As a neuroscience researcher who is also a yoga practitioner, I have experienced firsthand how meditation is a great practice to improve mindfulness for better attention and focus. In a fast-paced world with so many distractions, like the constant pinging of my phone, ongoing notifications about deadlines, and project goals, it’s easy to get carried away and lose the gift of the present.
As my own meditation practice has helped me to de-stress and slow down my mind from being overwhelmed, I have been thrilled to discover the growing neurological research on the beneficial effects of meditation on the brain.
An upright and comfortable body posture can help improve negative moods. A good mood helps you stay more motivated during your meditation.Neuroscientific Fact
Whether you have been practicing meditation for a while or you are a complete beginner to this wonderful practice, the 4 easy steps below will help you get started or refresh your memory with mindfulness meditation. Each step also has a supplemental neuroscience fact to help you understand what meditation does to your brain.
4 Steps to create a better mindfulness meditation practice
Be kind to yourself. You might not find your meditative groove in the first go and find the whole process difficult, but that is okay. Be kind, accept your struggles, and keep going on. It takes time to build a practice. Even an active practitioner can have their lapses, so take it slow, one step at a time.
Find yourself a comfortable place, preferably one with minimal noise and enough ventilation. You can sit cross-legged on a pillow, a yoga mat, or the floor. Find support for your back by leaning against a wall, a cupboard, or a tree.
Neuroscience fact: An upright and comfortable body posture can help improve negative moods. A good mood helps you stay more motivated during your meditation.
To begin, pay attention to the natural flow of your breath: how your chest rises with every inhalation and falls with every exhalation, and how the air moves in and out of your lungs.
Neuroscience fact: Meditation helps you slow down and deepen your breath. Deep breathing activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps you to relax and reduce stress.
If you get distracted, simply accept it and return back to your breath. Remember, the purpose of your meditation is not to vanquish all your thoughts, but to simply be aware of when your mind goes astray and away from its focus point (i.e., breath) so that you can bring your attention back to it.
Neuroscience fact: Neuropsychologist Kim Willment of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham Women’s Hospital says that training your brain to notice when you get distracted helps to strengthen this monitoring process and be more focused. So, meditation essentially trains your brain to be more present and focused!
You can start your meditation practice very slowly. Even a 1-minute meditation twice a week makes a difference. You can gradually build up on it as you feel more confident. Regular practice certainly does help you improve, and also builds meditation into a habit rather than an occasional hobby. You can also try out other kinds of meditation to find out what works best for you, such as sound meditation or guided meditation. Make it your own so that you can truly grow into it!