Posted on Mon, 1 Feb 10
Stress is a leading cause of ill health and poor quality of life causing symptoms as diverse as mood changes and insomnia to heart disease and obesity (1). The regular practice of mindfulness meditation is intended to increase physical and mental relaxation, reduce stress, improve emotional stability and enhance concentration (2).
Mindfulness meditation has been shown to promote relaxed brain wave activity during meditation, enhance cognitive function and reduce emotional and physical symptoms of stress (3). The following is a simple five step guide to practicing mindfulness meditation:
1. Sit in a comfortable position. Try to sit in the same place each day. Avoid positions that you might fall asleep in.
a. The back is long and supports itself.
b. Shoulders are relaxed downward, the neck is long, and the chin is pointing neither up nor down.
c. The face is relaxed.
2. Begin to breathe (preferably through the nostrils). Feel the belly rise, the ribs expand, and the slight movement in the collarbones and shoulders as the breath moves upward. Feel the exhalation.
3. Focus on one aspect of the breath:
a. The movement of air in and out of the nostrils
b. Or the lifting and falling of the belly
4. Watch that one aspect of the breath.
a. When the mind wanders, gently bring it back to the breath and the aspect you have chosen to watch.
b. Do this as many times as you need to.
c. There is no such thing as a good or bad meditation. (Good and bad are judgments, events in the mind—just note them and go back to the breathing.)
5. Start with 5–10 minutes and then increase the time until you can sit for 30 minutes.
1. McEwen BS. Central effects of stress hormones in health and disease: Understanding the protective and damaging effects of stress and stress mediators. Eur J Pharmacol. 2008 Apr 7;583(2-3):174-85.
2. Rubia K. The neurobiology of Meditation and its clinical effectiveness in psychiatric disorders. Biol Psychol. 2009 Sep;82(1):1-11.
3. Chiesa A, Serretti A. A systematic review of neurobiological and clinical features of mindfulness meditations. Psychol Med. 2009 Nov 27:1-14.
Instructions adapted from: The Institute for Functional Medicine