Updated: Mar 9
Mindfulness and Meditation are two buzz words you will likely have heard over the past couple of years, but not everyone knows what they are and how they help to improve your wellness and health. Our resident meditation practitioner, Hannah Ervin explains what they are and how they can help you along your wellness journey.
You will often find these two mentioned in the same breath. They are perfect partners and although there is some crossover between the two techniques, it is very likely that if you enjoy one you will embrace the other, but it’s not necessary.
In a nutshell mindfulness is all about being totally and utterly present in the current moment. It is being one with everything around you so you can connect with peace and acceptance.
All too often in life, we are swept away with thoughts of past and future. We’ve all been there, repeatedly mindlessly going back over past events. When we do this we feel the pain, frustration or anger as if it was actually happening to us now. As if the feelings aren’t bad enough we then spend a lot of energy trying to rewrite the event, changing the outcome with some witty put-down or justifying to ourselves why we did what we did.
Equally, we can do exactly the same with the future. Creating a hundred different outcomes for some upcoming event. All the while physically feeling the stress and worry escalate (this can include our heart beating faster and blood pressure rising).
Neither of these scenarios is helpful so this is where conscious mindfulness can step in. If you go for a walk to get yourself away from a situation and then spend your entire time mulling it over you’ll probably find your blood pressure increasing, cortisol levels rising (stress hormone) and your thoughts become even more confused. Therefore you’re not going to come back to a better place, you’ll be the same as when you left.
The other choice is to go for your walk and leave the stressful situation behind. This time you could choose to focus on the air you are breathing, the clouds floating in the sky, the warmth of the sun on your skin, the sound of traffic or children playing. By doing these things you will find yourself in a place of peace, your breathing will settle, your body will be calm and you’ll be the best version of you ready to come back and tackle whatever you need to tackle.
Mindfulness can be practised anytime and anywhere. It is simply a state of mind that you choose. You can be mindful when doing any activity, even the ones you don’t like. For example, next time you are washing up think about the way the water feels on your skin, the colour of the individual bubbles, the scent of the soap, the texture of the sponge. I promise it will go by really quickly and you won’t feel resentful that the kids didn’t help.
Being mindful is particularly rewarding when you engage all your senses. What can you see? What can you smell? What can you taste? How does it feel?
If you’re not sure where to start here are a few popular activities:
Go for a walk
Look for patterns (like the car game - how many red cars can you spot)
And my personal favourite - bake a cake!
Meditation is an activity you do in its own right. Everything else stops while you meditate.
It can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few days. It crosses cultures and religions and has been practised for thousands of years (we may think of it as being ‘New Age’ but it’s always been there). It has shown to have positive effects on the mind, body and soul.
Physically it has been shown to:
Lower blood pressure
Reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone)
Increase productivity (sport and work situations)
Increase neuroplasticity (this is your brain creating new neural pathways and improving).
Mentally it has been shown to:
Reduce stressful thoughts
Calm and clear the mind
Generate feelings of pleasure, peace, love and joy
Take away fear
Increase clarity and focus.
It’s good for the soul because:
It helps people connect with their own spirituality - whatever their belief system may be.
Whatever you get from meditation will be unique to you - there are no tick lists here.
There are hundreds and hundreds of ways to meditate. Most people will find they are drawn more to some than others. You may feel highly motivated to sit on a mountain for two days without eating, drinking or speaking to another sole but I don’t. I’m much happier doing a few minutes every night before I go to bed and a longer guided group meditation as and when I need it.
Here are a few simple ways to get started:
Try an app - there are some excellent apps available. Take advantage of free ones first so you can decide what you like (you may find some styles or voices irritating).
Find a meditation practitioner - a good meditation practitioner can help you find the type of meditation that works best for you. They will adapt the sessions to meet your individual needs and teach how to practice on your own.
Join a meditation group - these are springing up all over the place. You may want to go to an open group which means you can go whenever you like or a fixed class that runs with the same number of people over a set time with aim of teaching you the techniques to carry on on your own.
Go on a meditation retreat - this is likely to be an intensely rewarding experience as you will have the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the process. If you fancy a holiday that will truly send you home inspired, relaxed and refreshed a retreat is the way to go.
If you are interested in trying a retreat, then you can check out our sister site My Life Retreats, where you will find different wellness getaways to suit your needs and interests!
Written by Hannah Ervin.