Dr. Hannah Singer
It seems like the whole world is talking about mindfulness meditation.
And for good reason! Countless studies have demonstrated that mindfulness meditation is effective for everything from treating depression and anxiety to lowering blood pressure to improving marital satisfaction.
“When you consider all the benefits...it’s not an exaggeration to call meditation a miracle drug” -Arianna Huffington, Thrive
Nowadays hospitals, clinics, and Fortune-500 companies are all jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon and offering mindfulness meditation training to their patients and employees.
So what’s the deal with mindfulness? What is it? How does it help? And, most importantly, how the heck do you do it?
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BENEFITS?
Studies show that a consistent mindfulness meditation practice:
Bottom line = mindfulness meditation positively affects both your physical and mental health, sometimes in just a matter of weeks.
But exactly IS mindfulness meditation? And how do you get started?
WHAT EXACTLY IS MINDFULNESS?
Mindfulness means simply observing thoughts, feelings, body sensations, and surrounding environment (aka: everything that's happening in the present moment) without judging what we notice.
Mindfulness describes a very specific way of paying attention - with curiosity, openness, and nonjudgy-ness :) This is not something we are used to doing in our everyday lives and it requires a bit of training.
Mindful awareness is a skill that can be learned - the easiest way to build this skill is through guided mindfulness meditation exercises.
In a formal mindfulness meditation exercise, you practice
Research shows that repeatedly practicing this type of nonjudgmental awareness and continually refocusing attention when your mind wanders can literally “rewire” our brain, which then leads to all those fantastic physiological and psychological changes we talked about earlier.
Kind of how physical exercise strengthens our physical muscles, these mental exercises strengthen our “mental muscles”.
HOW DO YOU 'DO' MINDFULNESS?
You can "do" mindfulness through formal meditations or by simply bringing this non-judgmental, mindful attention to your everyday activities.
However, the easiest way to start a mindfulness practice is by learning formal mindfulness exercises and practicing them daily for at least 6 weeks. This allows you to grasp the concepts and build up those "mental muscles".
The more time you can commit to practicing everyday the better, but even 5 minutes a day makes a significant difference.
Don’t have 5 minutes to spare?
Look, I get it - your life is crazy busy and this just feels like one more thing to add to your long to-do list, but I am 100% confident that you can find 5 minutes in your day to do something positive and nurturing for your physical and mental health. Plus, you will gain back those 5 minutes (and then some) because you will be more focused and productive afterward. Talk about return on investment!
HOW DO YOU LEARN THESE FORMAL MINDFULNESS EXERCISES?
There are lots of ways!
1) Find a beginner's class or workshop in your local area. Try googling “mindfulness meditation class” + your city.
2) If you're in L.A. you can come to my “Intro to Mindfulness” class offered every Tuesday - it's free! Space is limited to 8 people each week - Sign-up here at least 24 hours in advance to reserve your spot.
3) If can't find a class in your area, try an app or website geared towards beginners - I recommend UCLA MARC or Insight Timer, but there are tons of others you can try.
Still confused about mindfulness meditation? It’s difficult to understand mindfulness just by reading about it - It will make much more sense once you experience it, so give it a try and let me know how it goes!
Learn more about attending my free, weekly mindfulness class here.
I'm a clinical psychologist and adult psychotherapist based in Los Angeles. I specialize in treating anxiety, trauma, and perinatal mental health using traditional talk therapy, mindfulness-based therapy, and EMDR.