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What does it mean to be more mindful?

What Does it Mean to Be More Mindful?

Most of our lives are immersed in analyzing the past and planning for the future. Because of this, most of us don’t even know what’s happening right now. Often, we just go through the motions in our daily life without fully experiencing it. However, if you want more happiness and success, now it will help you to become more mindful.

Fully Experiencing What is Happening Right Now

As you read this, are you also watching TV or listening to music, or trying to stop your cat from jumping on the kitchen table? Instead, try reading this and blocking everything else out. It’s only going to take about three minutes of your life to read this without interruption.

Letting Go of Expectations of What You Are Experiencing in the Present

If you have an important event to attend, it’s easy to allow expectations to rule the moment. You may even go into the situation with too many ideas of what is going to happen that ruins your experience. Instead, try to stay grounded so that you can truly feel what is happening.

Taking Pleasure in Every Task Each Moment

Even tasks like washing dishes can become pleasurable if you think of it right. You can enjoy the feel of the soft bubbles on your hands in the warm water, as well as the end results of doing that task by celebrating a mission accomplished

Experiencing the Flow of Creativity

When you are genuinely focused on the now, you’re more likely to get your mind into a flow state of creativity. That’s when you do something (even something hard), and you cannot realize time is passing as you do it. It’s so fun and pleasurable that it’s almost as good as sleeping.

Not Judging the Experience Just Experiencing It

One thing that gets in the way of being mindful is placing judgments on an event or experience. Next time you go to an event or even when you’re eating dinner focus only on the experience and not putting any type of judgment good or bad on the event.

Bringing Awareness to Everything, You Do Every Day

Mindfulness can bring so much awareness to the things you do each day. If you usually eat without thought, think about it as you do it. If you normally multitask stop. When you can do things with full awareness it’s always more fun.

If you feel as if life is too rushed, find ways to bring yourself into the present so that you can fully experience what is happening right now. Stop thinking and start feeling. Feel the sunshine on your body as you mow your lawn, smell the fragrant air when you go to the lake, and enjoy breathing in and out right now.

How Meditation Helps to Reduce Blood Pressure

How Meditation Helps to Reduce Blood Pressure

Heart disease is one of the leading killers of North Americans. With the combination of the Standard American Diet and a low priority for exercise, it isn’t any surprise that heart disease is easily one of the most dangerous things North Americans have to worry about. Not only that, but the stresses of daily life are constantly plaguing the population. Everybody wants, and needs, to succeed. And the stress associated with such important tasks can cause blood pressure to rise. Sometimes, stress can cause other issues associated with heart disease as well, such as stress-eating unhealthy foods that contribute to poor health.

Ultimately however, meditation is a great way to help keep that type of stress in check. Rather than allowing the negative cycles to persist, meditation can provide a way for us to unplug from the world around us and refocus our minds onto things that are not as overwhelming. When we engage in stress-relieving activities, our brains respond very physically. Chemicals such as nitric oxide are released and it is found to be helpful in reducing blood pressure.

In fact, one study even found that people who managed to keep a regular meditation schedule were able to lower the dosage of the blood pressure medications that they had been using to keep their health in check. That isn’t to say that if you start to meditate, you should immediately cut down on the does of whatever medicine you are taking. However, you can keep in touch with your doctor about your new lifestyle change and see if there is the option later on down the line.

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Reducing stress is a huge key in reducing blood pressure. When we find ourselves getting stressed out, our bodies react. Our hearts beat more quickly, we get flushed, and we generally suffer from tightness in the chest or other limbs. Stress is known as the silent killer for a reason.

But meditation is a cure. While it may not always reduce the stressful situations you experience in your life, it does provide us with a great coping mechanism that allows us to build up our resistance to stress and process negative events in a healthy way rather than letting them bring us down. No matter what style of meditation you choose to utilize, it has a high chance of reducing your blood pressure. Whether you are simply focusing on your breathing, practicing mindfulness, or listening to guided meditations, taking the time away from your hectic life to focus inward is a great asset.

While we can’t completely cure the world of heart disease, we can at least take steps in preventing it from affecting us as badly as it could. In lowering our risk of heart disease by practicing meditation and lowering stress, we are ensuring ourselves, and those we care about, that we are capable of handling whatever life throws at us in a healthy way. In learning more about meditation, you may literally save your life!

How Meditation Can Improve Anxiety Disorders

How Meditation Can Improve Anxiety Disorders

Meditation is a great tool for anybody who has ever suffered from an anxiety disorder. The primary goal of meditation is to clear your mind and to be able to bring your attention to the present moment. You are meant to create an aura of peace surrounding yourself and create a safe place in your mind where you can escape if things get overwhelming, without detaching yourself from the world or your life.

Generalized anxiety disorder is very common in today’s world. Many of us find ourselves overwhelmed by the things going on around us, and seek to find comfort and control when we feel our security is being threatened. In learning to utilize meditation, we are providing ourselves with a very useful tool that we can access during any situation. We can remember to breathe mindfully and keep our attention on the present moment rather than succumbing to panic attacks or hysteria.

Anxiety disorders can be complex and can manifest in many different ways. Often, anxiety can cause sleep disturbances or result in shallow and unrestful sleeping patterns. Fortunately, meditation has been proven as a way to help us to sleep more soundly. It helps us to process the stresses that we feel on a daily basis so that they are not creeping just below the surface when we finally get a chance to lay down and relax our bodies.

Meditation is a way to help us to train our minds. People with anxiety disorders can very much benefit from this type of training. It can be easy for our thoughts to go astray, and when this happens, it can be very confusing and even a little bit scary.

Fortunately, utilizing techniques like mindfulness meditation can help us to stay focused on the here and now, rather than following the uncertain paths that our thoughts might take should we begin to experience anxiety. This tool is incredibly beneficial to sufferers of anxiety, and can be practiced until strengthened fully.

Whether or not you suffer consistently from anxiety or it only creeps up on you once in a while, learning how to practice mindfulness meditations is incredibly useful. A good way to begin is to simply close your eyes for a moment and focus on your breathing. What does your body feel like as you breathe? How quickly are you inhaling your breaths? What do you hear around you? What do you smell?

By taking your attention away from the thoughts that are causing your anxiety and focusing on the current world around you, you can begin to stay in the present moment and interrupt the disruptive neural pathways that are causing so much more harm than good. This way, you may find yourself much better e       quipped to handle the stresses of daily life without suffering from as much anxiety as you may have before.

Anxiety can be a very disruptive presence in your life, but in learning to practice mindfulness meditation, it can be a force easily reckoned with merely using the power of your own mind!

The Pros and Cons of Guided Meditations

The Pros and Cons of Guided Meditations

The general consensus over the years is that meditation is a great thing.  It has served human kind for thousands of years and continues to be a very important resource to those who utilize it in their lives.

What many people don’t realize is that there are several different types of meditation and that each one of them can help you in different ways. Sticking to the type of meditation that works best for you can be important,  but ultimately it can also be limiting.

Guided meditation is a great way for anyone who has never meditated before to get the hang of it and learn more about how it works. It can give us something to think about and focus on while we get the hang of meditating. And if we find that we are having a very difficult time in getting out of our negative head space, listening to a guided meditation can be a great distraction.

Guided meditations can also be used to help us focus our minds on important things and specific goals and objectives that are meaningful to us. There are hundreds upon hundreds of guided meditations with specific goals in mind. If, for example, you wanted a meditation session to help you get the most out of your diet or work routine,  you could probably search online and immediately find guided meditations that are tailored to that specific goal.

However,  there are some negative aspects to becoming dependent on guided meditations. When meditation was first introduced,  it was generally considered a way to do important inner work. Something that was best done alone. If you find it impossible to meditate without the help of someone else,  then what is the point? You are losing out on important opportunities to look deeply inward and learn how to gain insight into yourself without the help of someone else.

Meditation is generally a personal thing.  It is an act most effectively mastered on your own. If you find yourself struggling to clear your mind and find a safe, peaceful place in your head without the help of someone else, you are missing out on one of meditation's greatest benefits. The chance to sit alone in deep,  silent reflection and get intimately connected with yourself, good and bad. And learning how to carve out a safe and sacred space where you can begin to feel relaxed and rejuvenated after dealing with a very draining world or situation.

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Ultimately, no matter what type of meditation you are most comfortable with,  you can find value and introspection in it. Your thoughts and experiences are your own, and becoming more self aware can happen with or without a  guided meditation. The best approach is to do what feels best to you, while still working on being able to access a safe and calm state of mind no matter where you’re at or whether or not you have a guided meditation to help you.

Trauma and Meditation: Finding the Peace After the Tragedy

Trauma and Meditation: Finding the Peace After the Tragedy

There is an alarmingly high percentage of people who have experienced trauma.  Whether in childhood or in your current life situation,  trauma and grief are constantly associated with a person’s behavior and mental health. When we experience a traumatic event, the stress that our minds experience can completely change the way we interact with others and how we experience the world from then on.

Most forms of trauma physically change the way our brains are wired. The neural pathways in our minds form networks of reactions to specific stimuli. This can cause incredible strain on us as we struggle to live with a “new normal.”

Fortunately,  there is the hope of healing.  No matter how difficult our experiences may be, the neural networks are flexible. We can work to restore our balance and rework the connections our minds have made with the onset of trauma. And in so doing, we can gain control once more over our emotional and mental integrity.

Most forms of trauma benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy,  which is a way to help us to interrupt bad thoughts with good thoughts so that triggers and negative stimuli are not so overwhelming.  Meditation can be a great way to redirect your thoughts and gain a more masterful control over your feelings.

In utilizing meditation,  we can take the time to sit down and take a breath if we find ourselves triggered by an event that we encounter. We can carve out a “happy" place, or more importantly, a safe place in our minds away from the negative thoughts surrounding each reminder of our trauma. Mindfulness meditation is a particularly effective tool in treating PTSD and other problems that can arise with trauma.  It is a way to disconnect ourselves from the bad experiences by focusing on the present moment. In doing so we begin to redirect our brains and allow our neural pathways to form new paths away from the triggering event and toward a deeper calm.

Loving kindness meditation is also a great way to help your mind recover from the pain of trauma and abuse. If you have experienced something that has left you feeling like you are not valuable, loving kindness meditation can help you feel more comfortable with yourself and find compassion for your flaws. This way you can allow yourself to grow in a healthy and honest way.

Trauma and abuse can also leave us very angry. This is another benefit of loving kindness meditation.  This form of meditation can help us to find the capacity to forgive the unforgivable and allow ourselves to let go of past hurts and focus on a life of compassion and regrowth.

No matter what we have experienced,  considering meditation is a great step toward finding strength, peace, and healing. We can learn to forgive the harm we have endured and create a safe space where we can move forward with our lives with confidence and understanding. You can do it!

How Meditation Aids in Restful Sleep

How Meditation Aids in Restful Sleep

In today’s day and age, insomnia seems to be creeping up on a large majority of people. Insomnia can be defined as a disruptive sleep cycle, whether because of difficulty falling asleep or because it is difficult to stay asleep. Most of the time, insomnia has roots in psychological disturbances, which can make it hard for our brains to shut out our thoughts and focus on getting a good night’s rest. A lot of us tend to experience a lot of sensory input throughout the day, going from one situation to the next without really giving ourselves a chance to process what we’ve experienced.

Those unprocessed thoughts and experiences can leave our minds reeling but are forced to the backburner. The time they are most likely to surface is during our attempts to sleep, because that is the first time during the day that we have allowed ourselves to be still and quiet where our minds are able to be reflective and calm. Sleep disturbances can easily arise because of this, and insomnia is often the result.

However, there is a way to prevent and treat insomnia. With meditation, we allow our bodies the opportunity to process those overwhelming events and give ourselves a chance to reduce stress and find our equilibrium before it attempts to ambush us during the times we should be allowing ourselves to get rested up for the next day.

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Meditation is proven to help us reduce stress, which is a huge benefit when you find yourself suffering from insomnia. People who are suffering from anxiety, whether it is a disorder or not, have a tendency to lose sleep or find it difficult to gain restful sleep experiences. With the stress reduction provided from meditation, it can aid us in enjoying a more restful sleep experience.

Meditation can help us to manage anxiety symptoms throughout the day and compartmentalize our thoughts so that they are not overwhelming to us. In learning how to consciously clear our minds, we are providing ourselves with the necessary coping mechanisms we need to let go of the things that are bothering us so we can find some peace in the silence.

Even if we don’t catch ourselves dealing with the thoughts we weren’t able to process during the day as we lay down to sleep at night, they are there and the unspoken stress they cause can linger with us. But if we are able to meditate and focus on ways to better ourselves and improve our lives, then we can lay down at night knowing that things are going to improve. Insomnia is much worse when we find ourselves feeling stuck.

Fortunately, meditations, particularly mantras and mindfulness meditations, along with loving kindness meditations, are a great way of helping us to deal with stress and focus on better things. Even if we don’t know exactly where our stress is coming from. Utilizing meditation as a tool will help us to clarify those things that can cause us stress so we can begin a plan of action. Starting in the morning.

Meditation and Creativity – How One Helps the Other

Meditation and Creativity – How One Helps the Other

Meditation is heralded by many as being a ‘cure all’ – a panacea that can prevent all of your woes and help you to find peace and enlightenment.

They’re not wrong per say. Compared with many other strategies, meditation is certainly one of the most effective when it comes to overcoming anxiety and getting a better perspective on things. But unfortunately, nothing is perfect. That includes meditation.

Meditation is all about getting ‘out of your own head’ and focussing. It’s about being in the moment and not reflecting on problems.

But here’s the thing: reflecting on problems is useful. Even a little bit of stress is useful – it’s called eustress.

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And the biggest potential casualty when it comes to meditation is creativity and the default mode network. The default mode network is the selection of brain areas that light up when you daydream, or think about your own future. People associate this part of the brain with a) being distracted from what’s happening, and b) being negative.

But the truth? The default mode network is also where many of us come up with our very best ideas – including Albert Einstein. Daydreaming about the future is how we learn more about who we are, and what we want to accomplish.

So, the risk is that we throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The good news is that meditation isn’t to blame. The problem is with the way it is sometimes pedalled – by people who claim we should always be in the moment.

The truth is that the brain has many different states and we perform best when we’re able to choose those states and jump between them as needed.

So we need to be ‘in the moment’ when delivering a speech or spending time with friends, but there’s no harm in letting our mind wander when we’re going for a stroll and thinking about writing a great story.

This is where something called ‘productive meditation’ comes in. Suggested by author Cal Newport in his book ‘Deep Work’, this form of meditation means you are focussing on a problem or a creative endavor. Instead of thinking about nothing, you are thinking about something you want to work on.

And in fact, this kind of meditation agrees with what some new research suggests: that we are most creative when we active both the ‘daydreamy’ default mode network and the focussed ‘executive control network’. When you focus on being unfocussed, amazing things happen.

How to Meditate ALL Day for Amazing Results

How to Meditate ALL Day for Amazing Results

When we think of meditation, we tend to think of the most common form of the practice – or at least the one we see most commonly depicted. That is of course, the kind synonymous with the image of a sage guru sitting cross legged, hands perched on their knees, with their minds calm, chanting ‘OM’.

While this is one example of a form of meditation, it is far from the only one. Just as beneficial in fact – if not moreso – is practicing focussing the mind during your daily activities.

Because what meditation is really, is nothing more than focus. Meditation is what happens when you choose to focus your mind on something, rather than letting it bounce from one thing to the next. And the result is that you stop feeling so panicked and forget all those unhelpful thoughts that may have been racing through your mind before.

Many of the activities we engage in daily can already be considered as ‘meditative’. A good example is reading a book, or even watching a good film. Have you ever been to an amazing film at the theatre, then been completely disoriented when you exit? Because you aren’t sure what time it should be, or how long you’ve been in there? That’s because you’ve been so transfixed on what you were doing, that everything else fell aside.

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The same thing happens when you read a good book. Put it this way: you can’t be engaged in an enthralling read and worrying about what tomorrow might bring. These two activities are mutually exclusive.

Now your objective is to bring that same sense of calm focus into other parts of your life.

Take ironing for example. While you might be ironing while you watch TV, you may also find that at times, you iron as you allow your mind to go blank. You focus purely on the activity itself – the ironing – and everything else seems to fall away.

There’s something about the repetitive motion of moving an iron back and forth that can be perfectly meditative. You just have to let it! So calm your mind and choose to think about nothing else. If you can do this, then you will be able to turn ironing into meditation.

From there, the next step is to try becoming meditative while you’re washing the dishes. Then maybe while you’re walking.

Top Types of Meditation

Top Types of Meditation

Did you know there is more than one type of meditation? In fact, there are countless forms of meditation – each of which has different goals and methods.

The question then, is which type of meditation is right for you – and how do you get started with the one you choose? This guide will help you to understand more and decide.

Mindfulness Meditation

We’ll start with this one, only because it has become so popular recently that it’s the type many people may be familiar with.

Mindfulness meditation comes from cognitive behavioural therapy – a psychotherapeutic approach in psychology. The idea here is not to empty your mind of thoughts – as it is in many other forms – but rather to try and detach yourself from those thoughts and not be affected by them. Note which thoughts float by, but don’t try to change them.

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Body Scan Meditation

Closely linked to mindfulness meditation is body scan meditation – this is a form of meditation that involves focussing on each part of your body and progressively relaxing. It’s great for refreshing the brain and chilling after a hard day.

Transcendental Meditation

This is another of the more popular and well known forms of meditation. The goal here is to clear your mind and to do so usually by focussing on a mantra or perhaps an imaginary point in space. Doing this can help you to eventually close down areas of your brain while retaining consciousness.

Loving Kindness Meditation

Loving kindness meditation is a form of meditation that involves focussing your mind on a specific feeling – in this case love and kindness! By doing this, you will feel happier and you will become better at forgiving people. It also feels fantastic in the moment.

Kundalini Yoga Meditation

Kundalini yoga meditation is a form of moving meditation. The idea here is to move gently into different positions while focussing on controlling your breathing and staying calm and focussed. The result can be highly relaxing while also improving your overall health and wellness.

Religious Meditation

Religious practitioners can engage in meditation by focussing deeply on a passage of text from their scripture, or on a prayer.

Zazen

Zazen is a form of meditation associated with Zen Buddhism. It must be taught under the leadership of an instructor and involves a number of specific steps. However, the objective is once again to focus primarily on detaching yourself from your thoughts and letting go of judgement.

How to Start Meditation in 3 Easy Steps

How to Start Meditation in 3 Easy Steps

More and more people are now beginning to appreciate the amazing power of meditation. No longer does the average Joe or Josephine view meditation as being some kind of black magic – it’s now understood as a highly scientific and practical tool that anyone can and should use for better brain health.

But how do you start? It’s still a daunting and somewhat abstract concept. So to help you overcome that notion, here’s how to start meditation in 3 easy steps.

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Find a Quiet Place

Meditation can be done anywhere, but it’s certainly easier when you are free from distractions. And that’s especially true for beginners. So find a quiet spot, and if you want to make this a regular practice, try to make it somewhere that you will be able to come to often.

Now sit down however is comfortable. Don’t lie down though – only because you risk falling asleep if you do!

Set Some Time

The next step is to set yourself some time out. You can do this by setting a timer – which means you won’t need to keep checking your watch, or worry about overshooting and missing some appointment.

If you’re starting out for the first time, then ten minutes is more than enough. But in all honesty, you can even get benefit from just five minutes. This is what many people don’t realize when they make excuses for not starting. We all should be able to find five minutes of quiet in our day. If you cannot, then the issue is more deep routed than perhaps you realized!

Focus

Finally, the next step is to focus. That means focussing on something like breathing or perhaps repeating a word or phrase. You can also try focussing on something in the environment around you. A popular practice for instance is to focus on a single flame.

Then there’s the option to focus on emptying your thoughts, or perhaps to focus on reflecting on those thoughts in a dispassionate manner.

Whatever the case, all you are trying to do is to take conscious control over your attention and to direct it towards something that is non-stressful, and that will help you to recover a little energy and mood. That’s all there is to meditation and it’s really rather simple.

If you’re still struggling, then at this point you may wish to consider using a guided meditation – like something from Headspace. These guided meditations talk you through a script that will help to direct your attention for you.

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