sleep, and “turn it off”. Repeat this exercise on other parts of the body.
- Let your mind wander as it pleases, be free to associate from one thought to the next, until it drifts off to sleep.
If you are still awake…
- Let your mind wander aimlessly, to let it associate with whatever it wants in the usual way, without exerting any control or coercion.
- Count backward from 1000 to 0 to keep the mind focused during the transition from wakefulness to sleep. Whatever thoughts come into your mind, whether they are about falling asleep or something else, let them come and go. Your only purpose, your only focus, is to try to count down from 1,000 to 0.
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Book recommendations on meditation and mindfulness
Want to learn more about meditation and mindfulness? Here are some of our favorite books on this topic:
Search Inside Yourself: The Unexpected Path to Achieving Success, Happiness (and World Peace): This book explains how practicing mindfulness can positively influence your work performance and job satisfaction.
The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness: How Mindfulness Can Change Your Life in Ten Minutes a Day: In this book, Andy Puddicombe provides a program of mindfulness and guided meditation that fits into our daily routine. This book and practice will help you positively impact every area of your physical and mental health through mindfulness.