Following Mental Health Awareness Week and with International Meditation Day just around the corner, it's the perfect time to highlight the benefits of meditation as an antidote to stress and a great technique for alleviating anxiety.
In this article, we share the benefits of meditation and some quick and easy tips to get you started.
Why Should You Consider Meditating?
When you consider your health, what springs to mind? Generally, we tend to think of our physical body first and our mental and emotional wellbeing second.
And yet, more often than not, our inner wellbeing dictates our ability to navigate the outside world, including our physical health, energy levels, and social connections. When our mental health suffers, so often do many other areas of our lives.
With the effects of the pandemic still impacting us all, how do we protect our minds?
An increasingly popular method is meditation, for its proven benefits in reducing stress and promoting good mental health. Over the past years, meditation has increased in popularity, with around 200-500 million people including meditation in their weekly routine.
If you're new to mindfulness or just curious to find out more, read on to learn more about the benefits of meditation and how you can get started.
What is Meditation?
Meditation originated in India and Ayurvedic medicine, using a diverse range of techniques to reconnect mind, body, and spirit.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't mean shutting down your thoughts and feelings!
Instead, meditation is the simple practice of mindfulness; remaining in the present moment and focusing on your breath.
Regardless of how long you meditate, the ultimate aim is to reclaim the mind-body connection amidst all the external noise and distraction of life.
Meditation can be an anchor in times of stress, anxiety, and burnout, and it can also give legitimate weight to our emotions.
The Benefits of Meditation
There are many benefits of meditation, but these are our top 3.
1. Meditation Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Research shows that practising mindfulness reduces stress.
During meditation, we activate our parasympathetic nervous system.
This activation helps our body switch from fight-or-flight (our innate stress response to danger) to a state of rest and repair.
Our body cannot distinguish between severe dangers and day-to-day stresses; therefore, we spend periods in fight-or-flight often without even realising it.
According to research, stress contributes to around 85% of illness and diseases, including high blood pressure, cardiovascular issues and heart disease.
Meditation reduces stress and can have a positive impact on mental and physical wellbeing.
2. Meditation Improves Brain Function and Health
Research has found that meditation can improve brain health, mental focus, and memory.
There is even evidence suggesting meditation may help combat age-related neurodegenerative decline, aiding brain cognition and attention.
3. Meditation Improves Sleep and Energy
Meditation and mindfulness practices help to relax the body, with research showing a reduction in symptoms of chronic sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Mindfulness techniques also help to improve self-awareness, reasoning, patience, and tolerance.
These improvements can provide clarity with decision-making and reduce the stress associated with poor sleep.
How to Meditate: Meditation For Beginners
The benefits of meditation are endless, and so are the techniques! So if you're unsure where to start, we're here to help. Try these five simple tips:
- Sit or lay comfortably, eyes closed, and focus on your breathing.
- Breathe in for four seconds, hold the breath for a moment, and then breathe out for another four seconds.
- Start with a few minutes and gradually increase your time spent in meditation.
- Make it a daily practice, early in the morning or before bed.
- Make sure your surroundings are comforting and peaceful.
If you find your focus wandering and find that you need some assistance, guided meditations could help.
There are accessible meditation apps such as Calm or Headspace, or search online for "guided meditation" - there are many visual and audio resources available. These guided meditations will talk you through a series of breathing exercises with periodic 'check ins' to help you maintain your focus on your breath.
Developing Your Meditation Practice
Once you've got the basics nailed, try these meditation tricks:
- Place a weighted eye bean bag over the eyes to assist your practice.
- Repeat an affirmation or mantra while meditating.
- Advance your meditation through Yin Yoga.
- Accompany your meditation with a soundscape like rainfall or waves crashing.
- Walk in nature and focus on your breath at the same time.
- Start a journal after your meditation and list five things for which you are grateful.
- If you struggle with back pain, try meditating on your back on the floor.
Remember, there is no right or wrong answer for meditation; it is your experience, and you can tailor your meditations to meet your own needs. Take time to work out what meditation looks like for you.