Mindful Meditation: How to Reduce Stress and Be Happy
Mindful meditation. Is it just me or are you hearing about this everywhere these days? From celebrities to successful CEOs, to the coffee barista you chatted with this morning, everyone seems to be talking about mindful meditation.
So as someone who has never practiced meditation before but who loves to discover new ways to feel awesome and happy, I decided to check it out! I wanted to know: what exactly is mindful meditation? Could meditation improve my life? And how exactly do you do it?
If you’ve ever wanted to know what mindful meditation is all about and if it could make a positive difference in your life, you’re in the right place! Read on!
Spoiler alert: I found a free mediation app that will literally change your life. My full review is below!
What is Mindful Meditation?
I thought I would start at the beginning and find out what mindful meditation is exactly. Well, it turns out that it really depends on who you ask!
According to Dictionary.com, it’s “to engage in thought or contemplation; reflect” while the Oxford Dictionary defines meditating as “focusing one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation.”
To be honest, those sound like two pretty dull definitions to me. But we can start to understand what they’re getting at. So let’s just break it down ourselves and simply say that mindful meditation is:
- taking some time to focus on being present and mindful;
- shutting out all of the outside noise that clouds our minds; and
- allowing ourselves to relax our bodies and minds.
In Jen Sincero’s New York Times bestselling book “You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life” (which I highly recommend and you can buy here), she gives a great explanation of meditation. She also gives some good descriptions of what to expect when you first start and probably my favorite definition of meditation:
“Meditating…is like riding the airstream of awesomeness” – Jen Sincero
Meditation sounds interesting, but I still wanted to know why I should actually try it.
Why Should I Try Mindful Meditation?
According to the experts, there are many reasons that we should practice mindful meditation, but the #1 reason is because we are STRESSED OUT!
Stress is happening to us and everyone we know at this very moment to some degree. How many times a day do you hear someone say that they’re stressed? Or see someone in an obviously stressed state? Maybe it’s your neighbor, your friend, your family member or maybe it’s you!
According to a 2014 study completed by The American Institute of Stress (yes, there is such a thing):
- 77% of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress; and
- 48% of people report laying awake at night due to stress.
Those statistics are terrible! And I can’t imagine that those numbers would have improved in the time since the study was completed. So there’s no question that we need to find a way to manage and reduce our stress levels in order to feel better and be happier. (You can also read about my 5 Incredibly Simple Ways to Feel Happy in Minutes here.)
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD reviewed almost 19,000 meditation studies and published their findings that suggest that mindful meditation can help ease psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain. That’s amazing!
Many people who practice mindful meditation also report an overall feeling of contentment, relaxation, a greater sense of self awareness, gratitude and being in a better mood. I don’t know about you, but those sound like some fantastic results that I could definitely use in my life!
I decided that I was going to go for it and give mindful meditation a try because really, with benefits like that, what did I have to lose?
My Mindful Meditation Experience
I really started out knowing nothing about how to actually practice meditation. Did I have to sit in the lotus position and light candles? And how much time would I have to commit to this?
I decided to do some research and it turns out that there are endless resources available on mindful meditation including books, guides, tutorials, seminars, classes and videos. There’s so much information! Luckily, I checked to see if there were any good free meditation apps available and I struck gold.
I decided to start my mindful meditation journey by using a free app called “Breethe – Guided Meditation & Mindfulness” by OMG. I can Meditate! Inc. The mediation app was created by the amazing Lynne Goldberg, a certified meditation coach. Lynne is truly an inspirational woman who transformed her life through meditation and is passionate about helping others to transform their lives too.
After looking at the variety of meditation apps available, I decided to try Breethe because it was a free app and there were great meditation options to choose from. I tried the free version, however there are even more options available for paid subscribers.
The free meditation options include a choice of duration from a 4 minute “Wake Up with Intention”, a 20 minute “Sweet Dreams” and a variety of choices in between. If you’ve only got 5 minutes to spare, there’s the “Five Minute Meditation” to have you quickly getting your meditation on!
There are also specific meditations to help you through dealing with pressure, feeling loved and a 7 day Feeling Happier program.
I chose to start my meditation experience with the “7 Day Learn to Meditate” program since that’s exactly what I wanted to do! One meditation per day for 7 days, not a huge commitment and I knew I could follow through with it.
7 Day Learn to Meditate
I’m not going to lie, I felt a little doubtful that I could actually sit still in silence for 12 minutes without thinking about the million things that I had to do! But I followed the instructions to sit comfortably in my chair with my hands in my lap, close my eyes and focus on my breathing.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear the voice of Lynne Goldberg, the creator of Breethe, talk me through my first attempt at meditation! She guided me through the whole meditation session with her calming voice and thoughtful reminders.
Just when I would be sitting there thinking, “Am I doing this right?” she would assure me that I was and that having your mind wander is all part of learning meditation. It was like having a friend sitting there with me, I just loved it!
Before I knew it, a little bell went off and it was over. I had meditated for 12 minutes! Me! I couldn’t believe it! It felt like only a few minutes had passed!
I sat there for a minute, trying to assess how I felt. Did I feel any difference? I actually did! I felt rested and content and really relaxed and I couldn’t wait for Day 2!
Day 2 was a little bit harder for me. My legs felt restless and I couldn’t quite stop fidgeting. But Lynne explained that this was totally normal and that mediation truly is a practice. I got through it though and still felt good and less stressed when it was over. It didn’t work out quite as well as Day 1 but I wasn’t going to give up.
This was actually kind of a fail! I waited until too late and tried meditating right before bed. I kept falling asleep! Which I learned is not staying active enough for true mediation. Lesson learned, don’t try to actively meditate when you’re completely exhausted!
The next three days went really well and I knew that I had found something that I was really going to stick with. The duration of each session for days 4,5 and 6 got longer only by a few minutes each but I did notice the difference. A couple of times while I was meditating, I did start to wonder how much time was left in the session (oops!) but the peaceful feelings after I finished each meditation continued to amaze me.
Day 7 – last day
My last day of the 7 Day Learn to Meditate and this was my best meditation by far! I did it! In just 7 days, I could sit still and calmly focus and let my mind relax. When my thoughts started to wander, I would listen to Lynne’s instructions to focus on my breathing. I found that advice to be the most helpful guidance of all. Focusing on my breath and silently saying to myself “breathing in and breathing out” really redirected my attention.
I felt like I was slowly getting the hang of meditation and felt so encouraged! I meditated for 14 minutes but it felt like a fraction of the time, it just flew by!
What I Learned
After trying mindful meditation for a week, these are some of the things that I learned:
- The biggest eye opener was the noticeable change in how I felt after only 12-14 minutes of meditation. I felt completely relaxed and calm, even though I had so much going on and was so busy on those days. It was almost like waking up from a really restful sleep, everything just felt peaceful.
- Mindful meditation is a life long practice and a week is just a small sample of the results that I could expect. It reminded me of when I first started yoga, I had to come to the realization that if I wanted to improve, I had to practice.
- I became much more aware of my thoughts and it was actually funny to realize what I thought about! From dinner planning, to work, to setting the PVR, my thoughts were so random! It was interesting to observe them and then just let them go.
- Choose the right time to meditate. I’m sure that the right time is different for everyone, but starting the day off with some meditation in the morning is ideal! At the end of the day when you’re exhausted is not the right time!
- I’m going to try to incorporate mindful meditation into my life on a regular basis and see how far I can progress! This was such a positive experience, I can’t think of any reason why I would want to stop practicing meditation.
Are you looking for a simple way to improve your life, reduce your stress, feel happier and be in a better mood? Then mindful meditation might just be the solution! Mindful meditation is just one small step we can take to change how we handle stress and improve our overall sense of well being.
After trying the 7 Day Learn to Meditate program from the free Breethe meditation app, my feeling of relaxation and happiness improved. It was only a week of short meditation sessions, but the results I felt were enough to convince me that I need to try incorporating meditation into my daily life. I plan on trying the other guided meditation options available on the Breethe app and also trying mindful meditation just on my own. I’ll let you know how it goes!
You don’t need fancy equipment, you don’t need to be a spiritual guru or a yogi. You just need to spend some time relaxing with your thoughts and being mindful.
Mindful meditation is a life long practice and some meditations will feel easier than others. But it’s okay to be a beginner! We all need to start somewhere and I hope you try mindful meditation and start seeing your own positive results today.
Have you tried mindful meditation? What did you think about it? Let me know!
Wishing you happiness!