This health tip of the week is about how to meditate and the main associated health benefits of meditation.
Many people have a negative reaction when it comes to meditation as if you have to be a Buddhist monk to be able to meditate, but in reality, everyone and anyone can and should reap the health benefits of meditation.
In our fast paced society, it is very easy for time to pass by quickly. With so many things to do it is so easy to get stressed and have high anxiety.
If you simply take 3-4 five minute breaks (and if you do not have time for that, even 1 break a day will have positive benefits), you will be more relaxed, have less stress, and have a much clearer state of mind.
In a two week study, those who spiritually meditated were shown to have decreases in anxiety, a more positive mood, better spiritual health, and were able to even tolerate pain more effectively.
Numerous other studies also show how positive the effects of meditation can be on your quality of life.
Meditation has even been found to have positive effects in treating different addictions such as alcohol addiction.
An awesome study conducted by Harvard-affiliated researchers showed all the great health benefits of meditation. The study consisted of 16 study participants.
Two weeks before the subjects took part in a mindfulness-based stress reduction program, magnetic resonance images of their brain structure were taken.
Magnetic resonance images were taken again two weeks after the program.
A set of magnetic resonance images of the brain were also taken of a control group of non-meditators during the same time interval.
The magnetic resonance images found an increase in gray matter in the hippocampus of the brain, which is known to be critical in memory and learning.
The brain images also showed greater gray matter density in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion, and introspection.
Stress was also reported to significantly reduced in the participants and there was a correlation between decreased stress and a decrease in gray matter density of the amygdala, which plays a big role in stress and anxiety.
The study participants also showed a great improvement in the mindfulness questionnaire given to them after the 8 weeks of meditation in comparison to their pre-participation answers of the same questionnaire.
Now that we know the benefits of meditation, let’s talk about how to meditate.
When you begin meditating, you will really notice how much your mind wanders and how all over the place it really is.
Meditation can be quite painful and uncomfortable at first as all these crazy thoughts rush through your head. You might even find yourself replaying horrible memories over and over like a scary horror flick.
Thus, if you’re starting to incorporate meditation into your daily life, do not beat yourself up about how wild your mind is. It is natural.
Over time, you will learn to work peacefully and compassionately with your influx of thoughts as you will find some clarity and peacefulness.
It can be in your room, on a park bench, on the grass, in an airport, etc… You can meditate pretty much everywhere, as long as it is relatively quiet and peaceful.
If there are a few people walking around you it is okay, but just make sure that there is not too many distractions and noise around you.
Another good option for a meditation pose is to sit on the ground so that the front of your knee is touching the floor and your heels are touching your butt.
Chair meditation is also a good option. Find a chair that allows you to sit comfortably so that your hips are above your knees and with your feet flat on the floor.
You can also perform meditation lying completely flat on the floor. Just to make sure to not fall asleep!
For any pose you choose, make sure that your spine is upright with your head up. If you have a slumped posture, your mind will drift and wander.
Your mind and body are intertwined so if your body is well-balanced, your mind will be too.
Keeping your eyes open allows you to be more conscious and present. Simply lower your eyes and allow your gaze to be soft and soothing.
You can also close your eyes if this feels more comfortable to you, but often times when you close your eyes, your mind will be more likely to drift into deep thought. Experiment with it and see what works best for you.
When you breathe, follow the path of your breath. Watch as your breath goes through your nostrils of your nose, down through your throat and into your lungs and belly, all the way through your whole body.
Make sure your back is completely straight and keep your eyes closed or looking at the ground with a soft, relaxed focus. When you start to breath out, follow your breath consciously into the world.
When you first begin, it may help to count your breaths. Count “1” as you breath in, “2” as you breath out, “3” as you breath in again, etc.
As you begin to meditate, you will feel your mind wandering continuously. As you start to notice this, simply pay to attention to this wandering, and slowly bring your thoughts back to your breath.
Do not try and stop your thoughts. Imagine that your thoughts are like unwelcome visitors knocking on your front door. Acknowledge that they are there, but simply ask them to leave nicely.
Like anything, meditation is a skill. At first, you will notice how much your mind wanders and you will most likely not be very skilled at it.
As you practice continuously, you will notice your mind start to wander less and less and you will become much better.
The idea of meditation is to become aware of everything in the moment. You will learn to become aware of sights, sounds, sensations, emotions, and even your thoughts themselves, as they come and go. When you meditate, be non-judgmental. Everything you are thinking is okay. Do not fight it.
Acknowledge it and slowly come back to your breath. In our every day life, our mind wanders a lot. For example, we can be at work and be thinking of home or family or going golfing.
When we are golfing or with friends, we often think of work and all the things we have to get done. The focus of meditation is to pay soft attention to whatever is the center of your awareness and to slowly bring your attention back to your breath.
Whether it is morning, evening, night, lunch break, etc., pick a general time slot to meditate every day. Make it a ritual like taking a shower or brushing your teeth.
Whatever you choose to do, make sure it is sustainable. If you can only meditate for 2 minutes when you first begin, that is completely okay.
After a couple weeks, increase it to 5 minutes, and then maybe 10 minutes, etc. The idea is to make this a habit so that you can really improve your quality of life.
Often times, fear, anger, and guilt cause stories to repeat repeatedly in the mind. We feel shameful and angry at events of the past and feel fear when thinking of the future and “what if….?”
Deal with these intense emotions by focusing your attention on your feelings that accompany the emotion. This could be the knot of fear in your stomach or the boiling of anger in your chest.
Let go of the stories and focus on your body. Practice the art art of non-clinging. Acknowledge your emotions but do not get lost in your stories.
Although many people like to meditate with music, there is no better healer than silence. Music causes your mind to wander and think. Sit in silence and allow your mind to experience what it is doing.
The most important thing is to enjoy your meditation. Meditation should be soothing and relaxing.
It is healthy and beneficial and can improve your life in so many ways. Meditate with a bit of a smile and enjoy be aware and conscious living in the moment.
So throughout the day, when you are feeling stressed or anxious, take a couple minutes to meditate.
When you take a walk, try not to think of all the things you need to do later and simply pay attention to your breath, your environment, and the different sensations you feel in your body.
When you sit down to eat, focus your attention on what you are eating. How does the food taste? How do you feel when eating it? When you clean or do your dishes, do so mindfully.
You will realize how much better all your experiences become when you are mindful. As you continue to be more aware and mindful, you will truly be able to experience life to the fullest.
Hate and fear will start to transform into love and compassion and your view of the world will change.
Utilize this very good health tip of the week in your day-to-day life and become more at peace with yourself and the world around you.