By Margaret Heaton, LMFT
In recent years, scientists and theorists have done clinical research to evaluate the long-term benefits of practicing mindfulness and meditation. The research has led to many insightful discoveries. We now know that the long-term benefits of practicing mindfulness and meditation include (but are not limited to): stress reduction, minimizing chronic pain, reducing anxiety, lowering the probability of symptoms of depression, enhancing brain performance, improving sleep, reducing risk of heart attack and stroke, and improving overall well-being.
The goal of mindfulness is to achieve a state of alert, focused present moment awareness, by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment, while tuning into the sensation of your breath. This allows the mind to refocus on the present moment. All mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation. There are many ways to practice mindfulness and below are some techniques that you can try.
Basic Mindfulness Meditation – Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or “mantra” (i.e. “quiet,” “relax”) that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return your focus on breath or mantra.
Body Sensations – Notice subtle body sensations such as an itch or tingling without judgment and let them pass. Notice each part of your body in succession from head to toe.
Sensory – Notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches. Name them “sight,” “sound,” “smell,” “taste,” or “touch” without judgment and let them go.
Emotions – Allow emotions to be present without judgment. Practice a steady and relaxed naming of emotions: “joy,” “anger,” “frustration.” Accept the presence of the emotions without judgment and let them go.
Urge Surfing – Cope with cravings (for addictive substances or behaviors) or pain sensations and allow them to pass. Notice how your body feels as the craving/pain sensation enters. Replace the wish or desire for the craving/pain to go away with the certain knowledge that it will subside (Benefits of Mindfulness).