By Dr. Joti Samra, CEO & Founder of the Psychological Health & Safety (PH&S) Clinic and MyWorkplaceHealth
Loving-Kindness Meditation – Meditation for Self-Compassion
Meditation practices can seem intimidating but they don’t have to be. While many of us may think the point of meditation is complete stillness and thoughtlessness, that’s not the case. The goal of this meditation practice is self-compassion (learn more about self-compassion here), it’s a guided practice that focuses on the ways we can include ourselves in our circle of kindness. But before we get into the practice, let’s talk about what meditation is.
What is meditation? There are countless definitions, approaches, techniques and schools of practice relating to meditation. However, at its core, meditation is a mental exercise that involves quieting the mind with simultaneous concentrated focus (typically on the breath or a mantra) for the purpose of attaining an enhanced state of inner awareness.
What’s the difference between mindfulness and meditation? Counsellors and psychologists often speak about mindfulness, and others use these two terms interchangeably. Mindfulness and meditation are related but they aren’t the same thing.
Mindfulness is about being aware, and psychologically present, in the moment. It focuses on paying attention to your present thoughts, feelings, urges and behaviours. Mindfulness can be practiced informally at any time and is often paired with simple breathing exercises.
Mindfulness can be used in conjunction with meditation practices and can certainly help those new to meditation begin the process.
How to Practice Loving-Kindness Meditation for Self-Compassion
The goal of this meditation practice is to bring your awareness to the value of kindness and the importance of bringing yourself into your circle of kindness.
Get into a comfortable position as you would with any mindfulness or meditation practice. Close your eyes full or partially and take a few deep breaths to settle in your body and into the present moment.
Then put your hands over your heart to remind yourself you’re bringing not only your attention, but loving attention, to your experience. Feel the warmth of your hands, the gentle pressure of your hands, and feel how your chest rises and falls beneath your hands with every breath.
Then bring your mind to a person or other living thing that makes you smile. This could be a child, your grandmother, your cat or dog – whomever naturally brings you happiness. Perhaps it’s even the bird outside your window. Let yourself feel what it’s like to be in the presence of that being. Allow yourself to enjoy the good company.
Then, recognize how vulnerable this loved one is – just like you, subject to sickness, aging, and death. Also, this being wishes to be happy and free from suffering, just like you and every other living being. Repeat softly and gently, feeling the importance of your words;
May you be safe.
May you be peaceful.
May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.
Remember that if you notice your mind wandering, slowly bring your attention back to the words and the image of the loved one you have in mind. Savour any warm feelings that may arise. If you have the time, go slowly.
Then, add yourself to your circle of goodwill. Put your hand over your heart and feel the warmth and gentle pressure of your hand, saying:
May you and I be safe.
May you and I be peaceful.
May you and I be healthy.
May you and I live with ease.
Visualize your whole body in your mind, notice any stress or uneasiness that may be lingering within you, and offer kindness to yourself.
May I be safe.
May I be peaceful.
May I be healthy.
May I live with ease.
Then take a few breaths to just rest and sit quietly in your own body, savouring the goodwill and compassion you’ve found. Know that you can return to these phrases anytime you wish.
Gently return back to the room, open your eyes if you closed them and enjoy the rest of your day.
If you can, take the time to reflect on how this meditation practice impacted self-compassion. Did it feel weird to include yourself in your circle of kindness? Did you experience some resistance? If you were able to get past that, how did it feel? What were the impacts of providing yourself with self-compassion?
Final Thoughts on Meditation for Self-Compassion
Although meditation is a great way to practice self-compassion, it isn’t the only way. If you’re struggling with meditation, first we recommend being gentle with yourself and continuing to practice. Learning these skills that’s time and patience – remember that it’s okay for your mind to wander, if this happens simply notice and gently bring it back.
By Dr. Joti Samra, CEO & Founder of the Psychological Health & Safety (PH&S) Clinic and MyWorkplaceHealth
The Psychological Benefits of Mindfulness: How to practice Mindfulness
“Eyes watching. Ears listening. Voices quiet. Body still.” – These words said by a wise kindergarten teacher to her 5-year-old students perfectly embodies the essence of mindfulness.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness – very simply – involves increasing our attention and awareness to the present moment – the here and now. And continuing to draw it back to that present moment each and every time our attention drifts. Mindfulness is something all of us have many experiences with, often throughout the course of each day. We just aren’t mindful – of being mindful!
So when are we naturally mindful? We are mindful when we are present, engaged, when our mind is on the task at hand, and when we are immersed in what we are doing with all of our senses. Most of us are naturally mindful when we are engaging in an activity or creative pursuit we love – during a focused, intense workout; when we are creating art; when we are freely dancing around to music; and when we are making love, just to name a few.
However, when we are under stress, demands, or dealing with mood issues, we are much less likely to naturally be mindful.
Science tells us that being intentionally and actively mindful has so many positive benefits on our psychological health.These include, but are not limited to:
How to practice Mindfulness
There are many different ways to practice mindfulness and not every way is going to work for every person. So, give a few different methods a try and find what works best for you. And remember that practice does make perfect. It won’t be easy at first, but the more you practice the more your skills will improve, and the easier time you will have being mindful in stressful situations.
Focus on Your Breathing
A great, and simple, way to start practicing mindfulness is to focus on your breathing. This is something you can do almost anywhere. You don’t have to do a breathing exercise – just take a deep breath and pay attention to that breath and nothing else.
Ideally, you can be in a comfortable seated position. Focus on how your breaths feel moving in and out of your body without attempting to change them. Notice when your thoughts start to wander and bring it back to your breath.
At first, you can start by just doing this for a few minutes, but as your skills improve you can increase the length of time you do this.
This is another mindfulness activity you can easily build into your day-to-day routine. Because most of us have such busy lives these days, we often rush through our meals or combine eating with other activities, like eating at our desk while we work – or eating in front of the TV in the evening. Mealtimes are the perfect time to take a minute and slow down.
Next time you have a little extra time for your meal, sit down and eat mindfully without any other distractions. Mindful eating consists of being present and engaging all of your senses. Slow down, sense and savour your food and even smile between bites if you are so inclined! Purposefully slow down. Use all your senses to see, touch, smell, and really taste your food.
Structured Mindfulness Practices
If you would like a little more structured mindfulness exercises and have a few minutes you can put aside to practice, give one of these two meditation approaches a try. Don’t be off-put by the use of the term meditation. Mindfulness and meditation practices while different, have some overlap.
The exercises below are meant to help you to feel present in your body – and are different than the stereotypical cross-legged practice many people think of when they hear meditation.
1. Body scan meditation. Lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, palms facing up. Focus your attention slowly and deliberately on each part of your body, in order, from toe to head or head to toe. Be aware of any sensations, emotions or thoughts associated with each part of your body.
2. Walking meditation. Find a quiet place 10 to 20 feet in length, and begin to walk slowly. Focus on the experience of walking, being aware of the sensations of standing and the subtle movements that keep your balance. When you reach the end of your path, turn and continue walking, maintaining awareness of your sensations.
MBSR (Mindfulness-based stress reduction) and MBCT (Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy) are evidence-based treatments for stress, anxiety and depression which combine CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) with mindfulness approaches. These are modalities of treatment that all of our clinicians are familiar with and often incorporate into treatment.
If you have been thinking about seeing a therapist and would like one with these skills, I encourage you to take that first step starting today. Contact Dr. Joti Samra, R.Psych. & Associates today and start on the path to finding the right fit for you!
Mindfulness for Children
The practice of mindfulness offers a plethora of benefits to a child’s growing mind and body. Mindful practices allow them to unplug and check-in with themselves. Through this process of checking in, children begin to have a better understanding and ability to cope with their emotions and feelings. It also helps them with noticing the positives, developing a sense of appreciation, and feelings of gratitude. So, let’s talk about mindfulness for children and how parents can help teach their children to practice mindfulness (as well as improve their own mindfulness skills).
Mindfulness Techniques: For When You are Short on Time
As a busy parent, you’re likely often short on time but that doesn’t mean you have to skip the mindfulness practice. Try one of these right before bed or take a moment to pause while you’re out and about.
Finger Counting Breaths
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Mindfulness Techniques: For When You Have a Bit More Time
When you have a bit more time you can try one of these longer mindfulness practices for children.
Draw Your Emotions
Tense and Release Muscle Activity
Mindfulness for Children and Parents: Techniques to Do Together
Of course, mindfulness is just as important for parents as it is for children. So, while learning about mindfulness for children it’s also important to keep in mind that we should all be practicing our mindfulness techniques. Here are some practices you can do together with your children, or as a whole family.
Share a three breath hug
Establish a Gratitude Practice
Check Your ‘Personal Weather’ Report
We talk a lot about mindfulness practices, but we rarely address specific mindfulness practices for children. Not only is mindfulness helpful for children to practice to better understand and cope with their emotions but beginning the practice at a young age helps to set them up for success as adults. Do keep in mind that not all of the practices are going to work with every child, and different practices may work depending on your child’s age and stage of development. So, give a number of these practices a try and find out which ones work best. And remember that all of these require practice.
Enhancing psychological health, wellness and resilience