A lot of research has been done on the relationship between mindfulness meditation and health, and the results are clear. Mindfulness meditation reduces stress and can increase both physical and mental health and reduce pain.
So what is mindfulness meditation?
Mindfulness is looking at yourself and your actions (both internal and external) with curiosity and without judgement. The curiosity comes from observing what you are doing thinking or feeling and being curious about it; wondering why you may be acting that way. Lack of judgement means not judging yourself as right or wrong, especially the latter, for your actions.
Mindfulness meditation is usually done by focusing on something, usually your breath, but sometimes a sound like a mantra you repeat to yourself, and returning to that focus whenever you start to focus on something else. So if you are meditating by focusing on your breath, you return to that focus without judgement whenever you start to focus on a thought or an emotion, or something outside yourself like a sound. The power of the meditation lies in becoming aware of when you cease to focus on the breath, or your mantra, and immediately returning to that focus.
Some people think that they can’t meditate because they keep losing the focus on the breath. But losing the focus and them immediately returning to it, is meditation. By training yourself to immediately return to the breath whenever you cease to focus on it, however attractive or unattractive your thoughts or emotions may be, you will get better at focusing, and at letting go of things that have previously troubled you.
Not judging yourself is also important. Stress arises because of judgement of ourselves or another. When you can just observe whatever comes up without judging it, you will find that thoughts and emotions are often fleeting. They move though you like clouds moving across the sky. They have no inherent meaning beyond the meaning you give to them.
With practice you will find that the peacefulness you feel during meditation will extend into the time that you are not meditating. Things that used to cause stress, no longer do so, and you can let go of stressful thoughts or feelings more easily. Because both physical and mental illness is caused or maintained by stress, you will find that you become physically and mentally stronger, and illnesses improve or disappear.
While meditation has not been shown to shorten periods of depression, it does lengthen the periods between bouts of depression, so people become depressed less frequently. Those with social phobia, who find it difficult or impossible to interact with others without stress, generally improve with meditation. This is because those with social phobia usually judge themselves harshly. By learning not to judge themselves while meditating, these people find that self-judgement tends to disappear in social situations as well.
A positive change is usually seen after meditating for 30 minutes a day for three months. So if you have a lot of stress or a physical or mental illnesss, why not give meditation a try. It has no undesirable side effects and will likely enhance your life.
Start practicing mindfulness meditation today and watch your physical and mental health improve. I guarantee that you will be hooked on this practice and will not want to stop.