• HS - Mindful Meditation

    By Betty Harrison

    Nowadays, it is not unusual to hear someone state that meditation has improved his or her life. For those unfamiliar with the practice of mindfulness meditation techniques, the idea of sitting still and breathing may sound uneventful at best or even intimidating.  

    "It's not unusual for someone new to meditation to say that they cannot meditate because they cannot stop the thoughts in their mind," explains Behty Harrison, MA, CWWS, CWWPM, chair of the Bachelor of Science in Health and Wellness program and Nutrition Science Department at Kaplan University. Harrison, who completed the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) teacher training at UMass Memorial Medical Center, says no one can stop the thoughts in the mind. "It is the nature of the mind to think. What we can do though is to build up concentration as if it were a muscle, just like the muscle building we do in the gym." This, she explains, is part of the process of meditation.

    The Buddha is known to have taught mindfulness more than 2,500 years ago. The actual term "mindfulness meditation" was coined in the 1970s by Jon Kabat-Zinn of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. With the help of Bill Moyers's very popular PBS series, "Healing and the Mind," Kabat-Zinn helped introduce mainstream America to the idea that practicing meditation can be good for one's body, mind, and spirit. In turn, researchers began to look into the practice and found that not only are meditation techniques for stress beneficial, these techniques improve our focus and give us an overall feeling of contentment. In addition, meditation has been proven to lower blood pressure, positively affect high cholesterol, and aid in the treatment of many health conditions and chronic illnesses. Today, many outpatient hospitals, community centers, and health and wellness professionals offer some form of mindfulness-based meditation training.

    How to Meditate for Beginners

    1. Sit comfortably. Many people choose to sit on the floor, but meditation can be done in a chair or sitting against a wall, even in a prone position. The spine should be straight, and breathing should be comfortable.

    2. Close your eyes.

    3. Count your breath. When you breathe in, count one. When you breathe out, count two. Continue to count until you get to 10. Then start over at one.

    "Keep in mind, it's not if your mind wanders, it's when," said Harrison. During meditation, when you notice your thoughts wandering away from the counting, simply acknowledge that it has happened, relax, and then return to "one."

    Harrison recommends starting out with 20 minutes per day, and then progressing over time to 45 minutes per day. She says that research has shown that after 30 minutes, concentration deepens, and this is where people get the most results in terms of relaxation and health benefits.

    Kaplan University offers a class in stress management that highlights mindfulness meditation for students. (HW 410 Stress: Critical Issues in Management and Prevention in the BS in Health and Wellness curriculum). Due to the growing popularity of mindfulness meditation, this class is available and often selected by students in other majors and schools as an elective.

    Betty Harrison is the Chairperson for the Health & Wellness and Nutrition Science departments at Kaplan University, and is the Director of the University’s Center for Health and Wellness.

    For more information on Kaplan University's health science programs, please visit www.kaplanuniversity.edu/health-sciences.aspx.

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