Why meditation and mindfulness are becoming more and more popular

Do you meditate or practice mindfulness regularly?

Anyone who follows me, reads my newsletters or visits my YouTube channel will know that I am a big believer in the power of our minds to help heal us and allow us to create better, healthier and more enjoyable and fulfilling lives.

And not only do I know this from personal experience – and from witnessing the positive effects of prescribing meditation to my patients, as part of my lifestyle medicine practice – the scientific evidence for meditation is stacking up.

It’s no surprise that meditation is on the rise across the UK. The mental health impact of the pandemic has lead to more and more people seeking help with their emotions and self regulation. And the growing scientific evidence supporting the positive effects of mindfulness on mental health has lead to an uptake across our schools and universities, our businesses, and even our government, with hundreds of British politicians receiving mindfulness training in recent years.

the growing scientific evidence supporting the positive effects of mindfulness on mental health has lead to an uptake

Just how popular is mindfulness in the UK?

So how popular is mindfulness in the UK, really? 

A study in 2018 suggested that around 15% of British adults had learned to practice mindfulness specifically (with around 9% doing so regularly) and another study showed that about 26% of us practice some type of meditation (12% have a regular meditation practice). And all the evidence points to the number of people practising having grown further since then. 

The majority of us learn our mindfulness practice from a book, course, or app. The use of mindfulness apps in particular is on the rise, fuelled by the pandemic. Mindfulness apps Calm and Headspace (fun fact: both built by British entrepreneurs!) were launched in 2012, and started making serious money in 2018. But it was the impact of the pandemic that further increased their reach: Headspace had 3.75 million downloads in the first quarter of 2020, and maintained an average of three million for its quarterly downloads that year, while downloads for Calm reached almost 10.5 million worldwide in the second quarter of 2020.

Why are meditation and mindfulness becoming more popular?

The pandemic

As I’ve already said above, the pandemic has been a huge driver in the increased uptake of meditation and mindfulness. A combination of fear and anxiety about COVID itself, the challenges of repeated lockdowns, and uncertainty about the future lead to more and more people seeking something to help them manage all those emotions and tensions.

The attention economy

Between social media, the ‘always on’ culture of receiving work communications at all times of the day and night, the gig economy of multiple jobs and never-ending tasks, and increasing numbers working from home, many of us are feeling drained by too many claims on our attention. It can be hard to switch off and stop scrolling. Mindfulness is a great way to calm our minds, centre ourselves and bring our attention inward.

Global issues

The unsettled feel of the times we’re living in – COVID, the political divide over so many contentious issues, the war in Ukraine, climate change, the economic uncertainty of the cost of living crisis – is contributing to a crisis in mental health. More than ever, people are seeking a way to feel more in control, to feel calmer, to find a quiet space inside themselves to recharge and heal.

Mindfulness is a great way to calm our minds, centre ourselves and bring our attention inward.

Start (or resume!) your mindfulness practice today

If (like most of us, I imagine) you are feeling the negative effects of both modern life and global pressures, and you haven’t yet tried mindfulness – or perhaps you have tried it, but didn’t establish a routine around it, or have let your practice slip away – now is the perfect time to start (or re-start!). If you’re new to this and not sure where to start or what to do, you can read my guide on how to meditate

If you think meditation is difficult or complicated, it really isn’t! And you’ll be surprised at how much meditation helps when you practice regularly. 

Meditation and Mindfulness: what’s the difference?

Meditation is the skill of developing focus and being content in the present moment. It’s your own, uninterrupted breathing space. It’s a practice that can help you manage your thoughts and feelings and deal better with difficult emotions like fear, worry and grief, as well as having all sorts of mental and physical health benefits.

According to the British School of Meditation there are four main schools of meditation:

  • Buddhist
  • Zen
  • Transcendental
  • Mindfulness

So yes – mindfulness is just a form of meditation. It’s about creating an awareness of your body, including the sensations within, and your emotions in the present moment. 

You can try out my free meditations here.

Meditations for managing health challenges

meditations for managing health challenges

Have you tried using meditations for managing your health challenges?

Have you tried using meditations for managing your health challenges? A regular meditation practice can have immense benefits.

How often have you thought about just forgetting about your body for a while and going to a place of freedom? A place where you have no care in the world, just a feeling of contentment, comfort and love.

Doesn’t that sound dreamy?

Well, that’s exactly what happens after regular meditation practice. 

It’s a great tool to use where you will feel completely in the present moment, where you connect to your soul and your higher self. You’ll remember that you are more soul and spirit than body. This is a great way to revive your true sense of self and not feel so defined by the limitations of your body and your health challenges.

Now is a great time to commit to connecting to your soul.

Common fears and questions about trying meditation

Starting a meditation practice can feel daunting if you’ve never done it before – or if you’ve tried before without success. Here are some of the top fears and questions I hear from people when I recommend trying meditation.

I find sitting for any length of time difficult or impossible – especially cross legged on the floor!
You don’t have to cross your legs; in fact, you don’t even have to sit, you can lie down to meditate.

I don’t have any candles, incense or anything I can use to help me meditate
You don’t need to use candles, scents, gadgets, props or cushions if you don’t want to. Just use whatever you feel helps gets you in the zone – which may just be a quiet space where you can be physically comfortable.

I find it a struggle to sit in silence and do nothing
Start small! Start with just a few minutes and build up to 10 minutes a day.

I don’t know how to start
Read my free guide to meditation here. I explain everything, from what meditation is, to how to do it – and even a bit about the history of meditation and the different types, so you can experiment and choose the style that best suits you.

I tried meditating before, but it didn’t work for me.
Meditation takes a LOT of practise! (That’s why it’s often called a ‘meditation practice’!) Like every new skill, it takes time before you start to notice the benefits. Most people report they notice a positive change after 8 weeks of daily practice for at least 10 minutes a day.

Now is a great time to commit to connecting to your soul.

Not sure where to start?

Try the free meditations on my website and YouTube channel. I have specific meditations for IBS, fibromyalgia, joint pain, and general pain relief, healing and the immune system, as well as meditations for health affirmations, relaxation and sleep.

Using visualisation meditation to calm you in times of uncertainty

There’s nothing like uncertainty for creating feelings of overwhelm and anxiety. And 2020 has brought uncertainty for us all. Visualisation meditations are a great tool for helping ease these feelings, and building a sense of calm and empowerment.

How visualisation meditation works

Your body and mind are one, so when you train your mind with meditation you can change how you feel – and the way that comes out in your body as physical sensations and symptoms.

Visualisation can literally change your brain, creating new connections (this is called neuroplasticity) and helping you focus your mind, bringing positive energy. And when you practice meditation daily, you’ll really start to see these benefits in the way you think and feel.

If you’re new to visualisation and meditation, remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do it! Try it out and do whatever works for you. Guided visualisations like the one below can be a good way to start – and form part of your daily practice. Give it a try and see how you feel afterwards.

Four seasons visualisation

This meditation will help you in this time of uncertainty, when so many of us are feeling like we are in limbo land.

Set aside 5-10 minutes to sit or lie quietly and visualise each season in turn.

Take a deep breath in, expanding the chest and belly, then fully breathe out.

Visualise the summer. Spend a few minutes focusing on the joy of summer. Think of all your happy memories of summer: imagine freshly cut grass, blue skies, bright sunshine; imagine being in a park or on the beach; imagine the sound of birds or children playing; imagine anything that means summer to you.

Visualise the autumn. Spend a few minutes thinking of the joys of autumn. Think of all the images that remind you of autumn: vividly picture all the colour of the changing leaves; imagine breathing in crisp, fresh air; picture yourself walking through beautiful parks over fallen leaves.

Visualise the winter. Spend a few minutes thinking of the joys of winter. Imagine the fresh cold air on your face; think about wrapping up warm in soft layers of clothing, sitting in front of a crackling fire, and watching gently falling snowflakes through a window.

Visualise the spring. Spend a few minutes thinking of the joys of spring – the season of new possibilities, growth, life and colour. Think of all the beautiful flowers in parks and gardens; chicks in farmyards and lambs in the fields; sunny days and longer nights; the world waking up and renewing itself.

Take deep breaths, expanding the chest and belly. Fully breathe out, letting go of tension, feeling grounded by the seasons, knowing one season is always followed by the next, and that Mother Earth continues to be in control and heals herself.

Looking for guided visualisations? Try my Meditation for Stress and Anxiety. It will help you calm any worrying thoughts as you release them through this guided hot air balloon visualisation. You can use this any time you feel overwhelmed.

You’ll find more guided visualisations on my YouTube channel.

A morning meditation practice to help reduce the toxic effects of stress and anxiety

morning meditation practice

I start every morning with a meditation session. Meditation is the one thing that not only helps me stay resilient when things are most challenging; and it helps me cope better with everyday stress and anxiety. It also makes me feel more content, happy and optimistic.

My daily meditation practice stops me feeling too overwhelmed with everything that’s on my plate. It reduces my stress. It gives me perspective and hope. It makes me feel connected both to myself and to something bigger – and reminds me I’m not alone.

Morning meditation has become part of my routine, and it doesn’t feel hard or like a chore, or as if I don’t have the time. It’s something I enjoy and look forward to! It makes me feel happy, as I start the day with the intention of being content and positive.

Daily meditation is a restorative routine that will benefit you immensely too.

It’s not selfish to take a moment for yourself. 

It’s not indulgent. 

It’s necessary. 

(And trust me, you deserve it!)

How to start a daily morning meditation practice

I’ll let you into a secret: meditation doesn’t have to be difficult! It doesn’t need any special equipment, or anything at all other than a quiet space where you can be by yourself for five or ten minutes. 

So start today. Take five to ten minutes for yourself to focus on you in quiet contemplation. 

The most important thing is to commit to a daily practice, so decide on a time and place that’s right for you. Where can you fit a short meditation practice into your existing morning routine? Think about adding the meditation habit on to something you already do. For example, if you do daily exercises or stretches, finish with five minutes of meditation. Or add your meditation practice after your shower or bath.

If you struggle to start, or find it hard to keep your focus, try a guided meditation. My short box breathing practice makes a great quick start meditation exercise. 

Sit down and do this for five to ten minutes in private:

  1. Picture a box in your mind’s eye.
  2. Breathe in as you picture going up the side of the box.
  3. Hold your breath as you move across the top of the box.
  4. Breathe out as you move down the side of the box.
  5. Hold your breath as you go across the bottom of the box. 
  6. Then repeat.

You can add in counting as you move around the sides of the box too if you like, for example, four seconds per side. 

Do what feels best for you and most helps you to stay focused.

This is also a great technique to turn to in moments of overwhelm, anxiety or anger. Do a couple of rounds around the box to make you feel calmer and more present.

If you want to use my guided box meditation, you can find it here.

You can also try my 10 minute morning meditation.

Commit to a regular meditation practice

You have to commit to regular practice for a few weeks before it becomes a natural habit that forms your way of being. It’s worth investing that time and motivation at the start, because of the many benefits you’ll receive. Just trust the process. 

See how you feel after doing a morning practice daily for 8 weeks.

If you need tips or advice on how to start or if you’re having a particular challenge with your meditation practice, please get in touch! The best way to connect is to send me a DM on Facebook or Instagram.