The Value of Mindfulness Meditation
Think of meditation and you may think of reducing stress, or becoming more relaxed, and you’d be right. But there’s a specific type of meditation that you may find interesting as you face this challenging time in your life. It’s called mindfulness meditation, and it’s designed to develop the skill of paying attention to our inner and outer experiences with acceptance, patience and compassion.
A study published in Behavioral Medicine found that people who practice this form of meditation have a more accepting outlook toward living with cancer. The study also found that worry and thought suppression were greatly reduced.
Thought suppression can be explained by what’s called the white elephant effect—try not thinking of a white elephant and you will likely immediately picture one in your mind. One of the main principles of mindfulness meditation says, for example, that if a person attempts to suppress thoughts of their cancer, those thoughts ultimately become more frequent and harder to control.
Other studies suggest that all forms of meditation increase activity in the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS)—the part of the nervous system that reduces stress, improves blood flow and releases digestive juices. Meditation has also been shown to increase activity in the regions of the brain that help regulate positive emotions, awareness, and anxiety.
Here are a couple of simple techniques to get you started:
- Focus all of your attention on your breathing for 60 seconds. It’s harder than it sounds! Keep your eyes open and breathe normally. Your mind will wander; just bring your attention back to your breathing. Even if you don’t fully master this technique, you will find that it aligns you with the present moment.
- Conscious observation. Pick up some every day object that you have lying around. Anything—a pen, a plant, a pillow. Focus your full attention on it. Don’t analyse it; just observe it for what it is. This technique can give you a feeling of being in the moment, of being fully awake.