November 4, 2019
I have heard so many good things about the power of meditation and how only 5-10 minutes a day could ‘change your life’. Does the motto, ‘happy mind, happy life’, ring true? I wanted to follow up on the short-term and long-term benefits of introducing meditation to your daily routine and if it really does make a difference to both body and mind.
What is meditation?
To meditate means to engage in contemplation, reflection or in mental exercise for the purpose of reaching a heightened level of spiritual awareness. The goal of meditation is to achieve genuine peace and happiness in today’s hurried world. Not judging, not thinking, just being aware. It is a consciousness-changing, inwardly focused technique that can positively impact health and psychological wellbeing.
One of my good friends, Josephine Mullally, very kindly shared with me her personal experience with meditation:
Josephine’s experience proves how profound meditation can be; it has life-changing properties and is the simplest and most effective thing people could do to improve wellbeing.
Steps to meditate
Different approaches of meditation are used in cultures all over the world, often for religious purposes, yet many people use it independently of any spiritual practices. The two main types are concentrative meditation and mindfulness meditation.
In concentrative meditation, to reach a higher state of being, all of your attention must be focused on something specific, for example, your breath, a word or mantra.
Mindfulness meditation involves being aware of and involved in the present moment, making yourself open and accepting to experiences of the here and now.
The first thing I did to explore this was head to my phone’s App store to check out which meditation apps I could try for myself. I downloaded Headspace, Calm, HappyNotPerfect and Third Ear – all of which focus on meditation, sleep, stress relief, breath, mindfulness and relaxation. Third Ear is especially good for sound therapy! If you are a beginner, these apps are the perfect tool-kits for your mind, teaching you how to live in contentment.
Headspace is my favourite of the guides to living happier and healthier by learning the basic fundamentals of meditation and mindfulness. Here are their suggested steps:
Look for a place in your routine where you can slot in a little time to meditate. Research shows it is easier to create a new habit when we do it the same time each day, e.g. first thing in the morning. Wake up and think ‘brush teeth, meditate, shower’.
Find somewhere you will not be disturbed. It might be easier at first if you have some peace and quiet, but do not worry too much about background noise.
Make sure you are sitting comfortably before you start, e.g. cross legged on the floor and hands resting in your lap. Try to keep your posture and back straight but not too tense. Now you are all set to allow the body and the mind to unwind. You are now ready to get some Headspace!
Top 5 benefits
Meditation has been proven to have both physiological and psychological effects, but what are they?!
Meditation is a practical means for calming yourself and holds better stress management skills of symptoms and conditions including high blood pressure.
Helps with sleep
Practicing meditation before hitting the hay is very therapeutic; it will help with sleep disorders and provide clarity. When our minds are clear and collected, we feel better, sleep better and make better decisions.
Meditation changes different aspects of focused attention and improves working memory and fluid intelligence.
Simple meditative exercises help you to be aware of breathing. You start to notice how the body is breathing: that rising and falling sensation, if the breaths are long or short, deep or shallow. You naturally follow that movement of breath in the body without trying to control it, resting attention on that movement.
I have learnt that it only takes a few moments to appreciate that feeling of letting go and gaining a greater sense of balance. We are all able to sit with the mind. It is just a matter of pausing to catch your breath each day and enjoy the feeling of being present in the world, perfectly at ease in both body and mind.