How Mindfulness Meditation Can Help Change Habits And Reduce Stress

Two years ago I took part in a class designed to help me overcome depression and anxiety. It was a time in my life that was fraught with tension, confusion and the pressures of new parenthood. Let me put it this way, having newborn twins isn’t easy.

My class which was run by the NHS, used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy techniques in an attempt to re-wire the brain, and one of the methods touched upon in the class, was Mindfulness Meditation.

What Is Mindfulness Meditation?

Wikipedia describes Mindfulness as:

  1. Mindfulness meditation is often practiced sitting with eyes closed, cross-legged on a cushion or a chair, with the back straight. Attention may be put on the movement of the abdomen when breathing in and out, or on the awareness of the breath as it goes in and out the nostrils.

But this doesn’t really explain what it is. Modern mindfulness is a technique developed by Jon Kabut-Zinn, which has it’s roots in ancient Buddhism. According to his definition, it means:

“paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judge-mentally.”

Essentially it’s not getting caught up in the sometimes frantic waves of thought, that end up winding us up and causing us to think in constant circles.

It has been suggested that over time, with regular practice, mindfulness can help to reduce stress and to increase our ability to enforce better habits, by making us more aware of how we approach stressful situations. If we are able to make better decisions about things, then it stands to reason that this will have a positive effect on how we are feeling and the choices we make.

In my own experience since starting mindfulness meditation, I have found that I’m better able to diffuse a situation that before I would have lost control of. Because I am mindful of what is occurring in the moment, instead of thinking “Oh my god I really need my e-cigs” for example during the process of quitting smoking, I would be able to think about how to combat that craving or at least think of an alternative to the situation.

The Apple Watch Method Of Practicing Mindfulness

Author and timefulness coach Tom Evans has launched his own Meditation technique, that leans heavily on the idea of Mindfulness. It’s a free Apple Watch and this particular watch doesn’t even tell the time. In fact if you watch this apple every day for around 2 minutes, you will find that it makes time for you.

This ‘apple watch’ is a simple video that takes you into a light meditative state, with your eyes open but defocussed, where all you do is stare at an apple.

The benefits of regular meditation are now accepted by the medical and scientific communities. Not only does meditation reduce stress and lower blood pressure, it also promotes vitality, longevity and creativity.

“It is thought that every minute we spend in meditation gets added to our lives. If true, it’s simply madness not to meditate,” says Evans.

Tom was introduced to meditation in his mid-40’s. He was a bit stressed out with work and someone suggested that he would benefit from meditation. His original reaction was twofold.

Firstly, that he was a busy guy and it was a waste of time so he couldn’t possibly fit it into his busy schedule. Secondly, there would be no way he could make his over-active mind go quiet. He did however find someone who taught him some simple ways to quieten what he’s since learned is referred to as the ‘Monkey Mind’.

These days he meditates daily as he found that on days when he didn’t, he had a worse day. What he learned too is that there is no mystique to meditation and no need to spend five years in an Ashram or sitting cross-legged in a cave chanting “Ommm”. Meditation is a state that is both natural and beneficial and something we do all the time. We flip in and out of the meditative state many times an hour but are not usually aware we have done so.

All that we do by consciously choosing to take 10 minutes or so of Me Time in the meditative state is to enhance and amplify its benefits. We can also enter the meditative state with our eyes open.

When we do this, it opens us up to all sorts of practical applications for meditation.

  • We become more creative
  • We perform at our peak
  • We become luckier
  • We get ‘in the zone’
  • We change our perception of the passage of time

Personal Thoughts

Mindfulness Meditation has taken me from a dark place in my life, to one that’s positive and full of potential. I’ve found that with just a few minutes of practice each day, I’m better able to call upon it when I need it the most. It’s like with anything you do regularly enough – it becomes a habit.

Yet unlike smoking, or unhealthy eating, this habit has the power to do good, to change the way we see ourselves and the world around us. It gives us the strength to take a step back from a situation and analyse it for what it really is. It then empowers us to let go, freeing us from those habits that hold us hostage.