15 Jul Mindfulness and meditation: what they are and how they can benefit you
Life is busy. I’m sure most of us can agree that there’s always something left on the to-do list, another deadline to meet, or another bill to pay. We spend a lot of time thinking about the past and planning for the future. It can be hard to pay attention to what’s going on in the present when we’re always thinking about what comes next. Being mindful and taking the time to appreciate what’s going on in the present can be very beneficial. Mindfulness and meditation are often associated with states of deep relaxation, insight, thoughtfulness, and peace.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), mindfulness is “a skill developed by deciding to slow down and take the time to pay attention and be curious about things that we’re experiencing and things that we see around us.” There are three main characteristics of practicing mindfulness: attention, curiosity, and acceptance.
Attention involves recognizing your internal thoughts and feelings, as well as being aware of your surroundings, including the sounds that you hear and the things that you see. Attention can help you to acknowledge what you have and understand how you are feeling in the moment.
Curiosity is “exploring without judgement,” according to the CMHA. This means examining your emotions, thoughts, and physical sensations from different perspectives, to better understand a situation. By avoiding being critical and judging the things going on around us, we can better relate to different thoughts, feelings, and situations, making these experiences more meaningful.
Acceptance involves accepting a situation as it is rather than trying to change it. Sometimes things are out of our control; the ability to accept what is, whether it’s good or bad, helps us feel less anxiety about what we can’t change.
Mindfulness is often practiced in conjunction with meditation. Meditation is “a mental exercise that trains attention and awareness,” according to Psychology Today Canada. To meditate, you can use mindfulness to focus your attention on a certain feeling, object, or idea, to increase your mental awareness and relax your mind and body. There are many different types of mediation that have been practiced across the world for thousands of years.
Meditation has been proven to benefit our mental health. A 2017 study from the University of Waterloo found that meditation can reduce off-topic thinking, which is often a symptom of anxiety.
Mindfulness and meditation are important tools that can improve mental health, calm the mind and body, and enhance quality of life. For more information on mindfulness, mental health, and spirituality, listen to this podcast by our own Dr. Simran Rattan.