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When it comes to daily habits, many of us focus on the ways in which we can improve our overall well-being. We strive to drink enough water, eat healthy foods, exercise, and sleep deeply. Unfortunately, many of us neglect one of the most important aspects of our health: having a peaceful mind.
Just as physical exercise trains the body to be better both in action and at rest, daily meditation trains the mind to function better throughout the day. A growing body of research now suggests that meditation benefits the body in a number of other ways, too, leading to lower blood pressure, a better respiratory rate, decreased feelings of stress and anxiety, an improved immune system, and more.
Though meditation can be challenging to practice, the concept itself isn’t difficult to understand. Here are a few simple tips and tricks to help you get started!
Mindfulness Meditation: The Basics
Perhaps the simplest, most common form of meditation is a practice known as “mindfulness meditation.” Mindfulness meditation focuses on bringing our thoughts back to the present moment. Instead of ruminating about the past and fretting about the future, we can bring ourselves back to the present moment, focusing simply on the here and the now.
To get started with meditation, find a place and position that are comfortable for you. Though the “typical” meditation pose often involves sitting cross-legged on the floor, it is most important for beginners to find a position they can easily maintain. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how you position yourself. If sitting on a couch, a chair, or your bed is most comfortable for you, simply do so. As you become more proficient in meditation, you may find that certain positions work better for long-term practice.
Start small. To make sure you are consistent with your practice, build it into your routine. Begin with just two or three minutes a day. Consider practicing each morning, so that you maintain your habit and build up your endurance. After a little practice, you may find that five and ten minute meditations are now easy for you. From here, you can work on expanding your practice.
Begin by setting a timer. If you have a smartphone or tablet, consider downloading a meditation app such as Insight Timer. Otherwise, simply set an alarm on your clock, watch, or phone. Once seated, take a deep breath and take a moment to evaluate how you are feeling. How does your body feel today? Is your mind at peace, or have you been experiencing a lot of stress and anxiety? Have you been feeling tired and depressed, panicked and wound-up, or pretty good? Take a quick mental note of how you’re feeling, and get ready to meditate.
Set your thoughts aside and focus on becoming aware of your breath. Concentrate on the way in which you breathe. Feel the way air flows in through your nostrils and out through your mouth. Breathe deeply into your stomach. Observe the way in which your body relaxes when you breathe deeply.
Your thoughts are sure to wander. Being mindful involves acknowledging the ways in which our “monkey minds” quickly jump to random thoughts. When you notice your mind wandering, simply inhale and refocus on your breath. Don’t beat yourself up when your mind wanders; this is simply a natural part of the meditative process.
This is how mindfulness meditation works! Simply keep breathing and refocusing on your breath when your mind wanders or other sensations distract you from your practice. Though simple in theory, mindfulness can be challenging in practice. Over time, however, meditating becomes easier.
Be Gentle With Yourself
Many of us find meditation challenging because we struggle with being alone with ourselves and our thoughts. When left alone in our own internal world, away from distractions like the internet and television, we often find ourselves confronted by feelings we’ve been trying to avoid.
Be kind to yourself while meditating. There is no “wrong” way to meditate, and a practice in which you cannot calm your mind is not a failed one! Some days meditating will be easier than others. Simply continue breathing and be grateful for the time you have with yourself.
If you like the idea of meditation but feel that a mindfulness practice isn’t right for you, consider trying another form of meditation. Use YouTube or a mediation app to listen to guided meditations, which help redirect your thoughts using the spoken word. Listen to gongs or music, or focus on cultivating self-love and gratitude through a practice known as loving-kindness meditation. If sitting is too painful for you, research walking meditation practices. Discover what works best for you!
Meditation is something we’re all capable of doing. If you want to get started, commit to practicing for five minutes, every single day, for one month. All of us can find at least five minutes to dedicate to our health and wellness. Though meditating might not be fun or glamorous, you’re sure to feel it’s benefits if you manage to stick with it. It’s worth it for a happier and healthier life!