There’s a good chance you’ve heard that meditation is good for you.
You might have friends who tell you that it’s changed their lives. Your doctor might have suggested it as a tool to help you manage your stress levels. But if you’ve never tried meditation, it can come across as a little intimidating and people often don't know where to start.
Many health experts agree that meditation can be a simple and beneficial practice for your wellbeing.
But what is meditation, and how can you implement it into a busy lifestyle?
What is Meditation?
Meditation is a form of practice where you bring your full awareness into the present moment.
It allows you to focus your attention, bringing you into a clear and calm state of mind.
Some types of meditation are formal practices, particularly those that are practised as part of a religion. But for the most part, meditation is a secular practise that is not specific to a religion or culture and can be used by anyone.
What are the mental benefits of meditation?
As you might imagine, a meditation practice is good for your mental wellbeing. According to research, meditation may have benefits for your mental health such as:
· Increase concentration and focus.
· Improve mood.
· Boost self-esteem.
· Reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
· Reduce unhealthy eating behaviours such as binge eating and emotional eating.
· Protect against age-related memory loss.
What are the physical benefits of meditation?
Although meditation can be a powerful tool for the mind, the benefits don’t stop there.
A regular meditation practice can also have advantages for your physical wellbeing.
Research suggests that meditation can:
· Improve the quality of sleep
· Improve symptoms associated with insomnia
· Reduce stress hormone levels including cortisol
· Reduce inflammation
· Help with chronic pain management
· Reduce elevated blood pressure
· Reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome
When you’re first considering meditation, you might find yourself asking these questions. Luckily, we have the answers you’re looking for.
Is there more than one way to meditate?
Absolutely. You don’t have to be sitting cross-legged in the latest activewear and chanting in Sanskrit to meditate. All you need to meditate is your mind and a small amount of time to practice it.
How long do I have to meditate for?
There is no set time and it really depends on how much time you have available and how much you want to put into it.
Like any skill the more time you spend working on it the easier it becomes and meditation is no different.
For most people 10 minutes a day is ample to get started and a lot of the guided apps available let you select anywhere from 5 minutes up to 1 hour.
When first starting out I would recommend 10 minutes as this allows you time to settle in and become more in tune with your thoughts.
I can’t stop thinking while I’m meditating. Am I doing it wrong?
No, This is perfectly normal!
Meditation isn’t about stopping your thoughts..
It’s about observing your thoughts and not letting them be in charge.
As you meditate regularly, you will learn that your thoughts are not the boss of you – and often, they are exaggerated or even untrue.
That’s why with most forms of meditation, the goal is to become detached from your thoughts.
This allows you to notice your thoughts without getting involved with them.
Is a regular meditation practice the only way to experience the health benefits mentioned?
Although meditation is the most-researched form of mindfulness out there, it’s not the only way to be mindful.
You can be mindful throughout your day – while you do your chores, as you walk around the neighbourhood, when you’re eating a meal, or as you fall asleep at night.
Even stopping and taking a few deep breaths when you find yourself overwhelmed can help you to stay calm and more focused.
How To Start Meditating
Want to give meditation a try, but not sure how to get started? Here are some simple tips that can help you build a regular meditation practice.
Start by using a guided meditation app.
Most people find that guided meditation is the best way to give meditation a go, as you are guided through the process. There are plenty of apps available, both free and paid.
If you’re looking to go deeper into your practice and learn more about the theory behind meditation, the WakingUp app by Sam Harris is a great option to try and so is the app Headspace. Both have free trials so you can see which one you prefer.
Start small, and build up. You’re unlikely to be able to start off with an hour of meditation 5 days a week, even if you have that much time to spare!
Instead, start with short sessions of around 5-15 minutes. As you get comfortable, you can increase the time and frequency.
Schedule in time.
Meditation is like exercise for your mind.
A good way to build the habit is to schedule it into your day, just like you would schedule your favourite exercise classes.
A lot of people like meditating in the morning as a way to prepare their mind for the day ahead.
Try out a meditation class.
Some people do find that meditating in a group situation guided by a teacher is easier.
If you struggle to maintain focus when meditating alone, see if you can find a local meditation class to attend.