Meditation, Mindfulness, and Mood
Yesterday, you learned how stress is a major factor in your mood. Today, you will discover how meditation and mindfulness can help you with both stress and your mood.
Let’s start with a quick, mood check-in.
Where are you on the mood elevator? Are you feeling stress anywhere in your body, or are you thinking stressful thoughts? Take a two-minute stress break and focus on something in your life or work that is going well.
William James was the father of the American psychoanalytic theory. He was once asked how long can the mind hold a single thought.
He replied about four seconds.
This means that every minute, your attention wanders 15 times.
The Buddhists call this “monkey mind.” Just like monkeys in trees, leaping from branch to branch, your mind leaps from thought to thought.
Trains of thought carry you miles and years away from where you are.
You suffer from “absent-mindedness.” Your thoughts take you out of the present so effectively that you don’t know what you’re doing. When you drop back into the moment, you wonder where you are or what you were doing. What are the car keys doing in your hand?
When your wandering mind leads you into negative territory, your mood suffers. Fortunately, the antidote is mindfulness, which is learned through meditation.
Meditate for a Better Mood
There is a growing body of scientific research that shows the effectiveness of meditation. It reduces stress, raises mood, relaxes the body, reduces feelings of tension, and improves coping skills.
Meditation makes you more mindful and helps you pay more attention to the present moment—the moment of power where you can control your mood. When practiced regularly, it quiets your monkey mind.
Some people think they need to sit in a lotus position on the floor and hold certain poses to meditate, and some forms of meditation involve this. However, you don’t need anything special to meditate. All you need do is sit quietly in a place where you will not be disturbed for five or ten minutes and pay attention to your breathing. If your attention wanders — and it will — just refocus on your breathing.
That’s it—the simplest form of meditation that just about everyone can do.
“If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.” —Amit Ray
Another common form of meditation was introduced by Herbert Benson in his book Relaxation Response. You choose a word or phrase that generates positive emotions for you. It could be peace, love, freedom, shalom, or the name of a religious or spiritual person like Krishna or Jesus. When you meditate, you close your eyes, let your body relax, focus on your breathing, and repeat the word or phrase with each exhalation. When your attention wanders—and it will—gently bring it back to your breathing and word.
Movement meditations include walking mindfully, activities like tai chi or qigong, and heart-centered meditation. Any activity—cooking, eating, washing dishes—can become a meditation when done mindfully.
Unless noted otherwise, all these apps are free; some offer in-app, paid options.
Insight Timer: You get access to experienced mindfulness teachers and coaches. The app lets you choose by time (how long you want the session to last), type of meditation (music only or guided), and theme (stress reduction, pain management, theta waves, and so on). It offers a daily, guided meditation and meditation courses.
Calm: Calm offers a variety of options, including sounds, music, guided meditations, and stories. It has both free and paid subscriptions.
Headspace: This is one of the most well-known meditation apps. It offers guided meditations, sounds, and tools. It even has something for kids. It is a paid app.
Bowls: Like all of the apps mentioned, this one gives you a variety of options from one-hour tracks to a few minutes. It has guided meditations, music only, sounds, binaural beats, and brainwave trances. It also offers the option of mixing your sound meditations. You can choose from a long list of sounds (bird song, rain, white noise) and combine it with a long list of music.
Don’t beat yourself up if the monkey mind takes over. Meditation is a practice, and the more you practice, the more mindful you become as you go throughout your day. When you develop a regular practice, you also find that your mood remains more stable and is less controlled by your reaction to external events.
1. Choose a word or phrase as a focus for meditation practice.
2. Try a five-minute meditation where you focus on your breath and use your word or phrase. Note how you feel afterward.
3. Explore other types of meditation, such as walking or heart-centered meditation.
4. Explore the meditation apps to find one you want to use.
Tomorrow, you learn how your lifestyle can improve your mood. Until then, have a good-mood day.
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