We’ll refer to mindfulness and meditation as M/M. These skills are my right hand, my go to. They help me when I’m: worrying about patients, studying, anticipating end of block exams, upkeeping a living space, maintaining relationships AND making sure I’m eating enough greens. All of this stuff can cause a lot of mental chatter.
M/M helps me stay grounded and connected when I feel like things are out of my control. I got started with it after enrolling in an easy 1-credit filler course in my senior year of undergrad, called Stretch and Relaxation. Mostly everyone studied or took naps during this hour, but I took advantage of the deep breathing techniques, yoga and mindfulness and it made me feel good.
Tending to our peace of mind serves as a gentle reminder that we have purpose. Although we can’t control what happens in our lives, working to move with more intention and less judgement, less reactive emotion can make a world of a difference in our everyday. Over time, you might notice changes in how you process and manage everything in your head, even with the small stuff.
So, what is mindfulness? What is meditation?
Mindfulness is the non-judgmental awareness of some-thing. It’s really as simple as focusing on brushing your teeth while you brush them. This intentional presence can be done all day, anywhere, with anyone.
Meditation is awareness of no-thing and is typically done for a specific period of time. It is both a skill (this comes with practice) and an experience.
They are both mental training/breathing practices that help release negativity, improve focus, boost mood, decrease stress, increase your awareness of the body and mind and make you happier (lots of scientific research available, I will include a few papers at the end).
When will I notice a difference?
The key to powerful meditation is consistency. The more you do it, the more natural it becomes. Making time for your mental space is some of the best advice I have to give. It’s okay to start slow. Find what works for you. Remember I’m not an expert at this. I have been on and off with my practice for the last 2 years: month long breaks, excuses, forgetfulness, etc. However, I’m now the most consistent I have ever been, and am really starting to embody the growth and change happening.
How can I get started?
The best way to start is to start. Find a place you are comfortable. Take some deep breaths, maybe close your eyes. Think about things you’re grateful for. It can be anything—gratitude knows no size. If you get tired of that, count your breaths up to 10 then repeat. You might find the mind goes quiet and you become really relaxed or you might feel uncomfortable, restless and uneasy. Both feelings are normal, just notice them and release them by bringing your focus back to your breath. Do it for as long or little time as you want. Some days are harder than others—lack of focus, busy day ahead, so when that happens, cut yourself some slack and try again tomorrow. What matters is that you stick with it.
Two apps worth trying out are Insight Timer and Headspace. They offer tons of meditation practice where you can tailor your sessions to your needs. There is legit everything—silence, jazz, guided, healing crystal bowls and bells etc. They both have free and paid options.
If you want to give meditation a try, here is 2-weeks of headspace premium for free (Not sponsored): CLICK HERE. I use headspace every day and will 10/10 recommend to anyone interested.
If you stuck around to this point, I hope you’ve gained something useful. I know M/M has made an immeasurable difference in my life— especially as a medical student. Please give it a try, if you hate it you never have to do it again!
Taylor, M. Hageman J.R., & Brown, M. (2016). A mindfulness intervention for residents: Relevance for pediatricians. Pediatric Annals, 45(10), e373-e376. doi: 10.3928/19382359-20160912-01
Laurie, J. & Blandford, A. (2016). Making time for mindfulness. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 96, 38-50. doi: 10.1016/j.ijmedinf.2016.02.010
Bostock, S., Crosswell, A.D., Prather, A.A., & Steptoe, A. (2019). Mindfulness on-the-go: Effects of a mindfulness meditation app on work stress and well-being. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 24(1), 127-138. doi:10.1037/ocp0000118
Desteno, D., Lim, D., Duong, F., & Condon, P. (2018). Meditation inhibits aggressive responses to provocations. Mindfulness, 9(4), 1117-1122. doi: 10.1007/s12671-017-0847-2
Noone, C., & Hogan, M.J. (2018). A randomised active-controlled trial to examine the effects of an online mindfulness intervention on executive control, critical thinking and key thinking dispositions in a university student sample. BMC Psychology, 6(1), 13. doi:10.1186/s40359-018-0226-3
Yang E., Schamber E., Meyer R.M.L., Gold J.I. (2018). Happier healers: randomized controlled trial of mobile mindfulness for stress management. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 24(5), 505-513. doi:10.1089/acm.2015.0301