No doubt you’ve heard everyone talking about meditation, it seems so in vogue at the moment. Why has it become such a craze? Did you know it makes you smarter, healthier and happier? Learn more about why meditation is so beneficial and follow my simple, 5 step guide to get you started. It’s time you begun!
Mediation is one of the most influential teachings of Buddhism and has filtered into popular culture as well as modern psychotherapy. Whether your Buddhist, Christain, New Age or atheist, you can benefit from meditation. And psychologists agree that quite aside from any spiritual connotations, meditation is a powerful tool. It’s easy for beginners to get started too, all it takes is a comfortable seat and a few spare minutes.
Meditation is so good for your brain and mental health it has been embraced across the globe.
What is Meditation?
Mindfulness is about experiencing the moment with an attitude of openness and freshness to all and every experience.
Meditation focuses more on detaching yourself from all thoughts to create a state of stillness conducive to ultimate self-understanding, or enlightenment.
Depending on who you ask there will be slight variations. What I understand the differences to be are something like this: You can be mindful all day long, regardless of what you’re doing, but meditation is generally an activity you do in isolation. The main theme is bringing awareness to whatever it is you’re doing. Of course you may understand it differently and that’s ok too!
Why meditation is so beneficial
Research has shown that practicing meditation regularly – and being more ‘mindful’, that is, focused on the present moment – has beneficial effects for a range of conditions. These include stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep and coping with chronic pain. It also has other health benefits like reduced inflammation, improved immunity and lower blood pressure.
Meditation can induce feelings of calm and clear-headedness as well as improve concentration and attention. Brain researcher Richard Davidson’s research shows that meditation increases the brain’s gray matter density, which can reduce sensitivity to pain, enhance your immune system, help you regulate difficult emotions, and relieve stress. Mindfulness meditation in particular has been proven helpful for people with depression and anxiety, cancer, fibromyalgia, chronic pain, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cardiovascular disease
Beginners guide to mediation
The key method of meditation usually involves fixing your attention on a body part, the breath, a mantra or an inspirational picture to arrive at a state where we are not distracted by our thoughts.
Step 1: Choose a peaceful environment
This will help you to bring all your attention to your practice, not worrying about what’s going on around you.
I find my living room floor or bedroom perfect for this. If I had a backyard I would sit out there too. Switch off the TV or any other distractions.
Step 2: Set a timer
Most methods suggest meditating for about 20 minutes twice a day, although many people will find it useful to start with five to 10 minutes twice a day and to build from there.
I started with guided meditations, until I started to get the hang of it then I switched to meditation music or even just silence. You can meditate for as long or as little as you like. Set a timer for 10 minutes, then gradually work your way up to however long you like. Don’t stress if your mind wanders, just gently bring it back to a place of stillness.
Step 3: Get comfortable
Traditionally, meditation is practiced by sitting on a cushion on the ground, in a lotus, or half-lotus position. But you can sit on a seat or lie down if you prefer.
Step 4: Close your eyes
Super important! When you close your eyes your attention naturally shifts inwards. Plus closing your eyes helps shut out all the other distractions and allows you to fully relax.
Step 5: Focus on your breathing
The most basic and universal of all meditation techniques, breathing meditation is a great place to start your practice. Pick a spot above your belly button and focus on that spot with your mind. Become aware of the rising and falling of your abdomen as you breathe in and out. Don’t make a conscious effort to change your breathing patterns, just breathe normally.
If any thoughts pop into your head, just return your attention back to your breathing. Let your thoughts pass on by you, as though your body is a mountain and they’re clouds around you. Of course your mind will wander from time to time, but the key is to not stress about it and just let each thought go.
After you finish
Meditation doesn’t have to be limited to strictly defined practice sessions, you can also practice mindfulness throughout your day to day life.
- For example, in moments of stress, try to take a few seconds to focus solely on your breathing and empty your mind of any negative thoughts or emotions.
- You can also practice mindfulness while you eat, becoming aware of the food and of the sensations you experience as you eat.
- No matter what actions you perform in your day to day life, whether it’s sitting at a computer or sweeping the floor, try to become more aware of your body’s movements and how you feel in the present moment.
This is living mindfully.
I’ve been practicing meditation for quite some time, and love it. True, some days are easier/harder than others, but it’s one of those things you can’t really get wrong.
Do you have any meditation tips you want to share? Post them below.