Meditation is an ancient practice that involves silencing all that chatter and clatter that spins around our minds most of the time. This ‘inner peace’ can go a long way towards making life seem easier, brighter and happier, despite the turmoil of daily life. Modern studies have shown that meditating for just 30 minutes can improve focus and energy levels.
The benefits of meditation
Better concentration, improved productivity and a sense of general wellbeing are some of the immediate benefits. There are longer-term health benefits too, including reduced stress and anxiety, and improved cardiovascular function. A 2011 study by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, US, even showed that meditation can reduce pain levels.
Plus, through meditation you learn not to sweat the small stuff and are better equipped to see the bigger picture. Importantly, meditation grounds you in the here and now, rather than the past or future where we often dwell.
Meditation is an investment in self and requires the conscious choice to put aside time to nourish your mind. Meditation is not a religious practice or about your spiritual beliefs, rather think of it as simply about consciousness and focused concentration.
Your step-by-step meditation guide
- Choose a quiet place and a time when you won’t be interrupted. Early mornings are thought best, before your mind is filled with the business of the day.
- Sit upright and straight-backed in a chair or on the floor. Make sure that you’re comfortable, but not so comfortable that you fall asleep because meditation requires alertness. Decide how long you will meditate before you start and, if possible, avoid eating before your meditation session.
- Close your eyes and be aware of the sensation of your breath, and focus only on your breathing. Breathe deeply and rhythmically – your heart rate will slow and you will start to relax. If your mind strays, bring it back to your breath again. Another way to maintain focus is to light a candle and stare only at the flame, blocking out any stray thoughts or mind chatter that may disrupt your concentration. Repeating a single word – like ‘ohm’ – or a mantra is another way to focus the mind. What’s important is to focus on one thing only.
- The next stage of meditation literally requires no thought at all. When this silent state of mind is achieved, the experience is renewing and powerful. The mind is like a muscle, so meditation takes practice to achieve. One way of doing this is to see any thoughts as separate from yourself and consciously clear them from your mind.
- When you have finished meditating, you may wish to spend a few more minutes giving gratitude for the positive aspects of your life, such as good health, close friends, a loving family, and other things we tend to take for granted.
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