If Your Mind Wanders While Meditating, an Expert Says to Follow This Technique to Refocus

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Every time one of my friends brings up their meditation practice, I quickly reply with something along the lines of, “I wish I could do it, but I can’t focus.” I know that meditation isn’t about perfection, but being type A, it’s hard for me to do something if I’m not “perfect” at it. Lately, meditation keeps popping up in my circle, from badass friends who are constantly hustling to my sheroes like Robin Roberts meditating every day at three-something in the morning, according to an interview with The Cut.

I figured if Robin Roberts can wake up that early every morning and commit to a meditation practice, I, too, could wake up (a little later) and get my meditation on. I’m still a meditation rookie, but one thing I found helpful when my mind wanders, which is basically every minute, is mental noting. “Mental noting, or labeling, is a mindful awareness technique of noting and naming the thoughts and feelings that come up as you meditate,” Millana Snow, meditation teacher, energy healer, and founder of Wellness Official, told POPSUGAR.

“When your mind starts to go off into tangents, you can use mental noting to bring pause and awareness to those thoughts so that you can start to unidentify with them and become the observer of those thoughts and feelings.” If you find your mind wondering, make note of it — “I’m thinking about the big pitch I have on Friday” — then return to the present.

Every time my mind drifts and I find myself wondering what I’m going to eat later that day, thinking about how many clients I have to train, planning a trip to Colombia, combing my never-ending to-do list, and every other random thought that comes up, I revert back to mental noting. Some days, I have to do it a lot, but other days, I only have to do it once or twice during my practice.

If you’re already going, “Yeah, I still won’t be able to do this,” I promise you, you will. When I catch myself thinking about everything else instead of being in the present, I practice mental noting by focusing on my breath while thinking, “Breathing in, breathing out.” When Millana finds her mind drifting, she said she reminds herself to “‘come back to my breath’ or come back to noting what the moment contains: the sounds in the room, the smells, and the way my body feels. I find this helps me go deeper into awareness,” she explained.

The key word in “practice mental noting” is practice. “We must allow ourselves to be the observer of our thoughts, and to watch thoughts pass by like you would clouds in the sky,” Millana said. She also recommends noting and naming your thoughts “instead of identifying with them and making them distractions.” The key is to become more present and separate the thought from yourself.

If you gave up on your meditation practice before starting because you thought focus would be an issue, try introducing mental noting into your practice.

How I Finally Made Meditation A Daily Habit

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Meditation has been shown to have numerous benefits to our mind and body such as stress and anxiety management, emotional wellbeing, improved focus and better sleep. Many successful people cite meditation as a valuable tool. For years I’ve recommended it to my clients, and yet, I struggled to make it part of my own routine.

There was always some excuse: an unpredictable schedule, events, deadlines, lack of time. Probably the sneakiest excuse for me of all was that I did yoga so did I really need to meditate on top of that?

I’d interview people and hear them talk about their meditation routine and think, “That sounds nice, but I could never do that. I’m too busy—and besides, I do yoga.”

How I finally made meditation a daily practiceJESSICA CORDING NUTRITION

My studio was like my second home. Aside from being a place where I’d made friends and even business contacts, it had given me a safe place to go work things out in my head. Yoga had seen me through break-ups, career shifts and even my father’s battle with cancer.

Then about a month after my dad died, the studio announced they were closing. This sounds like a total First World Problem—and it is—so I tried to stay positive, calling it a challenge to become more adaptable. Still, as a healthcare professional, I know taking care of myself helps me better care for my clients, so I was anxious to see how this shake-up to my self-care routine might impact my business.

In the midst of all this, I was writing a book, pulling late nights and early mornings. I found myself trying to multitask rest time with meditation time. I often fell asleep while trying to focus on my breath. Unfortunately, a fitful catnap did not have those same mental benefits. The combination of grief, poor sleep, and the loss of that baked-in mindfulness made me feel like my brain was short-circuiting.

You’re probably thinking, “This is New York—why didn’t you just find a new studio?” I was out there trying different places, but building a new routine takes time.

Which brings me back to meditation.

This winter, a friend of mine who was going through a different brand of tough stuff shared that getting back into meditation was helping him. After months of trying to keep my struggle to myself, I opened up about it. He suggested we do regular meditation check-ins to keep each other accountable. I’d never considered this approach but was willing to try.

It took about a week for it to feel like a daily thing, but I quickly noticed the benefits. I became more aware of when my mind started to wander, making it easier to refocus or redirect so I could stay on track with projects. If a situation stressed me out I was better able to identify exactly what was gnawing at me and respond calmly and thoughtfully. I found it easier to prioritize—my daily to-do list got smaller and I felt less pressured to respond right away to every single email. I also did a lot less online shopping.

Meditation has been shown to have many benefits, yet it can feel hard to make it a routine.GETTY

Perhaps the biggest benefit I noticed, though, was that when I got bad news or found myself awake at night with my mind on an anxiety loop, rather than let it hijack my brain, I focused on steps I could take to deal with the situation.

Making meditation a habit turned out to be easier than I’d imagined. Here’s what worked :

-I Started Small

I started with three and then five minutes. Soon 10 or 15 felt doable. On Valentine’s Day I even went to a 30-minute self-love meditation that flew by.

-I Made It Convenient

You don’t have to use an app, but I found the support of a tech tool (I chose Headspace) extremely helpful in staying consistent and tracking my progress to help motivate me. I set reminder alerts for times of day I would be likely to be in a place where I could sit quietly.

-I Found A Time That Worked

I tried out different times of day to see what felt doable. It turns out I’m still not a morning meditation person, but an afternoon reset or end-of-day wind-down works great.

-I Added An Accountability Component

This was huge for me. I’d often thought of meditation as a solitary practice, but checking in with someone every day actually helped me stick to it. Just be careful if you get competitive—it should feel like a supporting, encouraging relationship.

While I’m now meditating daily, I have to admit I’m still on the journey, learning as I go. Like so many things, I’ve found, it really is about learning to be where you are and be open to making changes one small step at a time.


To learn more about how to streamline your healthy living routine and enjoy a more balanced relationship with food and exercise, visit JessicaCordingNutrition.com.

I Don’t Like Meditating. Here’s Why I Do It Anyway

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As much as I’m loath to admit it, I’m not a fan of meditation. It comes unnaturally to me, despite my 36 years of martial arts study and interest in self-improvement, health-hacking, and general enlightenment.

I realize this speaks poorly of me as a person, kind of like my opinions on aikido, jazz music, pumpkin pie, and “A Prairie Home Companion.” That I’m not fond of them doesn’t mean they’re bad, it means I’m not as good as I could be.

Worse yet, when I do regularly meditate, I find my life is better. Stress is lower, my health improves. I can focus more on my work, and am less likely to say things I regret to my friends, colleagues, and loved ones. Problems seem smaller. I seem bigger.

And I’m not alone. Over the past few decades, a host of research has supported the conclusion that meditation is good for us, and that we should all meditate a few minutes each day.

  • Meditation has been found again, and again (and again) to reduce stress, with all the physical, social, and emotional benefits that provides.
  • Multiple studies have found meditation can reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
  • In 2003, researchers learned that regular meditation helped to boost immune function.
  • Meditation can help control pain, according to several studies, including these in 2016and 2017.

That’s just the tip of that particular iceberg. Bottom line: meditation is good for me, and for you, no matter how much we might not want to do it. Kind of like eating a vegetarian meal once or twice a week.

So, from one resistant but learning meditator to others, here’s what I’ve learned about meditation and how to make it part of improving your life.

You don’t have to just sit around

Non-practitioners sometimes imagine meditation to be boring — and perhaps if not done a certain way, it can be. But there’s more than one kind of meditation available, so you can easily find one that suits you. Here are just a few alternatives:

  • Walking meditation calms your mind when you focus on your strides and movement of taking steps (rather than, say, focusing on your breath). Walking in a labyrinth is a centuries-old practice of contemplation common among many spiritual faiths, including Catholicism.
  • Kata is the formal practice of martial arts, including tai chi. The motions of this practice are so complex it becomes impossible to think of other things, allowing for profound meditative focus. See also yoga.
  • Listening mindfully to music, especially music without lyrics, produces the same impacts of meditation by allowing you to be transported by the sounds, away from stray and extraneous thoughts.
  • Daily task meditation iswhere you take the process of a task — like doing dishes, cooking a meal, or getting dressed — and focus on it the way a kung fu master might focus on her forms.

Those are just a few examples. Other options for meditation include loving-kindness meditation, guided relaxation, breathing meditation, zazen sitting meditation, awareness meditation, Kundalini, pranayama…

The point is there’s a kind of meditation that works well with your needs, tastes, and general outlook. It’s just a matter of finding the right match.

Your brain might mess with you

Meditating is supposed to be a quieting of the mind, where you think about nothing in particular (or nothing other than the actions of the meditation) to allow that background noise to filter out and let you rest. That’s why exercise can be meditative: at a certain point you’re only able to think about the exercise.

But along the way, throughout each session of meditation, your thoughts are going to keep zooming in and trying to distract you. This happens all the time in the beginning, but here’s a secret: It happens all the time to the masters, too.

The trick with meditation isn’t to totally eliminate those stray thoughts. It’s to let them pass through your mind without you grabbing hold of them.

In the first stages of learning, you’ll fail a lot of the time. You’ll be meditating for a while and suddenly realize you stopped somewhere along the way to think about your to-do list and what you’re making for dinner that night.

Eventually, that will happen less and less, and you’ll start distracting yourself by getting frustrated that the thoughts intrude at all. You will ultimately be able to let them pass through and over you without taking root, so you can continue your meditation for as long as you wish.

Speaking of “as long as you wish….”

It doesn’t have to be for very long

Yes, I read the stories about Gichin Funakoshi (aka The Father of Modern Day Karate) meditating for an entire day while standing under a waterfall, and about retreats where people spend the entire weekend in some kind of a trance. And probably, some of those stories are true.

No, they don’t mean you have to meditate for hours to get anything out of meditation.

The studies I mentioned above had subjects meditate for less than an hour, in most cases less than 15 minutes, and even those sessions resulted in significant improvements to physical, emotional, and psychological health.

Some of the masters I’ve personally spoken with go one further, advising us to start with just one minute of meditation per day. That won’t be enough to reap huge, long-lasting benefits, but it has two advantages:

  1. You will succeed. Anybody can meditate for a minute, no matter how busy or distractible they are.
  2. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how much of a difference it makes for the next 10 minutes of your life.

I personally found those two factors combined to be an excellent motivator. Under the powerful motivation of immediate success and feeling the short-term impact of that minute, I committed more fully to learning how to meditate.

You don’t have to be a certain ‘type’ of person to meditate

Meditation has shed the new age or ‘hippie’ reputation it once had. Anyone can do it. Here’s an incomplete list of groups that actively practice meditation or encourage their people to meditate regularly:

  • professional athletes in the NFL, NHL, and UFC
  • actors including Hugh Jackman, Clint Eastwood, and Arnold Schwarzenegger
  • SEAL Team Six and other special forces branches of U.S. and worldwide militaries
  • an impossibly long list of CEOs and entrepreneurs like Richard Branson and Elon Musk

If Randy Couture and the guy who plays Wolverine meditate, you can do it too. It only takes a minute — literally — and you can start today.

A Meditation on Observing Thoughts, Non-Judgmentally

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A Guided Meditation on Observing Thoughts

  • 20:22
  1. Take a few moments to settle into feeling the body as a whole, sitting and breathing, or lying down and breathing, riding the waves of the breath moment by moment, resting in awareness. An awareness that features the entirety of the body scape and the breath scape as they express themselves, moment by moment. Life unfolding here and now in the body, in awareness.
  2. And when you’re ready, if you care to, letting go of the breath and the body as a whole. Allowing them to recede into the background or rest in the wings, as we’ve been saying, still very much present but less featured while we invite the whole domain of thoughts and feelings and mood states to be center stage in the field of awareness.
  3. For a time attending to the stream of thought rather than being carried away by the content or emotional charge of individual thoughts, instead resting comfortably on the bank of the thoughts, river or the thought stream itself, allowing individual thoughts if and when they arise to be seen, felt, recognized and known, as thoughts as events in the field of awareness.
  4. Recognizing them as mental events, occurrences, secretions of the thinking mind, independent of their content and their emotional charge, even as that content and emotional charge are also seen and known.
  5. Seeing any and all of these fleeting thoughts as bubbles, eddies and currents within the stream, rather than as facts or as the truth of things, whatever the content, whatever the emotional charge, whatever their urgency or their tendency to reappear, whether they are pleasant or seductive, unpleasant or repulsive. Or neutral and therefore harder to detect at all.
  6. Expanding the metaphor, seeing any and all of these evanescent thought events more like clouds in the sky or bubbles coming off the bottom of a pot of boiling water. Or like writing on water, arising in a moment, lingering for the briefest of instances, and dissolving back into the formlessness from whence they came. Relating to their content as if it were of equal importance and relevance to say what you had for dinner three nights ago. Even if a thought is particularly compelling and insightful. Especially if it is particularly compelling and insightful.
  7. For now, just letting any and all thoughts come and go. Just let sounds come and go. Or sensations come and go. Not preferring some to others, nor pursuing some over others, not pursuing anything. Just resting in an awareness of thinking itself and the spaces between thoughts. Moment by moment, breath by breath, as we sit here or as we lie here.
  8. It might be helpful to be especially sensitive to the steady stream of commentary and advice you may be giving yourself as you sit here, and recognising it as such. As scaffolding. As running commentary, taking a position in relationship to it that resembles turning down the sound on a television set, so that you’re just watching the game and aren’t being sucked into the endless stream of commentary and interpretation and opinion that is so characteristic of televised sports events.
  9. Rather, you now detect the individual secretions of commentary on your moment to moment experience merely is more thinking as thoughts,, as judgments and rest in the recognizing of them in the economists attending to each event as it arises in the stream without being pulled into the past or into the future or into opinions or fears or desires, simply seeing them and knowing them as thoughts and as emotions as mental events, not as the truth and not as you watching them proliferate endlessly as they do watching the mind secrete them and throw them off.
  10. Watching how easily thoughts manufacture or fabricate views, opinions, ideas, beliefs, plans, memories, stories, and how easily they proliferate. If we feed them the one thought morphing into the next, then into the next, until we suddenly realize that we’ve been carried downstream and are no longer aware of the stream itself. The process of thinking and how in the noticing we are already back in the frame of attending to thinking, is thinking to thoughts, thoughts observing them, recognizing them, perhaps being carried away again.
  11. And if so over and over again coming back to this moment to this frame in this moment to the field of thought itself beyond all the content of the endless thinking and proliferating and fabricating and the emotions that accompany them springing from whether they are pleasant unpleasant or neutral and from what’s going on in your life in this moment.
  12. Allowing all of this to be held to bear attention in awareness moment on breath by breath as we sit here or live here resting in the awareness itself south taking up residence in awareness itself in the knowing of thoughts thoughts and feelings as feelings in the accepting of thoughts thoughts and feelings feelings whatever their content whatever their emotional charge just as an experiment in cultivating greater intimacy with your own interiority with what’s on your mind and in your heart. And with new dimensions of the possible.
  13. If we learn to observe carefully and rather than identifying with the content of thoughts and feelings to see them more impersonally as weather patterns as ripples and waves on the surface of the vast and deep ocean of the mind. As we inhabit the whole of the mind that boundless essence of mine that already knows before I thought underneath thought beyond thought that is bigger than thought. Bigger than any feeling however powerful that is capable of making use of thought and emotion without being caught and imprisoned by unwise and unexamined habit patterns developed over a lifetime of ignoring these aspects of the mindscape of the landscape of our own being of our lives unfolding.
  14. So for the remainder of our time together, until you hear the sound of the bells resting in an awareness of the arising and passing away of thoughts and feelings in the mindscape some overwhelmingly obvious, some quite subtle, some masquerading as commentary, others as scaffolding, others as neither, and simply returning over and over again to the frame, whenever the mind is carried off, not looking for thoughts or emotions or mood indicators, just resting in awareness and letting the mall come to you.
  15. Letting them arise on their own in the field of awareness to whatever degree they do. Moment by moment by moment, and breath by breath, as you sit here or as you live your life.

The Meditation Technique That Totally Transformed My Sleep

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Some aspects of healthy living just get easier with time. Meal prepping on Sundays, waking up early to exercise, avoiding single-use plastic—I’ve found it can all become second nature with enough practice and repetition.

I’ve always been daunted by one part of wellness, though, no matter how often I try to whittle away at it: meditation.

The benefits of the practice are what kept me in hot pursuit of it. Nearly every night for the past year or so, you could find me in my bed militantly repeating a mantra in an effort to quell anxietyincrease compassion, and refine my focus. And every night, after a few minutes of futile attempts to reel in my mind, I inevitably opened my eyes frustrated.

The point of meditating before bed was to let go of negative thoughts and worries from the day, but sometimes it left me even more stressed. I had the sneaking suspicion that I was somehow doing it “wrong.” I expected to start craving these nightly meditations after a while, but closing my eyes and coming back to the breath just remained another task on my to-do list.

The meditation technique that changed my relationship to the practice.

A few weeks ago, in the thick of my mindfulness rut, I journeyed to Costa Rica for a week of doing nothing but yoga, breathwork, and—you guessed it—meditation.

Expecting to meet the same kind of resistance in the jungle that I did in my Manhattan apartment, I figured I could just pretend to meditate during longer sits. (Nothing I hadn’t done before!) But on day two, a strange thing happened: Our leaders Erica Matluck, N.D., FNP, and Paul Kuhn, who put on healing retreats focused on the seven chakrascalled Seven Senses, told the group to essentially forget everything we knew about meditation.

For that day, which was spent in silence (no talking, no eye contact, no writing, no reading—no looking outside of yourself as a distraction), we were to leave our mantras and body scans at the door. These, too, Matluck, a naturopath and seasoned integrative medicine practitioner, explained, could be a way to turn the attention away from the self.

Instead, we were told to breathe normally and simply notice the physical sensation underneath the nostril, above the upper lip. That was it. The only directive.

Just like that, we were off. With nothing but a curtain of palm trees as a distraction, I was fully prepared to become restless and frustrated after a few minutes. But 10 minutes passed, and I was still content sitting with that feeling under my nose. Then 20, then 30. We were invited to stay for another 30-minute sit. And, much to my own surprise, I did.

It felt so much more gentle, so much less rigid, than what I thought meditation was supposed to be.

Instead of forcing my breath to be rhythmic, I allowed it to do whatever it wanted. Instead of clutching onto a mantra (and cursing myself when it escaped from my grip), I politely paid attention to the super-subtle sensations on that one area. It felt so much more gentle, so much less rigid, than what I thought meditation was supposed to be. It wasn’t a task but a delight—to catch my thoughts wandering and then happily return them to the moment at hand.

It’s the first time that I didn’t want a meditation to end.

Afterward, Kuhn, a sound healer, told us that this study in sensation was a reminder that physical feelings—like thoughts—are fleeting.

This lesson from Matluck and Kuhn, one of what felt like hundreds I picked up that week, really brought home the idea that thoughts don’t need to carry so much weight and power. Instead, we can choose to let them pass over us like a tickle on the skin.

How I’m keeping up with it.

Thousands of miles removed from the Pura Vida life, I’m still trying to keep up with this breath awareness. Since my trip, my nightly meditation routine has become less of a chore and more of a respite after long days.

I’m reminded of what mbg Collective member and class instructor Light Watkins said when he talked about making the breath an anchor. By tuning into the physical feeling of the breath, it has become easier for me to sit with. Some nights, if I’m lucky, I’m transported back to that special place where all there was to think about was the rustling of the jungle and the sensation of being alive. And what a meditative space that is to be.

Here’s How Meditation Can Help With Loneliness & Acceptance Of Your Emotions, According To Science

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Loneliness is something that everyone experiences at one point or another, but of course, just because it’s common, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to deal with. Whether you’re living in a brand new city away from your hometown, or you landed a job that requires you to work remotely instead of in an office, that feeling of being alone can be overwhelming at times. If you’re struggling with these emotions yourself, it might comfort you to know that meditation can help with loneliness, according to the results of a new study.

For the study, The New York Times reports, researchers gathered 153 adults who described themselves as “stressed out” (which, per the news outlet, was meant to distract the participants from the real focus of the study, i.e. loneliness). To establish a baseline of where the participants were at in terms of their mindset at the beginning of the study, the researchers asked them to fill out a survey that included questions about their interactions with others, their social networks, and whether they regularly deal with any feelings of loneliness.

Additionally, the researchers monitored the participants in real time over a period of three days by texting them questions about “what they were doing and with whom,” according to The New York Times — you know, kind of like how your parents would always ask you to tell them what you were doing with your friends when you were in middle school, except, hopefully less lame?


After those baseline measures, the participants were given an app to use on their phone, and the researchers randomly divided the volunteers into three groups: In one group, the app gave the participants some general tips for dealing with stress. In another group, the app taught the volunteers about mindfulness and the practice of “paying close attention to the moment and focusing on breathing and other sensations,” per The New York Times. In the third group, the app taught the participants the same mindfulness techniques as the second group, with additional instructions to “take note of and say ‘yes’ aloud to all sensations,” according to the news outlet. For instance, if a participant noticed that they could physically feel their tongue on the roof of their mouth, or even if they mentally noticed a feeling of sadness, they would then have to say “yes” out loud. The researchers called this approach to mindfulness “equanimity.”

Each group was told to use the app for 20 minutes, then practice their respective techniques for another 10 minutes on their own, every day for two weeks, per The New York Times. To measure any differences between the participants’ baseline mindset and how they felt after using the mindfulness strategies for a couple weeks, the researchers gave them the same survey questions, as well as the same three-day text monitoring.

Volume 90%


The results of the study, which have been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, showed that the general stress management and mindfulness techniques had little to no effect on the participants who practiced them — but here’s where things got really interesting: According to The New York Times, the participants who practiced “equanimity” meditation were “measurably more sociable,” engaged in “several more interactions with people that lasted at least a few minutes,” and their survey responses showed “a decline in their feelings of loneliness.”

The researchers told The New York Times that they believe the equanimity aspect of meditation was “key” in making a difference in participants’ feelings of loneliness. And it kind of makes sense when you think about it, right? As the researchers wrote in the abstract of their study, developing an “orientation of acceptance toward present-moment experiences” — even when those present-moment experiences are uncomfortable or difficult to accept — can make a huge difference in dealing with feelings of loneliness. In other words, actively accepting negativity when it comes to you, rather than squashing it down, pretending it doesn’t exist, or worse, judging yourself for having those feelings in the first place, seems to be an effective way to deal with these emotions overall.


Counselor and relationship expert David Bennett (who was not involved in the study) says that meditation in general can help with “emotion regulation.” He tells Elite Daily in an email, “It can help you avoid the emotional ups and downs that come from reacting to the various events in your daily life.”

In a sense, Bennett explains, meditation can help to ground you in “something deeper than just feelings that come and go,” and being grounded can not only help you feel less lonely, it can help you take steps toward avoiding loneliness — like reaching out to a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile to meet for coffee, or asking a co-worker you get along with if they’d like to join you for happy hour drinks.

Again, loneliness is something that everyone deals with, so don’t be ashamed if you’re struggling with it. Consider practicing this type of acceptance meditation the next time these feelings overwhelm you, and remember, if you need a little extra help, it’s always OK to touch base with a professional about what you’re going through.

3 Ways Meditation Can Catapult Your Career

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Anyone that’s been to a yoga class recently has heard of the concept of meditation. Chances are, in 2019, you will start hearing about it more in the workplace, too. According to a report by the CDC, the number of American adults saying they meditated jumped from 4.1% in 2012 to 14.2% in 2018.

The benefits of meditation can help you in many aspects of your life, but here are three ways in which the practice can benefit your career.

  • It can help you realize what you really want. For the most fortunate of us, the hunt for a job meant finding out what truly makes us happy and turning that into a career. When that dream isn’t realized right away, it can cause depression and complacency, and ultimately result in the death of that dream. Meditation can not only help you practice self-awareness, but acceptance, as well.
  • It reduces stress. Work can be a huge stressor for most people, especially if there is a large sum of money on the line. When it comes time to grind, that stress can be a real hinderance. For example, a survey from EveryDay Health found that 57% of respondents say they are paralyzed by stress. Mindfulness meditation, even done for only a few minutes a day, can help reduce stress and anxiety, as demonstrated in a 2013 Massachusetts General Hospital study.
  • It gets creative juices flowing. If you work in a creative realm, you understand the concept of walking away and revisiting. Sometimes, when you’re stuck on an idea that you can’t seem to work yourself through, it is best to take a walk around the block and come back to it. When you don’t have that much time, however, focusing on your breathing and meditating for a few minutes allows your brain to do a soft reset.

While it may still seem like a foreign concept to some, the importance of meditation cannot be diminished. As I tell many of the entrepreneurs and job seekers I coach, even if it feels strange, what do you have to lose? I invite you to try it today and see how you feel.

Ashley Stahl is a career coach who helps job seekers find their purpose, land more job offers and launch their dream businesses. Visit AshleyStahl.com for free courses, resources and more.

Mindfulness: What Is It And How Can It Improve Mental Health?

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By Olivia Petter

Mindfulness is a word you hear a lot these days, but few can explain what it actually means.

In its most simplest form, it means paying attention to the present moment without judging external thoughts that enter into your mind.

The term has surged in use in recent years, having been co-opted by various brands in a bid to appeal to wellbeing-conscious millennials, though the definition can vary depending on what is being marketed.

It’s often used as an umbrella term, spawning all sorts of variations, from mindful eating to mindful skiing – yes, really.

While psychologists have praised the benefits of mindfulness in terms of mental health – research has claimed it can curb symptoms of depression and anxiety– recent studies have disputed this, with some saying it “only works for women“ and others claiming that mindfulness makes you selfish.

Read on for everything you need to know about mindfulness, from how it works to how it might benefit you.

What is it?

Mindfulness is about taking a pause from the business of your daily life to think of nothing else but the present moment.

According to Sharon Hadley, CEO of the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, it’s primarily about encouraging people to pay more attention to what is happening in their own bodies and minds.

“It is a term used for a range of interventions or practices taught to help us cultivate this ability,” she tells The Independent.

How does it work?

When a person is engaging in the practice of mindfulness, the idea is that they focus on nothing but their bodies and their breathing, mental health charity Mind explains on its website.

By doing this, they should be able to pick up on any thoughts that enter their minds and let them go, Mind adds.

You can find some useful tips on how to actually do this without allowing yourself to be distracted on Mindful.org.

It should feel liberating and help someone understand themselves and their emotions better, the NHS explains.

How is it beneficial?

Hadley says that mindfulness can have a positive impact on our overall wellbeing by making us more aware of our own thoughts and feelings in addition to the environment around us.

Sex coach Diana Richardson on ‘mindful sex’

“This ability to pay attention, to notice what is happening in the present moment and increase our ability to make a choice how or indeed if to respond to our thoughts or feelings has proven beneficial to those suffering, both mentally and physically,” she adds.

Applying mindfulness strategies to various parts of our lives has been linked to a whole host of benefits, from improving your relationship with food and alleviating smartphone addiction to boosting body confidence and ameliorating your sex life.

Can it help treat mental health problems?

Research has also found mindfulness to be beneficial in treating a number of mental health problems, such as depressionanxiety and stress.

“Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) is one mindfulness intervention and has been used in a clinical context for a number of years,” Hadley adds.

“MBCT is recognised and approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in the UK as a clinical intervention to support those who suffer from recurrent depression.”

NICE, which provides national guidance to improve health and social care, also recommends using mindfulness-based techniques to help curb social anxiety, which is the term used to describe an overwhelming fear of social situations.

One recent study claimed that mindfulness can be “just as effective” as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in easing chronic pain and symptoms of depression.

Mind adds that research is currently underway into whether mindfulness could be used to treat more complex conditions, such as bipolar disorder and psychosis. Though it’s not yet clear how mindfulness will be used in these contexts as the research is in the early stages.

How can you be more mindful?

While anyone can try mindfulness, being mindful isn’t always easy to do, says Stephen Buckley, head of information at Mind.

“It can take practice, and might not be right for everyone. It’s not usually a good idea to start learning mindfulness when you’re very unwell because it can be hard to get the most out of it, and you may find it distressing at first,” he tells The Independent.

“If you’re currently having a particularly difficult time with your mental health, you might want to seek treatment and support for that, then try mindfulness when you’re feeling better.”

That being said, there are some simple ways one can incorporate mindfulness into their daily lives.

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For example, the NHS suggests trying new things on a regular basis, whether it’s going somewhere new for lunch or sitting somewhere different in a meeting. This could help you “notice the word in a new way”, its website states.

Alternatively, silently naming thoughts and feelings can be a helpful way of addressing stressful situations, the NHS adds. They suggests, for example, if you’re feeling anxious about an exam, this would be a case of saying to yourself: “This is anxiety”.

If you really want to learn the ins and outs of mindfulness, Hadley suggests signing up to a basic introductory course. The majority of these run for eight weeks and offer two and half hours of tuition each week, she says. You can find a list of trained mindfulness teachers as listed on the UK Mindfulness Network here.

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