Meditation is an ancient eastern practice to gain a deeper perspective of oneself and to cultivate deeper spirituality. Nowadays, especially in western countries, it is becoming very popular as a useful tool to calm and focus the mind, as well as to gain other physical benefits.
So, what is meditation?
Meditation is a type of mind training for overall wellbeing.
During meditation, you use your mind to concentrate on one particular thing – such as your breath, sounds, body movements or a mantra (chant). In this way, you train your mind to stay focused and peaceful when engaging in any of life’s activities, which can be particularly helpful during times of stress or anxiousness.
What are the health benefits of meditation?
Meditation is often used to clear the mind and ease many health concerns, and therefore has both physical and mental health benefits.
Physical benefits include easing the symptoms of:
• heart disease
• high blood pressure
• sleep problems.
The impact of the mental health benefits of meditation can’t be truly quantified, but are immense, and include your ability to:
• better manage your stress
• improve your self-awareness
• focus on the present moment
• be more emotionally stable
• be mindful and improve your memory.
Also, meditation promotes relaxation and allows to you to cultivate important traits, such as awareness, compassion, love, patience, generosity and forgiveness – all of which promote improved wellbeing for you and those around you.
So are you keen to meditate? Here’s how to do it.
You may have heard about different types of meditation techniques – such as guided, mindfulness and transcendental meditation – but the general idea is the same:
- find yourself a quiet spot, especially if you’re a beginner, so that you don’t become easily distracted
- settle into a comfortable position, with your spine straight – such as sitting on a cushion on the floor, sitting on a chair or lying flat on the floor
- gently close your eyes
- focus your attention on one thing – such as your breath, the sounds, a specific object, an image or a mantra; if your mind wanders, that’s okay, simply bring it back to what you were focusing on without berating yourself.
Meditation can also be done in an active way. For example, Buddhist monks often involve awareness/meditation into their daily life by focusing their mind on the activity they are performing at the time, such as eating, reading, doing yoga, performing chores and walking. Prayer beads or other ritual objects can be used during meditation in order to help you train your mind to focus.
But it’s important not to get caught up in the ‘right way’ to meditate. The point is to keep trying, to keep going.
Finding time to meditate
You don’t need to carve out hours (or many minutes) from your day to meditate. Find a natural break in the day – a time that you can stick to each day, such as first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed – and simply start meditating for one to two minutes each day. Then, over the weeks or months, gradually increase the time you meditate to help train your mind to focus for longer periods.
Tips to keep a meditation practice
It takes time (even years), patience and practice to develop a consistent meditation habit. That’s why it can be easy to fall off the meditation bandwagon. If you need some help, try:
- doing a meditation course
- attending weekly meditation classes
- using a meditation DVD or YouTube video at home
- using a mental health app, such as Smiling Mind.
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