Mindfulness has become quite the buzz word recently, and for good reason. In a world buzzing with notifications and information we can become lost. Not only in a sea of noise, but lost in our own minds responding to stimuli instead of focusing on what matters. With the average attention span plummeting, it is clear that distraction has become the new norm.
Mindfulness has arisen as a tool to break through the noise of the Information Age.
Mindfulness is the practice of conscious thought. It is an awareness of your thoughts and how you react to the world around you. We all have a reactionary mind called the amygdala that signals fight or flight responses based upon our environment. We also have the neo-cortex, capable of analyzing information and making executive decisions. Mindfulness enhances our ability to decide whether or not to react to a given situation, and how to react when we need to.
Mindfulness can be practiced in many ways, with meditation being the most historical way of practicing. Meditation has existed as a core feature of eastern religions for millennia. The act of mindfulness itself lays at the core of Buddhism. A belief system based upon being in the moment, content with where you are, not focused on the future or the past but instead being present and in the now. Whether you follow Buddhism or not, I think we can all get behind the idea of zen when it is stripped from its religious roots:
Zen emphasizes rigorous self-control, meditation-practice, insight…, and the personal expression of this insight in daily life, especially for the benefit of others. As such, it de-emphasizes mere knowledge… and favors direct understanding through [practice] and interaction with an accomplished teacherWikipedia
Meditation consists of deliberately focusing, or not focusing, for an extended period while allowing fleeting thoughts to pass through one’s mind. Any time an unrelated thought comes to the mind, the practitioner must only accept the thought and let it go, continuing to focus, usually using a foci such as the rhythm of breath.
Over time this practice increases the ability to control ones thoughts. This is the underlying purpose of mindfulness. When practicing mindfulness we are cultivating our ability to react consciously to any and all situations. This means less impulsive decision making, less stressful situations, and more control over our emotions.
When can we practice mindfulness? Anywhere.
Mindfulness can be practiced anywhere and at any time. There are benefits for practicing mindfulness in the morning, during the day, and before bed. Whether it’s setting intentions for the day, energizing your cognition, or reflecting on the day all forms of meditation are beneficial.
Morning meditation is like putting on armor.
Morning meditation has a particular benefit of fortifying your mind to better overcome the stresses of the day. By starting your day with a mindfulness practice you are priming your mind with a sense of control and understanding.
Most days we wake up head long into a sea of distractions, stresses, and unexpected emotions. If we instead begin our day with a mindfulness practice, we can step into our day with a cool confidence. Introspective and mindful of our surroundings from the get go, we set ourselves up for success the entire day.
Much like the research done on the effects of making your bed on the rest of your day, meditation has been shown to have lasting positive effects. Even the newest members to this practice have palpable effects. Reduced stress, increased focus, and overall contentedness are but three large benefits on a long list of the advantages of mindfulness.
By practicing mindfulness in the morning, we prime ourselves to be less reactionary, less stressed, and more focused. The positive effects of meditation linger long after meditation has ended, making morning an opportune time to practice.
Grow your brain with meditation.
Modern science has revealed that the brains of those who’ve practiced meditation have increased white matter. White matter effects how the brain learns and functions. Even those who only picked up meditation recently have been shown to have increased white matter. What better way to start the day then with improved learning capabilities and better brain function?
How to benefit from morning meditation:
In as little as 5 minutes a day, you can engage in effective mindfulness practice. We recommend 15 minutes, that way you have some time on either end of your practice to settle in or out.
The simplest form of meditation is focusing on the breath.
Find a comfortable position, sitting, standing, or lying down. Set a timer for your chosen time period. Breath in deeply and exhale fully, slow and steady at your own relaxed pace. Don’t force it, doing your best to allow your body to return to its regular relaxed breathing rhythm. Feel the air coming into your lungs, and feel the air as you exhale. Focus on this act of breathing for the next few minutes. Each time your focus diverts from your breath, kindly refocus on your breath and let go of your other thoughts. If they are important you will have them again, for now just return to thinking about your breath.
There are many apps that may help you such as Brain.fm, Headspace, and many others. Just search “Meditation” or “Mindfulness” in the app store.
What you are doing here, in essence, is training your reactive mind to calm itself. You are training yourself to focus, or more specifically avoid distraction. The first few times can feel quite futile. As your mind may constantly jump to new ideas or stimuli without your noticing. This is totally normal. It is the act of forgiving yourself for becoming distracted and then returning to your focus that improves your mindfulness.
Over time and with practice you will find it easier to focus for extended periods of time. There are other factors that play into your ability to be mindful, such as nutrition, sleep, stress, etc. So don’t be alarmed if one day you are able to meditate straight through without distraction, followed by a day where every loose thought pulls you from focus.
There are many other ways to practice mindfulness.
Spending extended periods of time focused on a specific activity is inherently a mindfulness exercise. Activities such as writing, drawing, playing music, running, and coding can all become exercises of mindfulness. If you are focused on an activity, and consistently refocus your attention to that activity if distracted, you are building up the mental muscles we call mindfulness.
Upgrade your morning meditation with affirmations.
One way to take advantage of morning meditation is through the use of affirmations. While there is debate over the usefulness generic positive affirmations, we like to approach our morning meditation more directly.
The morning time is a powerful time for setting intentions. Setting intentions can aid us during the day when we are approached by choices or distractions. If we have primed our minds with our specific intentions for the day, we stand a better chance of making the right choices and saying no to distraction.
Through the use of affirmations, we can prime our mind to respond to stimuli according to our intentions. The best way to do this is to get specific. What are those big 1–3 things that you need to make happen today? What kind of person would make sure these things get done? Be specific here, and be honest.
As an example lets say you’re in charge of writing content. Is there a piece of content that needs to be written? Who would write it? Someone who enjoys writing. A good affirmation here might be: “I love writing and enjoy spending my time crafting words.” This type of affirmation is powerful because not only is it specific, but inherently it is true.
1–3 specific and honest affirmations can improve morning meditation.
Repeat to yourself in a calm clear voice, out loud or in your head, your affirmations. Doing this during your meditation will aid you in mindfulness, as you learn to focus your thoughts on a few things for an extended period. In addition, you will be priming your brain to react to distractions in a way that best aligns with your goals.