The Best Everyday Meditative Breathing Techniques

If you’ve spent any time researching meditative breathing techniques, you’ll know that there are dozens of methods to choose from. Trying to find a technique that works for you can be overwhelming, and it might scare you away from trying. However, you can narrow it down by searching for breathing methods that help with specific issues.

Many breathing techniques are based on the yogic principle of Pranayama, which is the foundation of all yoga practices. Pranayama translates to extending your life force. Because breathing can help you with so many issues, breathing in a specific way will provide you with a greater quality of life and help you get a better handle on the issues you face every day.

Here is a quick guide to some breathing techniques that help reduce stress, raise energy levels, and help you when you’re having trouble sleeping. Read more

How to Relax Your Body

Holidays are a time for you to connect with your family and share gifts with the people you love. However, the pressure of preparing for holiday parties and trying to get gifts that everyone will like can become stressful and create a lot of tension rather than joy.

As a result, many people end up getting tense and holding that stress in their bodies. If you find your skin breaking out more than usual, or feel tired and achey all the time around the holidays, it’s possible that you’re holding too much stress in your body.

When you get stressed, the fight or flight response activates in your body. Your brain floods various body systems with stress hormones to get ready for potential danger. Activating the relaxation response reverses that and brings the stress levels in your body down, slowing down your heart and helping your muscles ease up.

You don’t have to just deal with holding on to that added stress, even if you are short on time. There are many ways to relieve tension in your body so your holidays will be a little less stressful. Some of them only take a few minutes, and some of them take a little longer. Read more

6 Free Deepak Chopra Guided Meditations

In recent years, meditation has risen to prominence as a compelling way to combat the negative effects of stress. Additionally, studies on the practice have suggested that healing meditation’s benefits include pain reduction, addiction, and anxiety.

Luckily, you can start your practice with the helpful guidance of world-renowned meditation leader Deepak Chopra and his Chopra Center. You may know Deepak as Oprah Winfrey’s close spiritual friend, but he’s even better known for his wisdom, inspiring outlook on life, and his pursuit of perfect health and inner peace.

Deepak believes that meditation can take you beyond “the mind’s noisy chatter into the pure awareness that is the source of all your happiness, inspiration, and love.”

Ready to discover the calm beyond the noisy chatter? Follow along with Deepak’s Chopra Center meditations below.

Start With Your Breath

Meditation is a form of mindfulness, and just like mindfulness, it helps to start getting focused by bringing attention to your breath.

In the following meditation, Deepak Chopra guides you in breath awareness. This simple meditation is a great place to start and an easy way to quickly manage stress.

Quiet Your Mind

Try this meditation after you’ve done a few of the basic breath awareness exercises, and are ready for a real meditation experience.

Carve out some time during your day and get into a comfortable position to start. When you’re ready, play this guided meditation to quiet the stressful “noises” of your mind.

Meditate With Intention

Meditation is a great tool for not just stress; it’s a great way to help you focus your mind. This is a great morning meditation – Deepak Chopra starts his day out with a two hour meditation that allow him to set intentions for his day. In the following meditation, he shares his four favorite intentions to repeat during meditation.

Meditation for Sleep

Since meditation helps quiet the mind, it makes sense for it to help with easing the mind into a restful state – ready for deep sleep.

Let Deepak Chopra guide you into dreamland with this meditation for sleep.

Meditation in Everyday Activities

Meditation can help bring certain focus, enlightenment, and clarity to other aspects of your life as well.

For example, if you’re feeling low on energy, it’s good to take a break. Why not take a break with Deepak and refresh your energy with the following meditation? It focuses on maximizing energy to be your most productive self.

Now think about the relationships in your life. Could you use clarity or focus there?

This meditation could help. In the following guided practice, Deepak Chopra calls for you to open your heart to let the joy in and to bring more empathy to your relationships for better understanding on both sides.

Deepak Chopra inspires many because he firmly believes that each person deserves a more fulfilling and joyful life. You can find more meditations as well as participate in the meditation challenge at chopracentermeditation.com.

Now, that you have access to a few of his guided meditations, make time for them during your day. Spire can help by giving you a gentle reminder to break away from the stresses of daily life and spend some time on yourself.

Stress Meditations to Try Right Now

In humankind’s earliest days, our bodies developed a “fight-or-flight” response to stress in preparation to fight or flee, depending on the threat. Then as now, when we experience stress, our bodies release the hormone epinephrine into the bloodstream which:

  • Slows the digestive system
  • Increases heart and breathing rates, blood pressure, and sugar levels
  • Overrides the brain’s prefrontal cortex (which controls planning, impulse control, decision-making, reasoning, and problem solving) to enable the brain’s faster-acting, more primitive parts to take over and keep you safe.
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Those physiological survival mode methods are great for wilderness survival. But when that survival mode becomes the norm (because let’s face it, your body doesn’t know if you’re escaping a herd of woolly mammoths, placating an angry client or twin toddlers, or stuck in traffic for four hours) that prolonged stress can do the following:

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Help Reduce Pain with These Meditations

The National Institute of Health reports that 25 million American adults suffer from pain daily. This pain can can range from brief to long lasting, and minor to severe. Additionally, some 40 million Americans suffer sever pain on a regular basis.

Pain not only hurts, but can also have a deep impact on your everyday life.

Severe pain, whether in the form of migraines or bodily pain, can cause you to miss work and other important events in your life. For those suffering with chronic pain, the impact is even worse. While aspirin and prescription medications are viable options to combat pain, many are turning to complementary health services like yoga, massages, and meditation to help manage their pain on a daily level.

Those who wonder if meditation for pain actually works are in for a pleasant surprise.

Meditation has been recommended as a way to manage pain for numerous ailments, such as migraines, back pain, and chronic pain.

Read more

Try These 7 Five-Minute Meditations For Inner Peace

Breathe in, breathe out. Meditation is really that simple. However, quieting your mind for a number of minutes can be daunting and challenging. We are so used to constant notifications and mental stimulation that any mental stillness can be near impossible to maintain, especially when first starting out with meditation.

Is it worth it? We think so. Meditation is a widespread practice which has been used for thousands of years to develop spiritually and calm the mind. The research on meditation is suggestive that it can help manage negative effects of stress, pain, addiction, and anxiety. Generally, there is something to gain for anyone in taking time for oneself, reconnecting with your inner being. A little bit of peace and quiet is good for everyone.

If you are looking to get into meditation, but can’t or don’t want to commit to a long and arduous session, there are plenty of short meditations available. Use these to get a taste of meditation to see if it’s for you, or, use them for a quick getaway during the working day.

Spire has a large collection of meditations lasting around 5 minutes or less. Get started with some of our short favorites listed below.

Read more

Can Anxiety Be Cured?

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Going through life with an anxiety disorder is challenging. When you’re overwhelmed by negative thoughts, feelings, and other symptoms of anxiety, it’s difficult to fully experience all that life has to offer.

While most of us have felt anxious at certain moments in our lives, those who suffer from an anxiety disorder (roughly forty million Americans) don’t find relief as quickly. Of that, only a third of adults and one fifth of teenagers receive treatment for their anxiety disorders. (Survey)

Anxiety is linked to the stress response and is therefore linked to our innate fight or flight response. In small doses, it can be helpful for survival, but when it’s constant and debilitating, anxiety is a disease we would all want to cure.

Unfortunately it’s not that easy. There are no easy, immediate cures for anxiety. You can’t eliminate anxiety completely and forever. But you can work to eliminate the anxiety that interferes with a normal lifestyle.

To relieve problematic anxiety, we need to dive into what it is and what triggers it.

Read more

Using Yoga for Stress Relief

It’s no secret that chronic stress can have a deeply negative effect on your mental and physical well-being. When you’re overwhelmed with anxious thoughts, your body’s stress response activates. Your body interprets those thoughts as a danger to your well-being.

It may be hard to calm those racing thoughts and convince your body that you’re not facing impending doom.

Fortunately, the mind-body connection is an amazing two-way street that also lets us tap into the relaxation response. Yoga is one of those tools that will help activate the relaxation response, decrease stress, and relieve the tension of your body.

Yoga (or Hatha yoga) is an ancient practice that uses physical exercises to center the mind.

While yoga can be used as physical exercise, it is also heavily focused on connecting the movement of the body to the fluctuations of the mind. Many yoga practices include slow breathing and meditation, which use that same mind body connection to provide stress relief.

Why Yoga Works

While your mind may be reacting to different types of stressors that are not necessarily life-threatening (like pressure from work or the birth of a child), your body jumps into action the same way every time. It activates the sympathetic nervous system to get your heart pumping, your blood flowing, and your muscles tensed for action.

Once the danger passes, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to cool the body down.

Regular yoga practice can help our body be more selective of these stress triggers so we can respond more accurately to life situations. It conditions both the mind and the body to recognize stress and then overcome it, rather than letting It spiral out of control. It helps trigger the relaxation response from the parasympathetic system by releasing a neurotransmitter called GABA. Yoga not only increases the levels of GABA in your body but also improves mood and decreases anxiety. (Study)

It may sound confusing but it’s actually one of the ingenious ways we can retrain our bodies’ stress response for the modern times.

Yoga uses stretching and poses to impose stress on our body while we tell our minds to stay calm and keep breathing. In fact, controlled breathing is one of the key disciplines in yoga. Controlled or mindful breathing has huge benefits in managing and fighting off stress.

The physical aspect of stretching and accomplishing difficult poses sets off the sympathetic nervous system. But the controlled breathing helps keep your mind focused, calm, and mindful of each physical activity. Each movement sets off your fight or flight reaction while your focused mind and controlled breathing engage the relaxation response.

When you finally move your body into the final stages of relaxation (the ending poses in a yoga session), the sympathetic system goes to work by bringing your body temperature down, slowing your heart rate and slowing our breathing.

Even More Benefits of Yoga

In addition to conditioning your body to manage stress better, practicing yoga has resulted in many other health benefits.

In one study, practitioners saw a 14% reduction in anxiety when participating in a two hour yoga session. The same study had a different group learn about yoga but not practice it. Surprisingly, the “learning” group also saw a decrease in anxiety! (Study)

As yoga helps with managing stress, it can also reduce the risk of various diseases related to stress, especially cardiovascular diseases. (Study)

During another study, a group of participants practiced yoga in a biweekly session for two months to see what effect it might have on depression. The results showed that the two month experiment did in fact alleviate symptoms of depression in the participants. (Study)

The fact that yoga can help with both your physical and mental health shows that it is a powerful tool to consider for your well-being.

Yoga Poses for Stress Relief

The next time you feel stress mounting or anxiety building, try one or two of these yoga poses to calm your nerves. All you need is a yoga mat to cushion against the floor. Yoga is a low risk activity but as always, take caution and listen to your body’s boundaries when starting a new physical activity.

Child’s Pose

Child’s pose is a restorative pose that is usually used anytime you need a quick break during a yoga session. This pose helps you release your muscular tension, relaxes your nervous system and quiets the mind. This pose is also very soothing for your adrenal glands which release stress hormones like cortisol.

Start by kneeling on your yoga mat with your legs as close together as you can or with your knees wider than your hips. Sit back on your heels so your butt or hips are touching your heels.

Then carefully, fold your torso forward until your forehead rests on the mat and your elbows are on your thighs.

Tuck your arms to your side, letting your shoulders curl forward and hands rest next to your feet. If it’s easier or more comfortable, you can also stack your forearms and rest your head there.

Stay in this position for 5 to 10 breaths, deepening the breath with each exhale.

Puppy Pose

This pose is similar to downward dog. This is a great pose for slouchers with bad posture, as it releases tension in your shoulders and back. With your heart held a little higher than your head, it’s known as a mild inversion pose which opens up the chest and eases blood flow to the head.

Start by getting on all fours with your shoulders over your wrists, hips aligned with your knees, and the tops of your feet down on the mat.

Then slowly walk your hands out in front of you and lower your chest to the ground. Keep your hips aligned and your arms shoulder-width apart. Gently bring your forehead down to the mat.

Press your palms deeper into the mat and keep your shoulder blades drawn into your back. Stretch your hips towards the ceiling.

Relax your neck and breathe into your back, lengthening your spine in both directions.

Hold this position for 5 to 10 breaths. When you’re ready, gently lift your forehead and crawl back into starting position.

Cat-Cow Stretch

Cat pose and Cow pose are two gentle, stress-relieving poses. When we combine them, we get a gentle flow that improves posture, stretches the spine, and massages organs in the belly.

You’ll start in tabletop position, coming down to all fours with your arms shoulder-width apart and hips stacked over knees. Keep your spine in a straight, neutral position for a moment.

Look to the floor, a few inches in front of your hands, to lengthen your spine. Draw your shoulder blades towards your back.

Once you feel comfortable in this position, move into the cow position. Inhale. As you inhale, drop your belly to the floor and lift your chin towards the ceiling. Let your chest follow your gaze up. Lift the back of your hips up as well.

On your exhale, pull your belly in toward your spine. Round your back up towards the ceiling while naturally dropping the top of your head toward the floor. Tuck your tailbone in and round out your spine.

Repeat this flow for 5 to 10 breaths. Make sure to match your movements with each inhale and exhale. When you feel ready, find your way back to tabletop position.

Bridge Pose

Bridge pose not only opens up your chest but stretches out many body parts that hold stress in. It stretches your spine, the back of the neck, your thighs, and your hips. It is also a mild inversion exercise which means the heart is held over the head and increases blood flow to your brain.n

Start by lying flat on your back. Then walk your feet back and bend your knees. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart. Slide your arms down alongside your body with palms facing up.

Press your feet into your mat. Take a deep breath in and lift your hips, slowly rolling your spine off the floor. Make sure to keep your knees hip width apart.

Press deeper into your arms and shoulders, lifting the chest higher. Engage your legs and tuck your tailbone into your pelvic area to help bring your hips up higher.

Remain in this position for four to eight breaths. When you release, exhale and slowly roll your spine back to the floor.

Standing Forward Bend

The standing forward bend (or standing forward fold) is an inverted pose that boasts numerous benefits.

Forward bends help stretch the whole backside of your body, engaging your heels, calves, hamstrings, hips, spine, and fingers. This stretch helps build flexibility and strength in your spine while releasing tension in your neck, upper back, and lower back.

As this pose stretches your spine, it creates space between each vertebra, increasing circulation. By folding forward, you’re also increasing the circulation to your abdominal organs – your spleen, pancreas, liver, intestines, and kidneys. Additionally, a standing forward bend allows fresh blood to rush to your head.

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To initiate a standing forward bend, start standing with your hands on your hips. On your exhale, lean and fold forward at your hips. Do this while keeping a small bend at your knees. Place your hands either beside your feet or palms down in front of you.

Feel your spine stretching up towards the ceiling as your head is naturally pulled down to the ground. Press the hips up to deepen the the stretch by switching the weight to the balls of your feet or straightening your legs.

Hold this pose for four to eight breaths.

To come out of this pose, lift your arms to your side on the next inhale. Then raise your arms and torso back up to standing position.

Legs-Up-The-Wall Pose

The legs-up-the-wall pose is a semi-supine pose, which means it’s done on your back and is usually done towards the end of a yoga practice. Because it is a semi-supine pose, it shares a few benefits with regular supine poses including lowered heart rate and eliciting a relaxed response within your body.

This pose also elevates your legs which promotes drainage and facilitates circulation of blood back to the heart.

Additionally, this pose stretches out the hamstrings and lower back while allowing the lower back to relax.

To begin, bring your yoga mat right up to a wall. Sit with your hips as close to the wall as possible. Then roll onto your back and bring your legs up against the wall.

Make sure your bottom is pressed tight against the wall. Lay your arms out to your sides or on your belly. If you start to feel tingly, bend your legs slightly at the knees.

Corpse Pose

Corpse pose is a simple but difficult form. When done correctly, it’s one of the most relaxing poses in a yoga practice. But what it’s asking for is difficult – it asks the practitioner to be completely still and at ease.

This pose is almost always done at the end of a practice as a way for the mind and body to fully relax. It intensifies your ability to listen to your body which especially useful after the strenuous stretches from your practice. It gives you time to reset before heading into your next activity. It lets your body do absolutely nothing and refresh before going back to your day.

To get into the pose, simply lie on your mat with your hands and feet comfortably spread out. Turn your palms up and keep your toes pointed out. Keep your shoulder blades back, under your chest.

Invite silence into your mind and body. Take a few deep breaths before letting it come and go naturally. Stay in this pose for five minutes.

When you’re ready, bring awareness back to your body by gently wiggling your fingers and toes.

Yoga is a powerful method of stress management. By using physical movement and controlled breathing, it can help to bring your body and mind back into harmony. Give it a try the next time you’re overwhelmed with stress. Even better, try including it into your regular routine because just like other disciplines, you’ll benefit more with frequent and regular practice.

Teaching your body better stress management habits will take time, but it will pay off in the long run. In the meantime, if you need a gentle reminder to take a deep breath before you get too stressed, try Spire.

A Short Guide to Mindfulness Meditations

Meditating on your own can be difficult, especially if you’re just starting out. Maybe you’ve done a few meditations with the help of someone else, but trying to do them on your own seems impossible. If you’re not familiar with meditation techniques, you might find yourself stressing about remembering what comes next, or you might have simply no idea what to do when it comes time to meditate.

Using guided mindfulness meditations can help you take advantage of the benefits of meditation without having to know what to do on your own. Letting someone else guide you through a meditative process can help you reach goals you might struggle to achieve on your own. There are many different types of guided meditations out there, so you’re sure to find some that are uniquely suited to what you need.

What are Guided Mindfulness Meditations

Guided mindfulness meditations are meditations led by someone else with the intent of helping you be more mindful. Using a premade meditation can help you set and reach your intentions, put aside stress about getting the practice right, and will guide you to states of mind that you might not be able to find on your own. If you get distracted easily, guided meditations are perfect to help you bring your mind back when it starts to wander.

Here are some of the common formats guided meditations take:

Podcasts:  There are thousands of podcasts focused on meditation. If you are picky about the voice of the person guiding you to a state of relaxation, you’ll have plenty to choose from. Most podcasts are available on iTunes, but you can find others on Soundcloud and on company websites.

YouTube:  YouTube is another great place for finding guided meditations. Some of them include visuals to aid your meditation if you have a hard time closing your eyes. As with podcasts, if you don’t like the voice of one person, you don’t have to stick with them! The best part about YouTube videos is that they are all free to use, so you can find guidance for free!

Attending Meditation Classes:  If you’re willing to pay for meditation, there are likely some incredibly knowledgeable meditation teachers in studios nearby. You’ll want to look for someone who has been meditating and teaching meditation for years, as their experience will benefit your search for peace.

Finding and Using a Meditation Script:  Knowledgeable meditation experts have created scripts for those who want to carry out and alter a practice. Many yoga studios and mindfulness experts have created scripts that are available on their websites, or you can search Google for a guided meditation script on a specific topic you want help with.

Benefits of Guided Mindfulness Meditations

A Complete Guide to Mindfulness Meditations 2

Meditation is a great way to deal with the anxiety and stress that comes from everyday life. Trying to balance work, family, friendships, and money can be exhausting, especially when it feels like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Going through guided mindfulness meditations on a regular basis can help you find a moment of peace in an otherwise rushed life.

There are many benefits you can reap from practicing guided meditation on a regular basis.

All You Need to Do is Listen

Many people hesitate to start learning meditation because they feel like they’ll need to work on a specific skill to receive the benefits from it. Guided meditations take away all of that pressure, because someone else is leading you through the practice. All you need to do is listen to their voice and do your best to follow what they are saying. It might seem weird at first, especially if it’s something you haven’t done before, but do your best to trust the person guiding you. They know what they are doing and they have had success in guiding other people through this meditation.

Meditation Improves Your Body’s Hormonal Balance

Meditation isn’t just for your mind, it has many benefits for your body as well. Practicing mindfulness helps keep stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol in balance, which when left unchecked, can lead to anxiety and weight gain. It’s also a great way to increase your level of human growth hormone, which reduces stored fat, helps regulate your metabolism, and assists in regulating your blood sugar.

Physical Pain Becomes Easier to Bear

Along with helping your hormones, guided meditations are a great way to reduce chronic pain. Sometimes the pain in our bodies can come from long term stress and trauma. Being guided through meditations can help us to reduce that emotional stress, which then lessens the source of our chronic pain. Meditating mindfully can help pain sufferers lessen their pain by increasing their mental control and will help improve their overall quality of life.

Mental Goals Become Easier to Attain

There are many reasons people turn to meditation. Most of the time, they are searching for a specific outcome or have several different reasons for turning to this practice. Here are a few outcomes people have been able to achieve through practicing guided mindfulness meditations.

  • Improving mental focus and memory
  • Healing from past trauma and pain
  • Enhancing creativity and imagination
  • Relaxing and reducing stress
  • Boosting confidence and self esteem levels
  • Reducing or removing prominent negative thoughts

Mental Health Concerns Are Easier to Address

Because guided meditation works on improving the power of the mind, it makes sense that it would improve some mental illnesses. Many therapists use guided meditations in their treatment of patients. This practice is successful in modifying behaviors and destructive thinking patterns that therapists work to help their patients address in psychotherapy sessions.

Meditation Can Help Process Difficult Emotions

Even the most well adjusted people can have a hard time processing difficult emotions. Feelings like guilt, sadness, depression, and anger can be difficult to get a handle on. However, instead of pushing down your emotions only to have them resurface with a vengeance later, meditation helps you process and grapple with them in a healthy way.  Guided meditations give you a safe space to examine your emotions and help you understand where they are coming from.

Reduce Your Anxiety With This Guided Meditation Script

A Complete Guide to Mindfulness Meditations

We’ve created a guided meditation script to help you out during times of anxiety. Feel free to use this when your Spire tells you that you are feeling a bit tense, or when you can feel the tension in your body.

If scripts aren’t really your thing, you can access dozens of Spire’s Guided Mindfulness Meditations on Soundcloud.

Guided Meditation for Anxiety

Set aside a few minutes of your day where you won’t be disturbed. This could be during your lunch, after work, or right before bed.

Get into a position you will be comfortable for an extended period of time. This may be sitting down on a couch with your feet touching the floor, sitting on the floor with your legs crossed, or laying down with your head propped up. Do whatever feels most comfortable to you.

Close your eyes.

Notice your chest rising as you take in a breath, and feel the air enter your lungs. Then notice as your chest falls and the air exits your lungs. Take some time to feel this process happening. Feel the breath go in, and then go out.

Count ten breaths.

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Now you are tuned in to your breath.

As you breathe in, visualize the air you breath in as a white vapor. This vapor is full of energy and calm.

As you breathe out, visualize the air you push out of your lungs as a black fog. This fog is full of the stress, panic, and tension that has filled your body over time.

Breathe in to fill your lungs and your body with the white vapor. Feel the energy course through you as you breathe it in.

And as you breathe out, feel your stress and worries leave your body with the black fog. The tension in your body leaves with each exhale.

Breathe in and feel lighter, full of positive energy. Breathe out, feeling the stress exit through your nostrils.

Envision the white vapor coming from above. It drifts in from the sky into your nose as you inhale. This positive energy will revitalize you and give you the strength you need to face your day. Feel the vapor come into your body as you breathe in.

And as you breathe out, feel your exhale pull pain and stress from all over your body and push it out through your nose. Imagine the black fog going downwards and sinking into the ground. With each breath out, you exhale more and more stress and worry.

Repeat the inhale and the exhale as many times as you need. Don’t feel like you have to rush through this exercise. You can breathe in as much white vapor as you need, and breathe out as much black fog as you feel like is in your body.

Once you are ready, focus on different parts of your body. Take note of how they feel. Do you notice any places that have less tension than before? You might not be completely free of stress and worries, but that’s okay. You’ve still decreased the amount in your body, and that is something to be proud of.

Bring awareness to your body by moving bits at a time. Start with your toes, then your feet. Continue to your legs, then to your pelvis. Continue to your stomach, then your arms and shoulders.

When you feel like you have brought enough awareness to your body, open your eyes. Take your time to adjust to the world around you. It is common to feel somewhat disoriented after a meditation. There is no need to rush out of this state. Once you are ready, you can continue through your day, or relax into sleep.

End Meditation

Guided meditations can help all kinds of people in all sorts of situations. Whether your mind is prone to wandering or you don’t think you are able to meditate on your own, guided meditations are perfect for you. If you want to improve your mental or physical health, there are specific meditations you can try out to achieve your goals. There are hundreds of options for you to choose from, so don’t stop looking until you find what works for you.

A Guide to Mindfulness for Beginners

Daily stresses are a fact of life that we all deal with. If you’ve spent some time researching stress management techniques, you have likely heard of mindfulness.

One of the biggest factors that prevent people from pursuing mindfulness is feeling like they have to make immediate lifestyle changes. The great thing about mindfulness is that you can apply as much or as little of it to your life as you are comfortable with. If you aren’t in a place to make big life changes, you can still enjoy the benefits.

If you’re not sure if mindfulness is for you but want to find out, keep reading. This article will serve as a beginner’s introduction to its benefits and how you can implement it in your daily life.

What is Mindfulness?

In the simplest sense, to be mindful is to be aware and present. It is a mental shift towards being more present in your life – if you take the time to notice your surroundings while you are taking your dog for a walk, you are being mindful.

Mindfulness has been practiced for thousands of years in the Buddhist and Hindu religious traditions. The Vedic texts in Hinduism discuss many concepts important to the philosophy of mindfulness, such as Dharma (the order of the universe) and enlightenment.

Mindfulness focuses on being in the present and becoming completely absorbed in whatever you are doing. If you are drinking your morning coffee, you might be mindful by focusing on its warmth, taking in the smell of the freshly ground beans, and enjoying its depth of flavor.

Being Present

All forms of mindfulness focus on one thing: being in the present. Getting caught up in what might happen or what has already happened makes it difficult for us to fully appreciate where we are now, and can exacerbate our worries and fears.

Being mindful of your current situation can be incredibly helpful if you are experiencing panic or anxiety. By focusing on your immediate surroundings, you can draw your attention away from the sources of your anxiety.

A good way to begin is to focus on doing one task at a time. Trying to do more than one thing at once will give your mind more reason to wander. By completing one task at a time, you can put all of your focus on that task, completing it more energetically and precisely  than if your mind were elsewhere.

Types of Mindfulness

The great thing about mindfulness is that it can be applied to all aspects of your life. No part of your day is too small to benefit from focusing on what is happening in that moment. Here are a few areas of your life you can try being more mindful in.

Body: This type of mindfulness focuses on what is going on in your body. One step at a time, you analyze the various parts of your body, becoming more aware of the sensations you experience at any given moment.

Body scan mindfulness can help you realize where you might be holding stress in your body, and will also help you let go of some of that tension. You can try it out for yourself if you feel so inclined.

Movement: Most of the time, this is done in the form of yoga or tai chi. This type of mindfulness focuses on the movements your body is making.

One popular movement mindfulness exercise is focusing on your walking. Most of the time, this exercise is slow and meaningful, focusing more on the motions rather than on getting from one place to another.

Breath: Breathing mindfulness exercises are some of the most helpful practices in dealing with anxiety. When you are mindful of your breathing, you will notice an immediate impact on your state of mind.

When you’ve got a few minutes to practice being mindful, you can check out this breathing exercise that focuses on what you should do after you exhale.

Environment: Focusing on your environment is a great way to help yourself come to the present. Most of us are in a rush to go about our day and don’t take notice of everything going on around us. Taking a moment to sit down and notice the flow of the world can help you slow down and catch your breath in an otherwise stressful time.

One of the most common environment exercises is focusing on the sounds around you. Whether you are in your quiet home, or on a packed bus, there are many sounds you can tune into and be mindful of.

Top Benefits of Mindfulness

You’ve likely started looking into being more mindful because you’ve heard of all of the potential benefits you can get from being mindful. Here are some of the things you can look forward to when you start incorporating it into your daily life.

Stress Reduction

One of the biggest reasons people start looking into mindfulness is to reduce stress in their lives.

A 2013 study found that people who practiced mindfulness had lower levels of cortisol, one of the body’s stress hormones. Knowing what you are thinking and why you are feeling a certain way can help you figure out how to deal with the stressors in your day to day.

Having a regular practice of mindfulness makes you less likely to immediately react to a situation. In your mindful state, you take time to focus on what is happening and evaluate the best course of action. This can help reduce potential conflict and prevent further stress from occurring.

Better Memory

A 2013 study found that being mindful helped many college students improve their 2013 GRE scores. In the study, researchers helped students focus their minds and become more attentive to their surroundings. After a two weeks of practicing mindfulness, most students found they had improved in their test scores by 16 percentile points.

Because mindfulness forces you to bring your whole focus to the present, you will make clearer memories. When you are focusing on what’s happening around you in a given moment, you will make stronger mental associations, making it easier to recall what was happening in any given moment.

Reduced Anxiety and Depression

Individuals with anxiety might be worrying about all the possible things that could go wrong. When you take the time to focus on your surroundings and your body, you’ll be less inclined to obsess about what ifs.

There are also hundreds of studies that show the benefits of mindfulness for those who suffer from depression. After several weeks of mindfulness practice, many participants see a reduction of depression symptoms and are less likely to relapse into depressive episodes.

Incorporating Mindfulness into Your Life Today

Getting started with mindfulness is easy. Even if you only have five minutes a day, you can improve your health, reach a better mindset, and start to get better emotional control with regular, short practices of mindfulness.

One of the most important things to remember is that you don’t have to make a lot of big changes at once. The best way to make mindfulness part of your lifestyle is to make small changes. If you don’t think you have enough time to get really into it, just dedicate five minutes of your day to doing a breathing meditation. Practice noticing how your breath comes in and out of your body.

Once you feel like you can be mindful of your breath without too much effort, you can move on to being mindful in other ways. If five minutes doesn’t feel like enough time, then set aside ten minutes. In those ten minutes, take the time to notice any tension in your body. Are you clenching your jaw? Do your shoulders feel tight? Whatever is happening in your body, take the time to notice it.

When you are ready to practice mindfulness in other parts of your life, you can follow the steps below to make the most of your practice.

  1. Find a quiet place where you won’t be interrupted.
  2. Get yourself into a comfortable position.
  3. Set an intention. What will you be meditating on today? What do you hope to get out of your mindfulness experience? Hold onto that goal as you start your practice.
  4. Take a moment to focus on your breath. Feel your chest rise and fall as your breath comes in and out of your body.
  5. Once you are in a calmer state of mind, expand your consciousness. Focus on your emotions, your environment, your body, your thoughts, or any other object of your meditation that will help you to reach your goal.
  6. Notice different aspects and characteristics of the object of your meditation. Use as many senses as possible.
  7. When you are ready to come out of the meditation, take a few deep breaths and stretch out. The motion will signal your brain that it’s time to move onto other things.

There are countless options of what you can choose to be mindful of, whether you decide to focus on your emotions, body, or environment, you can take advantage of the many benefits mindfulness can bring to you.