Mindfulness Meditation May Ease Stress, Help to Shift Negative Thoughts

Written by Ivonne Miller
500RYT – Teacher at Black Swan Yoga Denver
Follow @ivonnec.miller

Mindfulness meditation is a technique that is not only popular for purposes of relaxation but also increasingly as a treatment for management of depressive and anxious disorders. In brief, mindfulness meditation or simply mindfulness aims to aid a person’s understanding of how thoughts can influence emotions both in a positive but oftentimes negative manner.  To this end, mindfulness has been accepted by the medical community as a non-invasive tool to address some of the most prevalent mental health disorders affecting our community. In the words of psychiatrist Dr. John Miller: 

   “In my practice as a psychiatrist, I am always searching for treatments beyond pharmacology particularly for the management of depressive and anxious disorders. More often than not, introduction of mindfulness meditation techniques have proven helpful as an entryway into more complex and time intensive treatment modalities such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Furthermore, by giving patients the tools to reflect on how their thoughts are influencing their emotions, a sense of empowerment is fostered in the patient which in turn contributes to a strengthening in self stem and hopefully an improvement in the symptoms for which they were seeking treatment.” 

   As a teacher of yoga, I utilize mindfulness primarily to help students be present in the moment and to create a non-judgmental state of mind. As thoughts arise, I encourage students to observe them without attaching labels i.e. good or bad with the goal of grounding the individual in the present moment. Breathing exercises often prove helpful in guiding the distracted mind to the fullness of the senses being experienced even when the body is idle.

  The following is a mindfulness meditation script suitable for beginners or experienced practitioners:

   Find a quiet place and time to begin the practice. You might also wish to set a timer to signal the end of your meditation; anywhere from 5 to 40 minutes is a good length for practice. If you would prefer to listen to the script you could also consider recording yourself reading the passage below and then play it back to yourself.

  1. Begin your meditation by choosing a comfortable sitting position. Once comfortable, lengthen the spine with your hands resting in your lap or knees and chin parallel to the floor. 
  1. Find stillness while focusing on the area between the eyebrows or a point that is not moving (if the eyes are open). Activate your senses while you feel the air touching the skin. Let your sit bones be heavy into the floor while relaxing your jaw.
  1. Slowly begin to completely focus on your breath. Feel the air touching the tip of the nose, moving inward to the lungs, then exhale while focusing on the air leaving the nostrils. 
  1. As you breathe in and out notice any thoughts or feelings that might arise. Observe them without labels, nothing is good or bad, let these thoughts and feelings just be. Let them go with the next exhale. Keep doing this for as long as needed.
  1. When the alarm goes off or you are ready to finish. Slowly bring awareness into the body while adding gentle movements. Bring the hands together to the center of the chest. Close the practice with gratitude. Open your eyes. 

  In conclusion, mindfulness meditation is a technique that is useful not only for the purposes of relaxation but also for management of depressive and anxious disorders. We all know people that might be suffering from mental health disorders for which mindfulness meditation might help ease the symptoms. However, if you suspect that somebody you know may be considering suicide please ask them to seek professional help or if they are unable or unwilling to do so for themselves contact your local suicide prevention hotline or the appropriate authorities.

National Suicide Prevebtion line
Website: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Phone number: 1-800-273-8255