Meditation can be practiced by almost everyone and provides significant benefits to mental, emotional and physical health.  Trying one of the various styles of mediation based on your specific goals and/or preferences is a great way to improve your quality of life, even if you only have a few minutes each day to lend to the practice!

What is meditation?  Simply put, meditation is the habitual process of training your mind to focus and redirect thoughts with the intention to achieve a mentally clear and emotionally calm state.

 

Interesting Facts About Meditation…

  • Meditation has been practiced in cultures around the world for thousands of years.
  • Nearly every religion, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam has a tradition of using meditative practices.
  • While meditation is often used for religious purposes, many people practice it independently of any religious or spiritual practice.
  • Meditation can also be used as a psychotherapeutic technique.

 

Types of Meditations…

  • Mindfulness meditation originates from Buddhist teachings and is the most popular meditation in the West.
  • Guided meditation is a process where participants meditate in response to guidance provided by another individual either in person or through a recording or webinar.
  • Spiritual meditation is like prayer in that you reflect on the silence around you and seek a deeper connection with your God or Universe.
  • Focused meditation involves concentration using any of the five senses. This practice may be simple in theory, but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first. If your mind does wander, it’s important to come back to the practice and refocus
  • Movement meditation may include walking, gardening, dancing or whatever activity you are passionate about. This practice may be simple in theory, but it can be difficult for beginners to hold their focus for longer than a few minutes at first. If your mind does wander, it’s important to come back to the practice and refocus
  • Mantra meditation is prominent in many teachings and uses a repetitive sound or chant to clear the mind, like the popular “Om.”
  • Transcendental meditation was introduced by a Yogi in India in the 1950s and utilizes a silently used sound called a mantra. Transcendental meditation is the most popular type of meditation around the world, and it’s the most scientifically studied. This practice is for those who like structure and are serious about maintaining a meditation practice.

 

Benefits of Meditation…

There is significant evidence supporting the numerous benefits of meditation including:

  • Stress reduction is one of the most common reasons people use meditation. Research shows that meditation not only reduces stress, it may also improve symptoms of stress-related conditions: irritable bowel syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder, and fibromyalgia.
  • The results of an eight-week study of mindfulness meditation showed participants experienced a reduction in their anxiety. Participants also showed reduced symptoms of anxiety disorders, such as phobias, social anxiety, paranoid thoughts, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, and panic attacks
  • Studies have found that mindful meditation can improve emotional health by enhancing self-esteem, minimizing depression and promoting a better outlook on life.
  • Through meditation, you can increase awareness of your thought habits and steer them toward more constructive patterns, leading to enhanced self-awareness.
  • Regular meditation has been shown to improve focus and lengthen an individual’s attention span (who doesn’t need this).
  • In addition to fighting normal age-related memory loss, meditation can at least partially improve memory in patients with dementia. It can also help control stress and improve coping in those caring for family members with dementia.
  • 22 studies on Metta, a type of meditation that begins with developing kind thoughts and feelings toward yourself, demonstrated its ability to increase peoples’ compassion toward themselves and others (the possibilities here may be endless; increased kindness, less violence, etc….)
  • The mental discipline you can develop through meditation may help you break dependencies and addictions by increasing your self-control and awareness of triggers for addictive behaviors.
  • Practicing meditation on a consistent basis may help you control and/or redirect runaway thoughts that often contribute to insomnia. Additionally, meditation helps your body relax, releases tension and places you in a peaceful state in which you’re more likely to fall asleep.
  • Your perception of pain is connected to your state of mind, and it can be elevated in stressful conditions. Since

meditation can diminish the perception of pain in the brain, it may help treat chronic pain when used as a supplement to Western medicine.

  • A study of 996 volunteers found that when they meditated by concentrating on a “silent mantra”, participants reduced their blood pressure by about five points, on average. Reducing blood pressure helps prevent heart disease.

 

Getting Started…

  • Meditation is a simple practice, but it can seem intimidating. Start with a breathing meditation—the basic idea is simple; every time your mind begins to shift away from your breath, and you get lost in thought, simply bring your attention back to your breath. Repeat this again and again until your meditation time is over.  Every time you bring your attention back to your breath, you work your “attention muscle”. Over time your focus, concentration, and attention span improve.
  • Find a comfortable seated position; on a bench, on the floor, on a cushion or chair; whatever works best for you.
  • Dim the lights a bit or shut them off completely to help you focus better.
  • Set a timer for 5 minutes. You can use a phone or any device that alerts you to the end of your session.
  • Meditation is all about bringing your attention/focus to your breath; it is what makes meditation both difficult and worthwhile. In this step, close your mouth and focus entirely on your breath as it enters and leaves your nose. You can focus on any element of your breath that you want – from how the air feels as it enters and exits your nose, to how the air feels as you inflate and deflate your lungs, to the sensation under your nose as you breathe in and out, to the sound you make as you breathe. Don’t force your breathing here – just breathe naturally and observe your breath without thinking too much about it.
  • Bring your attention back to your mind when it wanders. And it will! You may not clue in at first that your mind has started thinking again, but when you do, gently bring your attention back. Don’t be hard on yourself during this stage. Just gently bring your attention back. Keep doing this until your timer alerts you that your session has ended.

 

Tips for a Successful Meditation Practice…

  • If you try to meditate for 30 minutes right from the start, you may get frustrated and discouraged. Instead, start with five minutes and increase that time when you’re comfortable. Even if you sit for five minutes, and you find that your mind wanders the whole time, meditating for 5-10 minutes a day is infinitely better than meditating for 70 minutes once a week. Try to meditate frequently (every day if possible), even if that just means sitting for a few minutes.
  • Use a soothing alarm. If your timer is loud and jarring, anticipating the alarm will distract your attention during meditation.
  • Having fewer distractions around you will allow you to concentrate better and ensure your meditation is much more productive.
  • Your in-breath is very pronounced and easy to concentrate on, and most people’s minds wander on their out-breaths—just know this and keep it in mind.
  • Don’t think!  As crazy as it sounds, this is the hard part. Don’t analyze your breath; just bring your attention and focus to your breath, without thinking about it or analyzing it.
  • It’s easy to become frustrated with yourself when your mind wanders, but don’t. Your meditations will be much more productive when you gently bring your attention back.
  • If you have difficulty concentrating, try counting. Count your breaths, until you reach five, and then start again. I use this trick when I’m having a tough time concentrating.

Sources:

  1. Journal of the American Heart Association; 6, No. 10, “Meditation and Cardiovascular Risk Reduction”; Originally published28 Sep 2017
  2. com/What is Meditation-2795927
  3. com
  4. General Hospital Psychiatry; Volume 17, Issue 3, May 1995, Pages 192-200, “Three-year follow-up and clinical implications of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention in the treatment of anxiety disorders”
  5. Life Worth Breathing: A Toga Master’s Handbook of Strength, Grace, and Healing, by Max Strom; 2010
  6. Guided Meditations for Mindfulness and Self-Healing: By Healing Meditation Academy
  7. https://alifeofproductivity.com/meditation-guide/

 

 

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