Focusing only on the moment or the action we’re doing in that moment—without thinking about what we need to do next is difficult. Who has paused a workout routine to check social media or respond to an email that could have easily waited until after the gym?
According to a new report by Asurion Research, smartphone dependency has increased 20% in just two years, reporting Americans now check their phones 96 times daily. As our attention spans decrease and there are more distractions than ever before, it’s safe to say by the time you finish reading this article, you will have stopped to attend to a text, Instagram alert, or email.
With everyday stresses and a busy schedule, you can lose the satisfaction of your time at the gym and your workouts may also not be as effective.
The good news is that there are techniques to help win back your ability to focus. Mindfulness has been highly regarded for its scientific impact on our emotional and physical well-being. There are proven ways to help restore our attention span, reduce stress, and improve overall health and happiness.
But what is being mindful, and what can you do to help live in the present moment? Please silence all phone alerts for the next 10 minutes and read all about it.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the capacity to focus on the present moment while peacefully acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. It’s a sense of presence, not perception. People have been practicing mindful techniques for thousands of years. Today, many mindful practices include a variety of yoga techniques, Tai Chi, and other methods like awareness-raising therapies.
IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN MINDFULNESS AND MINDFUL MEDITATION?
Mindful meditation is a practice through which one achieves mindfulness. In other words, meditation is a technique, whereas mindfulness is a mental state. Mindful meditation asks us to suspend judgment and let go of negativity so that we may explore our cognitive curiosities and sensations (the way our clothing feels on our skin, the smell of our neighbor’s cooking).
Mindful meditation exercises typically involve sitting quietly and focusing either on your breathing or a repeated mantra. Here are a few beginner-friendly types of mindful meditation exercises you can practice sitting either cross-legged on the floor or in a straight-backed chair:
- Focusing on breath: This technique brings your attention to the physical sensation of the air moving through your nose or mouth, the rising and falling of your belly, and turns your attention away from fixating on any one thought.
- Thought labeling: Mindfulness meditation is not about “thinking of nothing,” and it can be the exact opposite. This meditative technique encourages you to invite each thought to pass through your mind and identify how each makes you feel and why.
- Body scanning: This technique commands you slowly move all your focus from one specific part of your body to the next. For example, start at the top of your head and slowly work your way down to your face, neck, shoulders, and so on, to your toes, thinking about how each part feels.
How long and how often should I practice?
Dr. James E. Stahl, who conducted a mind-body relaxation research study through the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine, concludes that you don’t need to enroll in a formal program. He suggests 10 to 15 minutes daily will do, and consistency is the key.
WHAT IS MINDFUL YOGA?
A way to build healthy mindfulness is through yoga. Mindful yoga cultivates self-awareness and compassion through non-judgment, patience, trust, non-striving, letting go, and gratitude. Mindful yoga can strengthen awareness and presence both on and off the mat.
IS MINDFUL MEDITATION ASSOCIATED WITH IMPROVED PHYSICAL HEALTH?
Regular practice of mindful exercises can help reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep, and reduce symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions in healthy individuals.
Professor emeritus Jon Kabat-Zinn, former director of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, says that practicing mindful exercises can contribute to positive changes in health, attitudes, and behaviors.
Scientists have also tested that practicing mindfulness meditation can improve sleep and even provide an alternative to traditional treatments for insomnia. Research suggests that regularly practicing mindfulness meditation may help strengthen the body’s ability to fight illnesses.
Researchers indicate that mindfulness has a ripple effect on all areas of health. People who engage in mindfulness meditation tend to increase other health-promoting behaviors, get regular checkups, exercise, and decrease or avoid nicotine and alcohol. A strong mind-body connection can also improve your exercise efficiency, enjoyment, and help build muscle at the same time.
CAN MINDFULNESS MEDITATION IMPROVE YOUR ATTENTION SPAN?
Habitual practice of mindfulness meditation exercises improves your attention skills. When you can focus better, you decrease mistakes at work, improve your performance and effectiveness, and support your creativity. Healthy mindfulness has also been shown to help improve attention, even for adults with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
HOW TO INTRODUCE MEDITATION EXERCISES INTO YOUR DAY
Although mindfulness meditation exercises are primarily cognitive, results are achieved the same way physical fitness goals are met – habitual routines. Regularly practicing any of the following five methods 10-15 minutes a day can improve your focus all day:
- Start your mornings with a Sun Salutation Yoga flow. You can modify your favorite poses and create your own flow while concentrating on one body part at a time. EōS offers an array of mind, body, and stretch classes including many types of yoga to guide you through some great poses. Find a class near you.
- Take a break mid-day and step away from work or school to focus on breathing — paying attention to air entering your nostrils and exhaling out your lungs and mouth.
- Relax at the end of the day with a 15-minute guided meditation. Save recorded meditations or podcasts on your phone or tablet for easy access.
- Unwind in the evening and perform a body scan. Relax in a comfortable seat or lie down. Close your eyes and breathe deeply and slowly, focusing on the areas with tension, pain, or stress.
- Practice “meditation in motion” through a Tai Chi class at select EōS locations. Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that emphasizes physical proficiency and meditative mental clarity.
Are you ready to get more out of your time at the gym? When you improve mindfulness by adopting mindfulness meditation exercises into your daily routines, you will better focus on your form, fitness, and overall health. Get your Complimentary 7-Day Pass at EōS and start improving your health.