- What is Mindfulness Meditation?
- Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on the Subconscious Mind
- Turn to Positive Thinking with Mindfulness Meditation
What is Mindfulness Meditation?
Have you ever heard of “mindfulness meditation”? It’s a lifestyle and meditation technique that work directly towards your subconscious mind. In short, mindfulness meditation can help you to turn away from negative thoughts and become more positive.
Paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.（Kabat-Zinn 1994）
This is the commonly accepted definition of mindfulness, referring to a psychological process. The word was originally translated to English from the Buddhist word “sati”. Directly translated, sati means “a constant state of calm mind”, which an important teaching in Buddhism.
In 1979, John Kabat-Zinn from the United States combined mindfulness with psychological theory. He then systematized it as a medical practice, leading to its widespread adoption in the field of psychiatry. Today, it is proven to be highly effective as a cognitive behavioral therapy. The specific technique involves training such as mindfulness meditation, which will be discussed below. Mindfulness meditation helps to distance yourself from negative thoughts, such as depression, and aim for a “constant state of calm mind”. In the long term, you are “training” your subconscious mind to be stronger against stress and negativity.
On the other hand, the term “mindfulness” is sometimes refers to a philosophy and lifestyle of “being in the present moment”. In this case it is separate from Buddhist meditation and treatment methods in the field of psychiatry. In the United States, mindfulness sparked a huge movement in the 2000s as more and more people turned their attention to Eastern religious ideas.
Effects of Mindfulness Meditation on the Subconscious Mind
Mindfulness meditation is a meditation practice in which you actively direct your attention to the very slightest stimulus, such as your own breath or a small raisin in the palm of your hand.
Humans are such creatures that the more we try to “stop thinking” about something, the more thoughts pop into our heads one after another. The subconscious mind is a tricky thing. In particular, negative thoughts, which can be a source of stress, tend to invade our subconscious mind. The more we try not to think about them, the more difficult it becomes to neutralize them. This mechanism of thinking is the “paradoxical effect of thought suppression,” and it is very difficult to control this on our own volition.
Training yourself through mindfulness meditation will teach you how to focus your awareness on trivial things, such as your own breathing. Practitioners of mindfulness believe that this will allow you to naturally distance yourself from negative thoughts without forcing yourself to suppress them, and from painful emotions such as depression.
Here are some common mindfulness meditation methods.
1. Sit up straight and relax
First, more than anything, it is important to practice mindfulness meditation in a relaxed state. It’s best to do this in a quiet environment, free of background noise that can cause you to reflexively become aware. It can also help to adjust the brightness of the room, or use aromatherapy to create a relaxing space.
2. Lightly close your eyes and focus on your breathing
Try to breathe as naturally as possible during mindfulness meditation. In other words, don’t force yourself to breathe all the way out, or breathe in too deeply. In some cases, you may find it difficult to focus on your breaths. It can also be good to place a small, light object on your palm – such as a raisin – and turn your focus to that object.
3. If a distraction comes to mind, return your focus to your breathing
Do not force yourself to “try not to think” during mindfulness meditation. If a thought crosses your mind, acknowledge it, and return the focus to your breathing. By repeating this process, your thoughts will naturally be suppressed. Consequently, you will be able to lead yourself to think about nothing at all.
4. Start with 3~5 minutes
For beginners in mindfulness meditation, actively controlling your attention is more difficult than you think. Don’t overdo it in the beginning, but aim for 3-5 minutes of meditation. Then, as you get used to it, increase the time to 10 or 15 minutes. Skilled practitioners are said to be able to enter a meditative state for an hour or more without closing their eyes in any environment.
Turn to Positive Thinking with Mindfulness Meditation
While trying to practice mindfulness meditation, you may find it difficult to focus your attention on your breath. At these times, negative thoughts may come to mind, such as “Why can’t I do this?” But the trick to mindfulness meditation is not to dwell on those negative thoughts, or to force them down, but just to bring your awareness back to your breath. Mindfulness is the skill of actively controlling one’s consciousness. By learning this skill, when stressful negative thoughts arise in our daily lives, we are able to shift our awareness away from negative matters, become aware of our cognitive biases and focus on more positive matters.
We are living in the now, which is caught between the past and an uncertain future. Even if we try to make the most of the present, we may end up worrying about the past and filling our minds with anxiety about the future. As a result, we perceive things in front of us as worse than they really are, or we perceive positive events in a negative light, which biases our own perception and causes us to carry stress. Mindfulness is a very effective way of thinking about freeing yourself from such negative cognitive biases, accepting the present as it is and living in the present.
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Sugiura, Y. (2008). New directions for research of emotion regulation and psychological treatments: Potential benefits of mindfulness construct. Japanese Journal of Research on Emotions, 16(2), 167-177. doi: 10.4092/jsre.16.167