There is now a vast amount of research showing the benefits of mindfulness meditation on the health of the body and mind. I often find that mindfulness can be a great tool to help my clients during counselling sessions, to treat depression, anxiety and stress and learn to reduce unhelpful coping behaviours like drinking or binge eating.
Step-by-step Mindfulness Meditation Exercises
First off I want you to try a meditation exercise with me. During counselling sessions with my clients, I like to jump straight into mindfulness and let the person experience it, as words to describe it are just not the same, so play along with me.
You will need to read the steps below a couple of times to remember them.
3-Minute Breathing Space Meditation (Audio-guided)
This mini mindfulness meditation can help you ground yourself when you start feeling the pressure and stress that comes from the demands of everyday life. This meditation is from the book ‘Mindfulness: Finding Peace in a Frantic World’.
Some Mindfulness Apps Recommended by Psychologists
You can also try guided Mindfulness meditation using an App. Meditation apps guide you through sessions that can be as short as one minute or as long as 30 minutes. Apps are helpful as they guide you through the meditation exercise and may help you develop a daily meditation habit.
Smiling Mind: smilingmind.com.au
Ten Percent Happier: tenpercent.com
A balance of focusing and observing how we get distracted
How did you find the exercises? Do you feel more relaxed? Were you able to bring yourself back to your breath after getting distracted? Did you notice your mind was busy?
During counselling sessions, I notice how clients often realise how busy the mind is, jumping from past to present to future and from topic to topic. Our active minds cause a lot of the stress we feel – both worries and plans and internal dialogues in our heads, but also the body getting stirred up by all of this activity, keeping us tense and even affecting our sleep. Psychologists often provide mindfulness training for clients experiencing chronic stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia or sleeping problems for that reason – it helps calm people’s state of mind and body. It is a helpful tool for tolerating relatively high states of distress.
To meditate, you will benefit from focusing your attention on one thing. Whether it is your breath, walking, or eating an apple, you need to slow down and pay close attention, savouring all the details of your senses. A good example of this practice is the Chocolate Mindfulness Meditation. The mind is like an impatient restless child here – it gets bored quickly and will quickly move on to thoughts about other things. Here is where you need to do something different to normal – instead of engaging with that thought and following where it goes, you need to instead detach and just observe it and then return back to the focus point, such as the breath.
One point I would like to clarify is that you can’t control the thoughts coming up but can control how you react to them – learning to be a spectator rather than caught up in them.
So there you have it – an easy introduction to meditation that you can start immediately. Have a go at doing this even five minutes a day for the next two weeks. I hope this is helpful to you.
More Mindfulness Resources
Martin Hood is a Clinical Psychologist with a proven track record in producing good outcomes for clients across a broad range of presenting problems, including stress and burnout, anxiety disorders, depression, grief and OCD. He has a special interest in working with executives, business owners and entrepreneurs.