Does daily mindfulness practice lead to feelings of well-being, or are people who already have a sense of well-being more likely to practice mindfulness? Researchers at University Medical Center, Groningen, the Netherlands, conducted an intensive longitudinal study based on that question. During a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program, they measured daily feelings, both negative and positive, among 83 subjects chosen from the general population. They found that daily mindfulness practice led to feelings of well-being, enhancing positive emotions, and lowering negative ones—rather than the other way around. Researchers also found considerable individual differences in responses among the test subjects. Although more research is called for to tease out the reasons why different people might respond in different ways, the findings pointed in an optimistic direction: Practicing mindfulness on a daily basis can improve daily psychological well-being.
Here’s a meditation practice from Mindful’s Editor-in-Chief, Barry Boyce. It can be used as the beginning stage of a period of meditation practice or simply as something to do for a minute, maybe to stabilize yourself and find a moment of relaxation before going back into the fray. If you have injuries or other physical difficulties, you can modify this to suit your situation.
1.Take your seat. Whatever you’re sitting on—a chair, a meditation cushion, a park bench—find a spot that gives you a stable, solid seat, not perching or hanging back.
2. If on a cushion on the floor, cross your legs comfortably in front of you. (If you already do some kind of seated yoga posture, go ahead.) If on a chair, it’s good if the bottoms of your feet are touching the floor.
3. Straighten—but don’t stiffen—your upper body. The spine has natural curvature. Let it be there. Your head and shoulders can comfortably rest on top of your vertebrae.
4. Situate your upper arms parallel to your upper body. Then let your hands drop onto the tops of your legs. With your upper arms at your sides, your hands will land in the right spot. Too far forward will make you hunch. Too far back will make you stiff. You’re tuning the strings of your body—not too tight and not too loose.
5. Drop your chin a little and let your gaze fall gently down-ward. You may let your eyelids lower. If you feel the need, you may lower them completely, but it’s not necessary to close your eyes when meditating. You can simply let what appears before your eyes be there without focusing on it.
6. Be there for a few moments. Relax. Now get up and go about your day. And if the next thing on the agenda is doing some mindfulness practice by paying attention to your breath or the sensations in your body, you’ve started off on the right foot—and hands and arms and everything else.