When someone says “meditation” what do you envision? Stoic figures cloaked in robes and adorned with beads, chanting effortlessly into a sunrise? That is lovely, but most people who practice meditation don’t do it so cinematically. Meditation is for yogis, doctors, teens, the devoutly religious, the non-religious spiritualists—meditation is for everyone!
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Why You Should Meditate
There are many reasons why you should meditate. The primary one being that meditation is an important part of any health and wellness program because it addresses the mind and spirit. Some other benefits include:
- Improved concentration. Meditation has wonderful effects on concentration levels. As you focus your mind, you become able to approach stressful situations calmly and prioritize your tasks more efficiently.
- Working through an emotional experience. Many people who have experienced trauma or an unpleasant experience employ meditation to help them heal. No matter what you are going through, meditation can help you to regroup.
- Improve your health. Similar to helping emotional troubles, meditation can help you overcome physical illness. When your body is in distress, it can enter into a “fight or flight” response. This means that your body feels under attack and goes into protective overdrive, which can actually make you feel worse. By practicing meditation, you decrease awareness of pain, improve your mood, and even lower blood pressure (meditation is not a replacement for your elected medical treatment).
- You would like to enhance your religious life. If you are spiritually inclined, explore meditative practices that your religion or belief teaches. You may find it helpful to have something that relates to your beliefs.
- You are curious. Maybe you just want to try it out! The good news is, you can only have a beneficial experience, so don’t worry about doing it “right.”
- It is free. Meditation is the most cost effective way to improve your life because you don’t have to spend a single penny.
How To Meditate
Don’t overthink it!
Since meditation is for everyone, you can easily make it a part of your daily routine. Some helpful tips on how to begin meditating include:
- Deep breathing.
This is the single most important part of meditation and you can try it just about anywhere. Start by sitting up straight with your feet firmly on the ground. Place your hand on your stomach and take a deep breath in for five full seconds, hold it for five more, and then release it through another five seconds. Those fifteen seconds will feel longer than you think. The time doesn’t have to be exact, but try to extend your breath, and be aware of your shoulders as you breathe; if they rise and fall then you need to take deeper breaths from your stomach. Repeat this as many times as you desire.
- Clearing your mind.
After you’ve gotten the hang of deep breathing, focus on clearing your mind. This is best practiced alone. Continue to take long breaths, but keep your focus on the thoughts that pop into your head. Stresses from work, relationship conflicts, family joys and struggles—positive and negative thoughts alike will try to steal your attention. The most important thing at this point? Don’t force yourself to push the thoughts away. Appreciate and understand them without dwelling on them, and they will naturally disappear.
What do you do now that you have a quiet mind and a calm breath? Visualize something positive. Think of an image or idea before you begin to meditate so your mind doesn’t wander once you are already in practice. It could be a happy memory, an imaginary scene, a life goal or simply a word, the more specific the better, because again, your mind will want to wander. Focus on your chosen image, and envision it in as much detail as possible.
- Pick some add-ons!
Now that you have the hang of breathing, mental clarity, and visualization, you may want to explore some meditative “accessories.” Or you may want to explore mantras, which are words or phrases repeated over and over again. Just like your visualization, your mantra can be anything you choose—make it a practical life goal, a personal reminder or something that makes you happy. Or, if you’re new to meditation, try brainwave audios, they help quieten your mental chatter and promote relaxation.
Keep It Up
Once you have mastered meditation, you may want to share your practice with others. Invite a friend or family member to mediate with you for a powerful, shared experience. You may even want to explore group meditation. Even if you choose to keep your practice private, keep it up. Meditating once or twice daily offers long term benefits for all minds.