Mindful meditation is something I do daily－actually, nightly! Every night as I fall asleep, I use the app Daily Yoga for a guided meditation that assists me in falling asleep. This is one of the many things that has naturally helped my insomnia.
Meditation is a set of techniques designed to train the mind to focus and redirect your thoughts. When mindful meditation is done correctly, it leads to a heightened state of awareness and consciousness with many positive impacts on your health and overall well-being (1).
Before going over how to meditate, let's discuss the many health benefits of meditation, especially for your mental health.
Benefits of Mindful Meditation
The benefit of stress reduction is one of the leading reasons people consider meditation. Mental and physical stress can cause an increase in cortisol levels (the stress hormone). Reducing stress usually leads to the release of inflammatory chemicals known as cytokines. One study found that mindful meditation reduced the inflammatory response caused by stress (2). Another study concluded that meditation is excellent for overall stress reduction (3).
Stress reduction results in less anxiety, and there are plenty of studies that demonstrate this. Research suggests that various mindfulness and meditation exercises may reduce anxiety levels (4). One 8-week study found that eight weeks of mindful meditation helped reduce anxiety in those with generalized anxiety disorder while increasing their positive self-statements, stress reactivity, and overall coping (5). Another study on 47 people with chronic pain found that completing an 8-week meditation program led to noticeable improvements in anxiety, depression, and even pain (6).
Promotes Emotional Health
Some forms of meditation can lead to an improved self-image and a more positive outlook on life. In one study, they found mindfulness meditation improved symptoms of depression (7). In a similar study, where they received meditation therapy, there was reduced expression of depression compared to those in the controlled group (8).
It's said that some forms of mediation may help you develop a more robust understanding of yourself, helping you manifest into the best possible version of yourself. The self-manifestation occurs by teaching you to recognize the thoughts that may be harmful or self-debilitating and steer you more toward constructive patterns (9). One study discovered that 153 adults who used a mindfulness meditation app for two weeks felt less lonely and increased social contact (10).
Lengthens Attention Span
Some forms of meditation focus on increasing the strength and endurance of your attention. One study found that people who listened to a meditation tape experienced improved concentration and even accuracy while completing tasks (11). Another study concluded that meditation might reverse patterns in the brain that contribute to "mind-wandering" (12). In one study, they even found that meditating for just 13 minutes per day for eight consecutive weeks enhances attention and memory (13).
May Reduce Age-Related Memory Loss
Improved attention and clarity of thinking may help keep your mind young. One study showed that multiple meditation styles can increase concentration, memory, and mental quickness in older volunteers (14). Another study found that meditation can help improve memory in patients with dementia (15).
May Help Fight Addictions
Many people struggle with addiction. Mental discipline can be developed through meditation and even help break dependencies by increasing your self-control and improving your awareness of triggers (16). Research has shown that meditation may help teach people to redirect their attention, manage their emotions, and even dominate their impulses (17).
Almost half the population grapples with insomnia at some point in their life. Meditation can help relax the body, release tension and put your mind at peace, resulting in a smoother transition to a restful night of sleep. One study found that people who meditated slept longer and had improved insomnia severity (18).
Helps Control Pain
Those who suffer from chronic pain know that when times are stressful, your pain levels elevate. Research suggests that incorporating meditation into your daily routine can be beneficial for pain management. One study concluded that mindfulness meditation could reduce pain, improve quality of life and even decrease symptoms of depression in people suffering from chronic pain (19). Another study of nearly 3,500 participants found that meditation was associated with reduced pain levels (20).
Can Decrease Blood Pressure
Meditation can improve your overall physical health by reducing stress and, in turn, reducing the strain on your heart. One study of nearly 1,000 participants found that meditation can help lower blood pressure and was most effective on elder participants who had high blood pressure before the study (21).
How to Practice Mindful Meditation
Now that we've discussed the benefits of practicing mindful meditation, let's discuss the steps you should take to ensure a successful meditation session.
Choose A Distraction-Free, Quiet Spot
Turn off access to everything; your phone, and the television, close the door to the room you are in and let everyone know you would like to be left alone for the duration of your meditation session. If you are doing a guided meditation, just keep your phone on "Do Not Disturb" to avoid any interruptions. For me, this place is my bed.
Set The Duration of Your Session
If you are brand new to mediation, I'd suggest starting at 5-10 minutes per session and gradually increasing the duration of each session. My sessions are usually 30 minutes, but I often fall asleep during the session.
Get Comfortable But Pay Attention to Your Body
You may sit or lay however is comfortable for you, but try to find a position where you will not need to move or reposition for the duration of the meditation session. Notice how your body feels during your meditation session, and make sure every limb of your body is comfortable.
Focus on Your Breath
Try deep breathing exercises where you truly notice every breath you take. Feel your stomach expand during each inhale and contract during each exhale. Be sure to see how each breath makes you feel.
Pay Attention to Your Thoughts
Meditation isn't necessarily meant to "clear your mind"; your mind will start to wander. Instead, focus on gently recollecting your thoughts and focus your attention back on your breath. Don't judge your thoughts; analyze them and understand why you have them to help you manifest into the best possible version of yourself.
⚠️ These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, and this technique is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure anything.