What is meditation? You have probably heard of it before but let’s dig into what exactly it is and why it’s such a good idea to do it on a daily basis.
Meditation is about training your mind in awareness and attention. It’s about being in control of your thoughts and reactions. In the long run, it will decrease depression, anxiety and increase your brain’s alpha waves, which are associated with relaxation. Therefore, meditation is an excellent stress-reliever, will help you think more clearly and actually train your brain.
So what are the effects of meditation? Within a few weeks of daily meditation, you should feel more calm and learn to stay focused. Your distracting thoughts will make fewer appearances. Other effects include better quality of sleep and an improved state of well-being. Long term, it could improve both your memory and cognition, lead you to feel more motivated, improve your communication skills and enhance your compassion for others. Like I said, meditation trains your brain and therefore affects your thought-processes.
Mindful meditation is about focusing on your breathing. You focus all attention to breathing slowly in and out through your nose, feeling how the air fills your lungs and when it comes out again. When your mind starts to wander and you start to think about other things than being present in your breathing, you gently direct yourself back to it. Be kind to yourself and be prepared to feel unfocused the first times and accept this, but still direct yourself back to the breathing without judgement.
There are people, however, who do not respond well to meditation. It can be uncomfortable – not only because we have gotten so used to multitasking that sitting without “doing” is stressful – but some who may suffer from anxiety or depression could find it disturbing since it’s about accepting your thoughts without reacting, and the thoughts can be very hard to deal with. If we get intrusive thoughts, I think most of us would react by trying to distract us from thinking that thought. It can be about death, health problems, work situations or other issues we may have in our lives.
When I did a guided meditation in a group for the first time, I had a hard time concentrating and I truly just wanted it to end. It’s taken a lot of practice for me to do it effectively. One person in my group began crying because it was very uneasy to accept their intrusive thoughts. She did go through with it, at least the weeks I went, but I do not know how it ended up working for her.
I do know that it worked for me. Through breathing exercises, I got my breaths per minute down to two (2) from 22 (the first couple of times I felt so much stress I actually did take at least 22 breaths per minute).
Keep in mind that meditation does not work the same way for everyone, some might see results in shorter time than others and the noticeable changes might differ from different people. It’s individual and therefore, some will get better results doing it by themselves, or being lead through an app/video, while others find it to be more suitable to do so in a group, lead by a professional.
So how does it work? What do you need in order to start your journey to mindfulness meditation?
Well, the only things you really need is a quiet, comfortable place, some patience and kindness for yourself. Prepare to be sitting still for a few minutes in a comfortable position so dress accordingly (no tight clothes, if you find those to limit your experience). You start by inhaling and exhaling slowly, focusing on your breathing and the way the air travels through your nose, throat, lungs, belly and back out again. Notice the air and keep focus on your breathing. Now try it for a couple of minutes!
How did it go? Did you keep your mind off anything else than your breathing? If so, congratulations and you’re probably one in a million. For us others, maybe you experienced how busy your mind really is, even though you are actively trying to not think. Maybe you thought about work, what to have for dinner or what you would be doing the moment the meditation ended. I know, I’ve thought all of it.
It also means that you now know what the opposite of mindfulness is – living in your head with your wandering thoughts instead of being present in this moment. Practicing mindful meditation is about learning to acknowledge when the mind wanders and pause it for a moment to just be present.
And you know, if you do this on a regular basis, it will get easier. Most of the things we do is on autopilot, and doing something over and over again is exactly how to get there. Like going to the gym – in the beginning it might feel difficult, but after a few weeks it will simply be something that you just do without much thought to it.
Meditation will help you to have a healthier, happier relationship with yourself and your surroundings.
So why not give it a try?
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