How to Establish a Mindfulness Practice: A Beginner's Guide
by Shimeng Gao (3rd year Physical Therapy Doctorate student, Mount Saint Mary's University)
Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation
There's a generous amount of research showing the benefits of mindfulness meditation for our mental, emotional and physical health and wellness. To some extent, our mindfulness practice is just as important as the physical practice in the journey of rehabilitation. Here are some scientifically approved benefits of meditation:
Reduce stress level
Decrease anxiety and symptoms of depression
Promote deep sleep state
Alleviate chronic pain
Foster healthier relationships
6 Tips Before You Begin
You don’t have to believe in a certain religion or be a super-yogi to start a mindfulness practice. It’s actually quite simple to add it into your daily regimen: no equipment, no extra cost, all you have to bring is YOU. Here are some tips before you start:
Start with just 2 minutes. Silence all of your digital devices and just sit for 2 minutes to allow your mind to cleanse. If it goes well, you may increase to 5 minutes the next week. Start small and have zero expectations. Simply let it happen.
Don’t get caught up in the HOW; just DO. You don’t have to find the perfect pillow to sit on, or dip your favorite essential oil into the diffuser, or even create the perfect meditation playlist. In the beginning, all that matters is just that you start. As you gradually form this habit, you may create a better environment for yourself.
Observe your breaths. Be attentive to how you are breathing. Is your inhalation nice and smooth? Does the chest expand? Do you feel the belly moving as well? Do the neck muscles tense up? Can you soften the tongue and facial muscles? How many seconds are each inhalation and exhalation? Really listen to your breaths!
Scan your body. Are you sitting on your sit bones? Is your back straight or rounded? Do your legs feel grounded? How are the shoulders? Can you hear your heartbeats? Can you let your eyeballs sit deep into their sockets? Can you broaden the skin between the eyebrows?
Reset when the mind wanders. In the beginning, it’s very common that after a few breaths, the mind starts to wander. Whether it’s worrying about your to-do list or a conversation you just had, simply go back to your breaths. Breathing is our best reset button. Go back to counting the breaths and feeling the texture of your breaths again.
Don’t change; observe. Please don’t feel obligated to keep the mind nice and clear when you meditate. Instead of shutting the brain down, let it be water and flow. By flow, I mean to let thoughts happen but not get too involved. One easy strategy I use is acknowledging that I’m thinking or feeling a certain way. Never push down any negative thoughts or emotions. Try to observe them, and accept.
If you have any additional questions on restorative yoga or want to continue your practice in mindfulness, please don't hesitate to reach out!