Jon Kabat-Zinn, the founder of MBSR, defines mindfulness as paying attention in a very particular way – that is on purpose, without judgment and in the present moment. Research from Harvard suggests that our minds are lost in thought almost 47% of the time. This sort of constant mind-wandering is a direct cause of unhappiness. If we dwell in the past, we may be more likely to feel sad or depressed and if we are wondering about the future, we may be more likely to feel stressed or anxious. But if we practice learning how to be in the here and now and how to be present through meditation, we will be less likely to be lost in thought, distracted and/or overwhelmed by difficult emotions.
Meditation is a practice of concentrated focus on a sound, object, visualization, the breath, movement, or attention itself in order to increase awareness of the present moment, promote relaxation, and enhance person and spiritual growth.
Research shows meditation may actually change the structure and function of the brain. A consistent mediation practice corresponds to an increase in the amount of grey matter in the brain, a thicker cerebral cortex, reduced reactivity of the amygdala, and increased activity in areas of the prefrontal cortex.
These neurological changes are associated with:
- Reduced stress, anxiety, and depression
- Increased focus and learning concentration
- Improved memory and attention span
- Stronger immune system and greater physical/psychological resilience
As meditation becomes more and more mainstream, we see its benefits being promoted by health care providers, professional athletes, business executives, and celebrities alike. While the underlying approach to training the mind is similar, there are many different types of meditation. Explore some of the practices below and find which techniques work best for you!
Mindfulness: This technique encourages you to focus on your breath and observe wandering thoughts and feelings as they drift through your mind. The idea is not to get involved in the actual thoughts or to judge them but to simply be aware of them.
Concentrative: This technique involves focusing on a single point, whether it’s your breath, repeating a single word or mantra, staring at a candle flame or listening to a repeating gong. As your mind begins to wander, you concentrate on refocusing your awareness back to the chosen object of attention and let go of your thoughts.
Moving: You don’t need to sit quietly to reap the benefits of meditation. Slow, repetitive movements while focusing on your breath can help you find your zen. Techniques that involve movement are common practice and include walking meditation, tai chi, chi kung (Qigong), or yoga.
If you’re interested in learning more about meditation or trying it on your own, check out the resources and tools below.
- Center for Mindfulness
- National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)
- Greater Good: The Science of a Meaningful Life
- American Mindfulness Research Association
- Pocket Mindfulness
How We Can Help
- Attend a weekly meditation session
- Come by our offices for a mindfulness/meditation consult
In the Community
- Heights Meditation
- Meet-up Group
- Kadampa Meditation Center
- Milstein Hospital Meditation (5th Floor Chaptel): Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays 12:30-1:00pm
- Psychiatric Institute Meditation (1st Floor Room 1200): Tuesdays 12:30-1:00pm
Build Your Toolbox
- Stop Breathe Think, Headspace
- Mindfulness Hamilton (Streaming Meditations)
- Mobile Apps: Headspace, Stop Breathe Think, Buddify2, Calm, Simply Being, Equanimity, Mental Workout
- Books: Mindfulness for Beginners (Jon Kabat-Zinn) , Meditation for Beginners (Jack Kornfield), Zen Mind Beginner’s Mind (Shunryu Suzuki), Real Happiness – The Power of Meditation (Sharon Salzberg), Zen Meditation in Plain English (John Daishin Buksbazen)
- Podcasts/Scripts: Meditation Oasis, Inner Health Studio, MayoClinic, The Meditation Podcast, Radio Headspace