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Mindfulness for a Healthy Mind

by Eric Lumpkins

It has been shown that mindfulness meditation can bring both immediate and long-term benefits. Those benefits include calming an overactive mind, feeling relaxed and at peace, increasing focus, learning how to better handle stress, reducing anxiety, social anxiety, and depression, and improving immune system functioning.

Neuroscience has shown us that the prolonged and consistent practice of mindfulness can change the composition of your brain for the better. This 8-week study of daily meditation found that practicing mindfulness shrank gray matter density in regions related to stress and anxiety, and increased gray matter density in regions related to learning, memory, self-esteem, and empathy.

Mindfulness meditation is the practice of recognizing when you have become lost in thought, observing the thought itself, and then gently returning your attention to the present moment. Usually, it is done while seated, with eyes open or closed, and can be performed for 10 minutes or several hours, depending on your experience level. It is easiest to first begin by focusing on the breath. Not controlling the breath, but merely focusing on the rising and falling of your abdomen or the inhalation and exhalation through your nose. Each time you get lost in thought, simply return your attention to the breath.

From here you can open your awareness to all sensation, as there is nothing special about the breath. Open your experience to any and all sights, sounds, posture, and other physical sensations arising in consciousness, moment by moment.

Mindfulness can also teach you how to reduce unnecessary suffering, how to dictate the quality of your daily experience, and how to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate your experience. Negative thoughts do not have to define or dominate your experience.

Meditation is rapidly on its way to becoming a mainstream practice, and it is in large part due to science showing that meditation is profoundly beneficial. Corporate employees, schools of all grade levels around the world, and people young and old are beginning to implement this practice of mindfulness meditation because of the immediate and long-term benefits that everybody can gain.

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