Meditation can be a helpful tool to reduce stress, improve sleep, regulate emotions and pain, and even increase happiness. This practice, originating thousands of years ago, focuses on strengthening the connection between the mind and body using breathing techniques and a simple mental “body scan.” Luckily, the benefits of meditation, exceeding those listed above, can come after just a few minutes a day.
Establishing a Routine
Meditation is most beneficial wherever you feel safe, relaxed, and undisturbed. This can be anywhere from a chair in your bedroom to the grass in your backyard. Feel free to wear whatever makes you feel most comfortable, such as loose-fitting clothing or athletic wear.
Establishing a set routine is important for feeding the habit. At the time of day of your choosing, carve out 10 minutes to start with. This is a day-by-day process with no “wrong” way to get it done. Listen to your body and if you find yourself overwhelmed at first, reduce your meditation time all the way to even 1-3 minutes. Over time, you can add more or less time depending on your needs.
The best way to get started is by using an auditory guide to show you how to focus on your breathing and avoid distracting thoughts. Something to employ while listening is a mental “body scan,” which consists of closing your eyes and imagining you are scanning your body from head to toe. Be mindful about which parts of your body feel tense or heavy and take a few seconds to focus on relaxing those areas.
Here are some examples of guided meditations to start with:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O-6f5wQXSu8 (10 minutes)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEfs5TJZ6Nk (3 minutes)
Tips and Things to Remember
· Breathe deeply and naturally.
· Try using noise-canceling headphones to filter out any outside distractions.
· If you are constantly fighting the urge to fall asleep, try meditating while sitting up or right after you wake up.
· Feeling discomfort, restlessness, and even anxiety is all part of the process. Be aware of these negative feelings as they pop up, sit with them without resistance, and then simply let them pass.
· Establish your routine by staying consistent with the time and location of your meditation.
· If your mind keeps wandering, don’t be too hard on yourself. You won’t ever be able to stop having thoughts altogether, but it will be easier to manage them as time goes on.
· Pair meditation with healthy eating and regular exercise to maximize benefits.
· In-person meditation courses and online resources are available.
· The most important part is sticking with it!