Meditation has been found to have a positive influence on the body, mind, and spirit. Successful management of chronic pain, decrease in blood pressure, and reduction in stress hormones are a few of the physiological benefits of meditative practices. Meditation is also known to produce a variety of psychological benefits, including reduction of anxiety, enhanced sense of well-being, increased awareness of emotions, and a greater sense of self-actualization. Spiritual bliss and enlightenment are among the spiritual benefits of meditation.

Recently scientists have looked at the effect of mindfulness meditation (one type of awareness meditation) on the brain and neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to develop and change - essentially rewire itself - in response to training and/or experience. Richard Davidson, PhD at the University of Wisconsin has conducted research that indicates that meditation increases neuronal firings in the left frontal cortex of the brain – the same area associated with positive feelings and happiness. Studies involving very experienced meditators (Buddhist monks) have shown that these brain changes may be long lasting. In other words, mindfulness meditation may increase your level of happiness and the more you practice the happier you will be.

Rather than disregarding any distracting thoughts, those practicing mindfulness meditation simply observe their thoughts without judgment. The goal of this form of meditation is to increase awareness in the present moment. If you want to give this type of meditation a try, I suggest beginning with a mindful walking practice. This simply means that while you are walking, you keep your awareness on the experience of walking. Stay in the present moment and be aware of what your body feels like as you walk. Notice the sensations as you put one foot in front of the other. Notice the sights, sounds, and smells around you. Simply keep your awareness on your experience in the moment.

When other thoughts come into your mind (and they most definitely will come) simply observe them and let them go – without judging them. This is a key to mindfulness - rather than getting caught up in these thoughts or berating yourself for having distracting thoughts, it is important to be an impartial observer of the thoughts flowing through your mind. Remember… observe the thoughts and let them go.

As you gain experience with this type of meditation, you will gain the understanding that your true essence - your essential spirit - is not the contents of your mind, but rather the observer of the contents. This awareness will help you detach from intense emotions and allow them to flow freely and easily. When practiced on a regular basis, mindfulness becomes a way of life and a path toward greater happiness, peace, and joy.

Author's Bio: 

Kirsten Harrell, Psy.D. is a psychologist, consultant, life coach, inspirational speaker, and entrepreneur. Dr. Harrell has combined her expertise in positive psychology, energy psychology, spirituality, stress management, and mind-body therapies, to provide cutting edge services to individuals and businesses for over 15 years. In addition, she is a leading authority on the use of positive thinking to create health, happiness, and success. Dr. Harrell has taught graduate level courses at the University of Dayton and Wright State University. She is the President and co-founder of Popular Inspirations, Ltd. (
) and co-creator of ipopins (the one minute affirmations).