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Mindfulness meditation. This type of meditation is based on being mindful, or having an increased awareness and acceptance of living in the present moment. In mindfulness meditation, you broaden your conscious awareness. You focus on what you experience during meditation, such as the flow of your breath. You can observe your thoughts and emotions, but let them pass without judgment. Transcendental Meditation is a simple, natural technique. In Transcendental Meditation, you silently repeat a personally assigned mantra, such as a word, sound or phrase, in a specific way. This form of meditation may allow your body to settle into a state of profound rest and relaxation and your mind to achieve a state of inner peace, without needing to use concentration or effort.

Different types of meditation may include different features to help you meditate.


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These may vary depending on whose guidance you follow or who's teaching a class. Some of the most common features in meditation include:. Focused attention. Focusing your attention is generally one of the most important elements of meditation. Focusing your attention is what helps free your mind from the many distractions that cause stress and worry. You can focus your attention on such things as a specific object, an image, a mantra, or even your breathing.

A quiet setting. If you're a beginner, practicing meditation may be easier if you're in a quiet spot with few distractions, including no television, radios or cellphones. As you get more skilled at meditation, you may be able to do it anywhere, especially in high-stress situations where you benefit the most from meditation, such as a traffic jam, a stressful work meeting or a long line at the grocery store.

Don't let the thought of meditating the "right" way add to your stress.

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If you choose to, you can attend special meditation centers or group classes led by trained instructors. But you can also practice meditation easily on your own. And you can make meditation as formal or informal as you like, however it suits your lifestyle and situation. Some people build meditation into their daily routine. For example, they may start and end each day with an hour of meditation. But all you really need is a few minutes of quality time for meditation.

Breathe deeply. This technique is good for beginners because breathing is a natural function. Focus all your attention on your breathing. Concentrate on feeling and listening as you inhale and exhale through your nostrils. Breathe deeply and slowly. When your attention wanders, gently return your focus to your breathing.

Scan your body.

When using this technique, focus attention on different parts of your body. Become aware of your body's various sensations, whether that's pain, tension, warmth or relaxation. Combine body scanning with breathing exercises and imagine breathing heat or relaxation into and out of different parts of your body. Walk and meditate. Combining a walk with meditation is an efficient and healthy way to relax.

You can use this technique anywhere you're walking, such as in a tranquil forest, on a city sidewalk or at the mall. When you use this method, slow down your walking pace so that you can focus on each movement of your legs or feet. Don't focus on a particular destination. Concentrate on your legs and feet, repeating action words in your mind such as "lifting," "moving" and "placing" as you lift each foot, move your leg forward and place your foot on the ground.

Engage in prayer. Prayer is the best known and most widely practiced example of meditation. Spoken and written prayers are found in most faith traditions. You can pray using your own words or read prayers written by others. Check the self-help section of your local bookstore for examples.

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Talk with your rabbi, priest, pastor or other spiritual leader about possible resources. Read and reflect. Many people report that they benefit from reading poems or sacred texts, and taking a few moments to quietly reflect on their meaning. You can also listen to sacred music, spoken words, or any music you find relaxing or inspiring. You may want to write your reflections in a journal or discuss them with a friend or spiritual leader. Don't judge your meditation skills, which may only increase your stress. Meditation takes practice. Keep in mind, for instance, that it's common for your mind to wander during meditation, no matter how long you've been practicing meditation.

If you're meditating to calm your mind and your attention wanders, slowly return to the object, sensation or movement you're focusing on. Experiment, and you'll likely find out what types of meditation work best for you and what you enjoy doing. Adapt meditation to your needs at the moment. Remember, there's no right way or wrong way to meditate. What matters is that meditation helps you reduce your stress and feel better overall.

Stress, anxiety and a lack of sleep are problems that many people deal with every day.

But there is one simple practice that can help: meditation. Maria Caselli, a group fitness instructor at Mayo Clinic, says the benefits of just a few minutes of meditation a day can help, especially with stress. Meditation can also reduce the areas of anxiety, chronic pain, depression, heart disease and high blood pressure. There is decreased oxygen consumption, decreased carbon dioxide expired. The body is healing itself and starting repair. Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission.

Any use of this site constitutes your agreement to the Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy linked below. Mayo Clinic is a nonprofit organization and proceeds from Web advertising help support our mission. Mayo Clinic does not endorse any of the third party products and services advertised. Not all of these free-time activities are the same in their potential for flow.

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For example, U. Yet these same teenagers spend at least four times more of their free hours watching TV than doing hobbies or sports. Similar ratios are true for adults. Why would we spend four times more of our free time doing something that has less than half the chance of making us feel good? Each of the flow-producing activities requires an initial investment of attention before it begins to be enjoyable. If a person is too tired, anxious , or lacks the discipline to overcome that initial obstacle, he or she will have to settle for something that, although less enjoyable, is more accessible.

It is not that relaxing is had. Everyone needs time to unwind, to read trashy novels, to sit on the. In a large-scale. To make the best use of free time, one needs to devote as much ingenuity and attention to it as one would to one's job.


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Active leisure that helps a person grow does not come easily. In fact, before science and the arts became professionalized, a great deal of scientific research, poetry, painting, and musical composition was carried out in a person's free time. And all folk--art the songs, fabrics, pottery, and carvings that give each culture its particular identity and renown--is the result of common people striving to express their best skill in the time left free from work and maintenance chores.

Only lack of imagination, or lack of energy, stand in the way of each of us becoming a poet or musician, an inventor or explorer, an amateur scholar, scientist, artist, or collector. Of all the things we do, interaction with others is the least predictable. At one moment we experience flow, the next apathy, anxiety, relaxation, or boredom. Over and over, however, our findings suggest that people get depressed when they are alone, and that they revive when they rejoin the company of others.

The moods that people with chronic depression or eating disorders experience are indistinguishable from those of healthy people as long as they are in company and doing something that requires concentration. But when they are alone with nothing to do, their minds begin to be occupied by depressing thoughts, and their consciousness becomes scattered.

This is also true, to a less pronounced extent, of everyone else. The reason is that when we have to interact with another person, even stranger, our attention becomes structured by external demands.

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In more intimate encounters, the level of both challenges and skills can grow very high. Thus, interactions have many of the characteristics of flow activities, and they certainly require the orderly investment of mental energy. The strong effects of companionship on the quality of experience suggest that investing energy in relationships is a good way to improve life. A successful interaction involves finding some compatibility between our goals and those of the other person or persons, and becoming willing to invest attention in the other person's goals.

When these conditions are met, it is possible to experience the flow that comes from optimal interaction. For example, to experience the simple pleasures of parenting , one has to pay attention, to know what the child is "proud of" or "into"; then to share those activities with her. The same holds true for any other type of interaction. The secret of starting a good conversation is to find out what the other person's goals are: What is he interested in at the moment?

What is she involved in? What has he or she accomplished, or is trying to accomplish?

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If any of this sounds worth pursuing, the next step is to utilize one's own experience or expertise on the topics raised by the other person--without trying to take over the conversation, but developing it jointly. A good conversation is like a jam session in jazz, where one starts with conventional elements and then introduces spontaneous variations that create an exciting new composition.

A deprived childhood, abusive parents, poverty, and a host of other external reasons may make it difficult for a person to find joy in everyday life. On the other hand, there are so many examples of individuals who overcame such obstacles that the belief that the quality of life is determined from the outside is hardly tenable.

How much stress we experience depends more on how well we control attention than on what happens to us. The effect of physical pain, a monetary loss, or a social snub depends on how much attention we pay to it. To deny, repress, or misinterpret such events is no solution either, because the information will keep smoldering in the recesses of the mind. It is better to look suffering straight in the eye, acknowledge and respect its presence, and then get busy as soon as possible focusing on things we choose to focus on.

To learn to control attention, any skill or discipline one can master on one's own will serve: meditation and prayer, exercise, aerobics, martial arts. The important thing is to enjoy the activity for its own sake, and to know that what matters is not the result, but the control one is acquiring over one's attention. It is also important to develop the habit of doing whatever needs to be done with concentrated attention.

Even the most routine tasks, like washing dishes, dressing, or mowing the lawn, become more rewarding if we approach them with the care it would take to make a work of art. We must then transfer some psychic energy each day from tasks that we don't like doing, or from passive leisure, into something we never did before, or something we enjoy doing but don't do often enough because it seems too much trouble.

This sounds simple, but many people have no idea which components of their lives they actually enjoy. Keeping a diary or reflecting on the past day in the evening are ways to take stock systematically of the various influences on one's moods. After it is clear which activities produce the high points in one's day, it becomes possible to start experimenting, by increasing the frequency of the positive ones and decreasing that of others. To make a creative change in the quality of experience, it might be useful to experiment with one's surroundings as well. Outings and vacations help to clear the mind, to change perspectives, to look at one's situation with a fresh eye.

Taking charge of one's home or office environment--throwing out the excess, redecorating to one's taste, making it personally and psychologically comfortable--could be the first step in reordering one's life. With time of day as with the other parameters of life, it is important to find out what rhythms are the most congenial to you personally. There is no day or hour that is best for everyone.

Experimenting with various alternatives--getting up earlier, taking a nap in the afternoon, eating at different times--helps one to find the best set of options. Many people will say that this advice is useless to them, because they already have so many demands on their time that they absolutely cannot afford to do anything new or interesting. But more often than not, time stress is an excuse for not taking control of one's life.

As the historian E. Thompson noted, even in the most oppressive decades of the Industrial Revolution, when workers slaved away for more than 80 hours a week, some spent their few precious free hours engaging in literary pursuits or political action instead of following the majority into the pubs. Likewise, we don't have to let time run through our fingers.

How many of our demands could be reduced if we put some energy into prioritizing, organizing, and streamlining the routines that now fritter away our attention? One must learn to husband time carefully, in order to enjoy life in the here and now. Flow is a source of mental energy in that it focuses attention and motivates action. Like other forms of energy, it can be used for constructive or destructive purposes. Teenagers arrested for vandalism or robbery often have no other motivation than the excitement they experience stealing a car or breaking into a house.

War veterans say that they never felt such intense flow as when they were behind a machine gun on the front lines. Thus, it is not enough to strive for enjoyable goals, but one must also choose goals that will reduce the sum total of entropy in the world. How can we find a goal that will allow us to enjoy life while being responsible to others? Buddhists advise us to "act always as if the future of the universe depended on what you did, while laughing at yourself for thinking that whatever you do makes any difference.

We may also discover the foundations on which to build a good life from the knowledge scientists are slowly accumulating. The findings of science makes us increasingly aware of how unique each person is. Not only in the way the ingredients of the genetic code have been combined, but also in the time and place in which an organism encounters life. Thus each of us is responsible for one particular point in space and time in which our body and mind forms a link within the total network of existence.

We can focus consciousness on the tasks of everyday life in the knowledge that when we act in the fullness of the flow experience, we are also building a bridge to the future of the universe. From Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Copyright by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Back Psychology Today. Back Find a Therapist.