Different meditations to achieve focus, relaxation
Mindfulness—the practice of focusing on the here and now—seems to boost both your mood and overall well-being. You may think of mindfulness as something you do during meditation—that is, while you’re sitting quietly with your eyes closed. If you can carve 20 minutes out of your day to meditate, that’s great. But meditation is just one mindfulness technique. You can also practice informally, by simply being present in the moment during everyday activities.
For example, instead of trying to multitask and do two or more things at the same time (such as eating while you’re driving or watching television), try to practice “single-tasking.” That means doing one thing at a time and giving it your full attention. As you floss your teeth, pet the dog, or eat an apple, slow down the process and be fully present as it unfolds and involves all of your senses.
The goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation by deliberately paying attention to thoughts and sensations without judgment. This can help you refocus on the present moment. Below are suggestions of different meditations you can try, as found in the Harvard Special Health Report Positive Psychology.
Basic mindfulness meditation
Sit quietly and focus on your natural breathing or on a word or mantra (such as “om,” “relax,” or “peace”) that you repeat silently. Allow thoughts to come and go without judgment and return to your focus on breath or mantra. Read More
Watch an H+H presentation, Mindful Schools which shows one organization integrates mindfulness into education. Mindful Schools is a non-profit organization that offers professional training, in-class instruction, and other resources to support mindfulness in education. Mindful Schools’ Adult Courses have taught thousands of educators, social workers, psychologists, parents, and other adults how to use mindfulness effectively with children, impacting many tens of thousands of children each year.
What is Mindfulness?
“Mindfulness” refers to the intentional cultivation of moment-by-moment non-judgmental attention and awareness (Kabat-Zinn, 1994). Formal mindfulness practices provide a form of mental training in which a person directs his or her attention and awareness to an object or anchor, like the breath, bodily sensations, external sounds, or arising thoughts and emotions. The training involves noticing whatever arises with an open, kind, and curious attitude so as to cultivate a clearer awareness of moment-to-moment experience (Meiklejohn et. al., 2012). Cultivating a mindful quality of attention is believed to increase a person’s ability to respond skillfully to present experience, reducing stress-related physical, mental, and emotional reactions (Weare, 2013).
Mindfulness and Learning
Pre-K-12 educators are increasingly interested in the potential of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) to promote more effective teaching and learning (Meiklejohn et al., 2012). A growing body of research from the fields of neuroscience, developmental psychology, public health, medicine, and education points to the promising effects of mindfulness practices on cognitive, behavioral, health-related, and socio-emotional capacities essential to pro-social behavior and academic success (e.g., Davidson et al., 2011; Greenberg & Harris, 2012; Sibinga & Kemper, 2010; Meiklejohn et al., 2012). Mindfulness offers a promising means for cultivating both students’ and teachers’ attentional capacities, reducing stress, and promoting empathy and social relationships – all important aspects of learning systems. A growing body of evidence in adults shows that mindfulness practices can rewire brain circuitry and heighten activation in brain regions responsible for regulating attention, empathy, and other pro-social emotions (Davidson et al, 2012). Although there are not yet have extensive data on the effects of these practices on children’s brain functioning, preliminary evidence suggests that mindfulness practices strengthen students’ capacity to self-regulate attention (Meiklejohn et al, 2012).
Studies of school-based mindfulness instruction for students do suggest the potential for benefit. To date, only a few randomized controlled trials of school-based mindfulness instruction for students have been published, but they show promising results related to improvements in the important domains of executive function (Flook et al, 2010), as well as improvements in psychological symptoms and coping (Mendelson et al, 2010; Sibinga et al, 2013). These positive findings and the expansion of school-based mindfulness programs emphasize the crucial role of thoughtful, multi-disciplinary research and evaluation.
Recent evidence indicates that teaching mindfulness practices to teachers can help promote more optimal learning environments. Several randomized control trials of various mindfulness-based teacher professional development programs have found promising impacts on teachers’ psychological symptoms, burnout, and well-being, as well as improvements in classroom organization, affective attentional bias, and self-compassion (Flook et al., 2013; Jennings et. al., 2013). These results suggest that mindfulness-based programs show promise for promoting teacher well-being and capacities to create and sustain both supportive relationships with students and classroom climates conducive to student engagement and learning (Roeser et. al., 2012).
The evidence base in this innovative area is still in early stages of development. The Johns Hopkins University is presenting a Symposium on Mindfulness and Learning which will will synthesize current knowledge and pave the way for future research and practice.
Watch an H+H presentation, which shows one organization integrates mindfulness into education. Mindful Schools is a non-profit organization that offers professional training, in-class instruction, and other resources to support mindfulness in education. Mindful Schools’ Adult Courses have taught thousands of educators, social workers, psychologists, parents, and other adults how to use mindfulness effectively with children, impacting many tens of thousands of children each year.
Researchers at Jefferson’s Maternal Addiction Treatment Education & Research (MATER) program found significant improvement in the quality of parenting among mothers who participated in a trauma-informed, mindfulness-based parenting intervention while also in medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder. Results of the study, the first to scientifically test a mindfulness-based parenting intervention with this population, were published July 27 in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.
“Our results validate a powerful intervention when it is needed most,” said senior author Diane Abatemarco, Ph.D., MSW, principal investigator, Director of MATER and Associate Professor of OB/GYN and Pediatrics in the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. “By improving parenting through mindfulness, we may be able to change the intergenerational trajectory of trauma and improve children’s and families’ lives.”
A total of 160 women participated in a 12-week mindful parenting intervention at Jefferson’s Family Center, an outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment center that cares for women who are pregnant, parenting or working toward reuniting with their child. The mindfulness-based program included mother/baby education and practice, education on the impact of trauma, and mindfulness meditation. Themes included non-judgment, full attention and compassion. Read More
How often do you get to the end of your meal and not remember tasting it? Learn to conquer mindless eating and establish a healthy relationship with food.
If you learn to eat mindfully instead of mindlessly, you will also get more enjoyment from your food. You will start to appreciate a food’s taste, smell, texture and how it feels in your body. Mindful eating also makes you more aware of the cues that you are hungry or full.
Here’s how you can learn to master the art of mindful eating.
Keep to a schedule. Avoid skipping meals or waiting too long to eat. Eating when you are too hungry increases the likelihood that you will overeat, and/or eat too quickly to enjoy it.
Eat without distractions. Otherwise, you won’t be giving your food or your body’s signals your full attention. As a result, you may feel full but not satisfied, and will be much more likely to overeat.
Eat while sitting down. Avoid eating while standing over the sink or peering into the refrigerator. Read More
Mindfulness is the practice of purposely focusing your attention on the present moment, such as how the air smells and feels as you walk your dog, or how a bite of bread tastes with dinner. The ultimate goal is to help shift your thoughts away from your usual preoccupations toward an appreciation of the moment and a larger perspective on life.
Scientific examination of mindfulness shows that it can improve both physical and psychological symptoms and create positive changes in health attitudes and behaviors.
Here are two mindfulness exercises you can try on your own.
Basic mindfulness meditation
Sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor.
Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensation of air flowing into your nostrils and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale.
Once you’ve narrowed your concentration in this way, begin to widen your focus. Become aware of sounds, sensations, and ideas.
Embrace and consider each thought or sensation without judging it as good or bad. If your mind starts to race, return your focus to your breathing. Then expand your awareness again. Read More