You can’t spell mindfulness without mind — and it’s all about making sure yours stays in the present.
I’m skeptical. What exactly is mindfulness?
Mindfulness involves recognizing where you are in the moment and sinking into it. It’s about noticing when your mind wanders off and trying to focus on your breath. Now, a few questions: Where are you right now? How does your seat feel? What thoughts are crowding your head? That’s where meditation can come in.
I know I’m supposed to meditate, but tell me the deal again.
Meditation is known to heighten your attention and focus. Think 'living in the moment,' minus the cheesy Instagram quote. Like anything else, it takes practice. Meditation is like a muscle — the more reps you do, the stronger you get.
Are all meditation practices the same?
Nope. Meditation comes in many forms. Here are a few big ones...
Mindfulness meditation...The one we’ve been talking about. It’s a form of meditation that pushes you to be fully present with your thoughts, and letting them pass by without judgment.
Transcendental meditation...The one that’s repetitive. It uses a repeated sound (think: “om”) to clear the mind and try to transcend the present moment. The Beach Boys, The Beatles, and Don Draper (you know the scene) are all known practitioners of transcendental meditation.
Loving-kindness meditation...The one that sounds cheesy. Don’t judge a meditation by its name. This type, which is also called metta meditation, involves directing good feelings and wishes towards others and increasing compassion.
I have no time. Why should I care?
Because research suggests that meditation is good for your brain. Here are some more benefits…
Staying sharp...Studies like this one have found that participants who practiced mindfulness meditation for just eight weeks had changes in volume in four key regions of the brain linked to memory, empathy, and self-awareness.
Keeping calm... A Johns Hopkins study showed that meditation can help reduce anxiety and depression with no negative side effects.
Honing in...We’ve said focus so many times in this article that it’s becoming a mantra. One study found that meditation training (after only a couple of weeks) boosted people’s focus and memory while taking the GRE. That’s GRE(AT).
Shutting down...Meditation can help you sleep. It’s all part of a cycle that goes a little like this: If you can’t sleep, the lack of sleep might contribute to your stressed headspace. If you’re in a stressed headspace, you probably can’t sleep either. Meditation can help. Data has shown that those who practice mindfulness meditation sleep better.
OK, I’m convinced. How do I do it?
Just breathe. Thanks, Faith Hill. Here are some tips and resources to get mindful.
For when you don’t even know where to start...“Belly breathing” or “diaphragmatic breathing” — aka breathing from your diaphragm — helps you breathe more fully and allows you to take in oxygen more efficiently. Here’s how it works: Sit or lie down with your knees bent, putting one hand on your chest and another under your ribcage. Breathe in slowly through your nose, feeling your stomach fill up with air. Purse your lips and breathe out through your mouth. Rinse and repeat.
For when you want to relax all over…I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toeeees. A body scan is a meditation exercise where you focus on individual body parts, doing a check-in to make sure nothing feels out of whack. First, lay down and breathe. Then focus on each part of your body separately, examining how it feels, the texture of the blanket, the blister on your heel...Whatever it is, focus. Then move on until you’ve done each body part.
For when your computer background is a beach but it’s covered by 10,000 open tabs...Clear the clutter or try guided imagery. Think: daydreaming, but make it productive. Close your eyes and think of a soothing scene or place in your mind that has personal significance for you. Put yourself in that place, then wait for that sense of ease to sink in.
Isn't there an app for this?
Appsolutely. Here are some Skimm HQ faves:
Shine...The one that helps you shine bright, no matter what. A new meditation gets released in the app every weekday that speaks to what's going on in the world around you. It's free to download, and Skimm'rs get a discount on a premium membership ($27 for your first year). That'll get you access to a digital community for real-time advice, a meditation library, and more.
Headspace…The one that gets back to basics. If you’re new to meditation and don’t know where to start, Headspace has a lot of resources for beginners, and a wide variety of meditations. The first two weeks are free, then it’s about $70/year.
Calm…The one whose name says it all. With less structured meditations than some other apps, this might appeal more to someone who’s gotten their om on before. It’s also focused on helping people with insomnia and sleep. Calm’s Premium subscription costs about $70/year.
Ten Percent Happier…The one with personal interaction. This app connects you with well-known meditation teachers for guided sessions and allows you to connect one-on-one with them for personal coaching. Membership is free for a week, then costs about $100/year. They also have a free option that only includes the basics (daily reminders and tracking).
Insight Timer...The one that’s completely free. Insight Timer has more free options than any other app (65,000 meditations and counting). You can pay for premium features once you’re ready to level up.
Meditation might seem like a 'nice to have' for people who have the time. But once you start, it could become a 'must have' that you make time for.