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How to Practice Mindful Meditation and Tools That Can Guide You

How meditation can make you happier and more successful than ever.

Woman Practicing Mindfulness Meditation

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Stress will come and go, from overstuffed schedules to ambitious hopes for your future. Yet how you handle the challenges can mean the difference between emotional chaos and clarity. But relax: Recent research suggests that calming yourself, redirecting frustration, and viewing life from the brighter side are habits you can practice. In other words, we can all learn to live happier lives every day.

Trending relaxation techniques are more than just hype. Far from its roots in the Indus Valley in 5,000 B.C., meditation has become “mental housekeeping” for everyone from yogis to busy parents and executives alike. The research is there: Studies show deep breathing and clearing the mind can reduce stress, obsessive thinking, and anxiety and improve memory and slow aging of the brain. Plus, it promises to increase your efficiency and ability to multitask, as well as brighten your day on the spot. Find your favorite form of this stress-melting practice to get more out of life.

WHAT IS IT?

The gist of meditation is the practice of sitting in a cross-legged or seated position, breathing deeply, and allowing your body and mind to relax. However, it comes in countless forms the world over—from well-known ones like Zen and Transcendental Meditation (made famous by the Beatles) to others like Mindfulness Meditation, or even yoga, which is often viewed as a moving meditation.

SEE ALSO: 5 Heath Benefits of Yoga

According to the Institute of Noetic Sciences, there are four om-filled umbrellas: concentrative meditation (returning your focus as it drifts to a single object, sound, image, or breath), open awareness (being present and aware of whatever happens in and around you), mindfulness (a combo of concentration and open awareness that can even extend to everyday tasks like eating, driving, or housework), and guided meditation (any form of meditation that can be guided by a teacher or audio recording that elicits certain imagery). “Meditation is personal, and it’s important for people to find a practice that is comfortable for them. Luckily, there are so many types,” says Krystal L. Culler, M.A., a certified brain-health gerontologist and the Nathan and Lenore Oscar Endowed Director of the Center 4 Brain Health, in Beachwood, OH.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Taking time out of your day for deep breathing, concentrating, and visualizing “impacts our frontal lobes, which are responsible for higher-order thinking processes, such as problem solving, memory, language, judgment, and impulse control. Many of the positive effects of meditation practice can be attributed to function in the limbic system, or emotional, area of our brains,” says Culler. It also affects the brain’s neurotransmitters, including serotonin (happiness), cortisol (stress), GABA (calm), endorphins (feel good), and melatonin (sleep).

See the next page for ways you can make meditation easier.

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