How to Improve Mindfulness and Meditation (Using Your Learning Style)

My clients frequently complain about not being able to stay mindful during the day or have difficulty with meditation – which is the ultimate exercise in mindfulness.

A daily meditation practice – and remaining mindful during the day – is the first step in managing the stress of daily life.

Dr. Maria Montessori was likely the first to use learning styles in the classroom in 1907. You may have heard of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, which assesses behavioral traits and how individuals learn.

Some employers still use this test when assessing job candidates.

In 1984, David Kolb came up with an educational learning styles model, which was the forerunner of the myriad learning style theories that exist today. There are several schools of thought about this. For example, the VARK model includes four different learning styles, while other models have identified up to eight different types. Most people have combinations of these.

There are strategies that can be used to utilize our learning style for enhancing our meditation and mindfulness practice, depending on your individual preferences. Some people learn best visually; some learn by listening; some by reading and writing; and others learn by doing.

To keep things simple, we’re going to narrow down the field of learning styles to three – visual, auditory, and tactile – and apply techniques to the style which is predominant for you.

Choose which of the learning styles best describes you most of the time from the following list. Bear in mind that we all have secondary styles; find the one that resonates with you most often.

  • Visual. Do you learn best when you see things, like maps, charts, and pictures? Do you like to doodle and draw when taking notes? Do you prefer to read the information you’re learning in a book or manual, rather than have someone tell you how to do it or hear it in a lecture?
  • Auditory. Do you like to have music on while you’re learning new things? Does music cause you to have strong emotions? Do you prefer to have someone tell you how to do something, rather than read a book or manual? Do you learn best in a lecture? Do you make new information into rhymes or songs to remember it?
  • Tactile. Do you learn best by taking things apart to see what makes them work? Do you like to participate in sports and physical activity? Do you like to make crafts, do woodworking, or enjoy jigsaw puzzles? Are you good at reading body language?

In order to use your learning style for meditation and mindfulness practices, it’s best to find different focus points than your usual style. Although it seems counterintuitive, by finding practices that are different from the way we usually learn, we encourage our brains to observe and notice that which is unfamiliar. It’s like putting a different leg into your pants first – it seems strange, so we notice it more.

Here are some ways you can apply your learning style to create a better mindful experience. These techniques can be applied to both your meditation practice and daily mindfulness.

Visual Learners

  • Always close your eyes during meditation.
  • Focus on sounds
    1. traffic on the street or outside your window
    2. birds chirping or other animal noises
    3. the breeze through the trees
    4. background sounds of appliances and lights
    5. the way doors sound as they open and close
    6. your favorite music
  • Focus on physical sensations
    1. hold any object and observe its texture and the way it feels in your hands
    2. notice the feeling of where your body is touching the chair
    3. feel the texture of a pet’s fur
    4. the way your feet feel on the floor
    5. the temperature in the room
    6. pay attention to your breathing

Auditory Learners

  • Meditate in the quietest possible environment. Keep your eyes open, if you prefer.
  • Focus on what you see
    1. gaze at a candle
    2. observe patterns in fabric, the floor or walls
    3. watch the screen saver on your computer
    4. closely observe the details of a photograph
    5. see the way the leaves move on trees
    6. watch fish in an aquarium – observe their swimming paths and examine the objects in the tank
  • Focus on physical sensations
    1. the vibration of the car’s wheels on the road
    2. how your interlaced fingers feel while touching each other.
    3. how the breeze ruffles your hair
    4. the warmth of sunshine
    5. the softness of a piece of clothing
    6. the smell of your cologne

Tactile Learners

  • Be as still as you can while meditating, and try to avoid fidgeting. Sit up straight. You can keep your eyes open if you like.
  • Focus on sounds
    1. background humming or people’s voices
    2. the sound of a sleeping pet’s breathing
    3. the wind blowing outside your window
    4. identify the different instruments in your favorite piece of music
    5. the sound your feet make as you walk across the floor
    6. the swoosh you hear when other cars pass you on the road
  • Focus on what you see
    1. the glow of a lightbulb
    2. the numbers on a digital clock – observe when they turn
    3. notice the different colors in a sunset
    4. observe the clothing others are wearing
    5. pay attention to the expressions on others’ faces – try to guess what they’re thinking
    6. the pattern on the surface of your desk or table

Use the lists above or use your creativity to discover other ways to be observant and mindful that are different from what you would normally choose.

Always remember to find wonder, amazement, and gratitude for the things we notice in our environment every day.

Find meaning in the mindfulness.

By doing so, we create new, beneficial neural pathways in the brain. These will become the go-to pathways your subconscious will find when you’re under stress.

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Website: The Quiet Zone

Susan Petang is a Certified Mindful Lifestyle & Stress Management Coach, and author of The Quiet Zone - Mindful Stress Management for Everyday People.