Many consider three aspects important to total wellness: mind, body, and spirit. If one area is lacking, the other two cannot thrive, however mental wellness is not something taught in western society. In recent years I recall myself thinking how desperately I wanted to be happy; however I’ve since come to the realization that happiness is not something that can be achieved. It’s a mental state. In most situations we have the ability to choose to be happy, but are unaware we have this choice. Because our mind can operate on a variety of levels simultaneously, consciously and unconsciously, we are able to complete voluntary and involuntary actions all at once. For example, while breathing is an involuntary action, focusing on our breath to become centered within ourselves is a voluntary action. We will survive with the involuntary action of breath, but we will not thrive. We rarely use the full capacity of our lungs when breathing mechanically. Oxygen is used by every cell in the body and is needed to burn fuel in the form of sugar and fatty acids to give us energy. So if we’re relying on shallow breaths, the turnover rate of energy production is much slower leaving us feeling tired, lethargic, unwell.
We often have a tendency to run on autopilot. Which is certainly necessary to process the constant stream of information our environment exchanges with us. Have you ever driven somewhere only to arrive at your destination and have no idea how you got there? That’s your brain on autopilot while you were worrying about some unforeseen event that will probably never come to fruition. Constantly thinking in the past or the future robs us of living in the present. It’s so easy for our thoughts to drift, but we have the ability to identify unwanted thoughts and redirect ourselves to the present moment. Next time you’re doing the dishes, instead of rehashing an argument you had with your significant other, and thinking of all the perfect responses you wish you would have thrown at them, focus your attention on how the water feels on your skin, what the soap smells like, the temperature of the water, the feel of the hard porcelain. Ask yourself what you hear. Maybe you have music on, maybe someone is mowing the lawn outside. Use as many senses as you can to bring yourself in the current moment. The more you practice this the more it will start to occur naturally. It takes work, but eventually that autopilot of ‘what if’s’ and to do lists will dissipate and be taken over by experiences of the present. This is what being mindful all is about. This is what we strive to achieve. The result is a calming peace.
Meditation is maintenance for the mind, and gives us the opportunity to reflect on our inner self. Meditation allows us to listen to that small inner voice that helps to guide and direct our mental processes, which is often drowned out due to excessive noise pollution of modern day life. When we don’t give adequate time for these processes, or we simply don’t get enough rest, our mind cannot maintain its state of wellness, just like our bodies aren’t capable of wellness if there is no chance to rest and replenish.
Meditation is an ancient practice, used to train the mind and induce a mode of consciousness. Numerous scientific studies have focused on identifying benefits of meditative rituals. A short list of benefits include: stress reduction, improved concentration, increased self-awareness, happiness, and acceptance, in addition to slowing aging. There are lots of forms of meditation, try a few and see which works best for you! Check out these resources to help you get started:
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