We live in a demanding world — with hyper-connectivity and constant digital overload putting us under more pressure than ever before. For many of us, our stress levels have heightened as a result. Nowadays, trivial experiences, such as a traffic jam or work deadlines, can trigger our anxiety almost instantly, with one of the worst-case scenarios being a full-blown panic attack.
Meditation is a powerful skill that can reduce stress, lessen symptoms of anxiety, and calm a panic attack. With practice, meditation can become a power switch, allowing us to turn off our non-stop lifestyle for a much-needed break and a chance to recharge our mind and body. The key to medication is practice.
If you’re meditating for the very first time, you may find it strange to sit in absolute silence and do nothing. It may even feel daunting to take time out of your busy schedule to try to connect with your mind and body. Or, you may not experience the peak rewards right away and want to give up. These are all understandable barriers to meditation. It is important to acknowledge these (and others) now, so that you can put strategies in place to overcome them in the future. One strategy is to remind yourself of its many benefits.
Why should you meditate?
Meditation is a simple, fast, and effective way to give you a sense of peace and balance. It doesn’t just affect your psychological health, but can actually boost your physical health too.
Psychological benefits include:
- Stress reduction
- Introducing higher levels of patience and enhancing tolerance
- Getting a healthier, more empowering perspective of stressful situations
- Enhancing your self-awareness
- Focusing on the present
- Reducing negative emotions
- Boosting imagination and creativity
Physical benefits include:
- Managing headaches
- Less likely to have an asthma diagnosis and related symptoms
- Lowered blood pressure
- Fewer symptoms related to irritable bowel syndrome
- Improved sleep quality
What is mindfulness meditation?
Meditation is a Buddhist concept that was founded 2600 years ago that has continued to grow in popularity over the last decade. It is a self-regulation practice that involves the awareness of your experience without judgement in the present moment. Meditation allows you to cultivate or strengthen clarity, concentration, and a sense of calmness.
How to meditate
If you’ve decided to give mindful meditation a try, here are five tips that can help:
Step 1: Find the right place
Whether it’s your patio, your bedroom floor, or the middle of your living room, you need to find a place to sit down and be left alone for a few minutes. Don’t worry about creating a dedicated space (although you can if you have the room for it), and focus on meditating from anywhere!
Step 2: Wear the right clothes
Wearing loose-fitting clothing can help you relax and meditate better. Because you’ll be sitting in the same position for some time, you want to make sure that your clothes are comfortable. Whether that’s your favorite pajama pants or a full-on yoga outfit, do what works for you. The goal is to unwind and feel calm.
Step 3: Find a comfortable sitting position
You can sit on a cushion with your legs loosely crossed, on a chair with your feet firmly on the ground, or even lay down to meditate. Choose a posture you can comfortably hold from start to finish.
Step 4: Pay attention to your thoughts
Once you’ve sat down to meditate, your attention will probably wander. If you find it shifts from your breath to what you’re going to make for dinner or what you’re going to say in that presentation, that’s okay. When you notice that happening, simply refocus your attention back to your breathing.
Step 5: Set a timer
One of the most common questions beginners ask is, ‘how long do I meditate for?’
It can be anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour or more. It really depends on how long you need to recharge your mind and body. However, studies suggest that a meditation session should last for around 20 minutes in order to see benefits.
|Best meditation apps for beginners
You aren’t alone in your meditation journey. One of the best ways to get started is through guided meditation, and there are a lot of great apps out there that can start you off:
Calm Headspace | Aura | Mindworks | Happier | Inscape | Insight Timer
Try it out: A simple meditation technique to get you started
Need an easy intro? Try out this free 10-minute guided meditation by Headspace co-founder Andy Puddicome.
Starting with short meditation sessions will allow you to get used to the practice, and learn more about your mind and body. The idea is to go into meditation without any expectations, learn from your experience, and recognize your body’s reaction to the first few sessions.
Meditation FAQs: 5 common questions from beginners
What’s the best time of the day to meditate?
If you’re an early riser, it’s best to meditate in the morning so you have a calm and purposeful day. But if you have pets, kids, or work that might get in your way, choose another time that’s convenient.
What pose should I sit in?
Whatever pose you’re comfortable in is good. However, most beginners start meditating sitting on the floor (maybe using a cushion) with their legs crossed.
Should I meditate with my eyes open or closed
It’s completely up to you! If you want to keep them open, try a soft gaze towards the ground and try not to focus on anything in particular. If you like to keep them closed, try not to squeeze your eyes shut, and focus on your breathing and how you’re feeling in the moment.
What do I do when I have to scratch my nose?
Try diverting your mind from the itch, but if you really have to, you go ahead and scratch it.
What if I become sleepy during my session?
Falling asleep isn’t the end of the world, it just indicates that you’ve relaxed enough to drift off. If you want to stay awake to take advantage of the other mental benefits of getting grounded, try moving to a different spot, choosing a brightly lit space, or even meditating at a time of day when you’re less likely to fall asleep.
Meditation Mondays: Manage your energy, not just your time
Did you know meditation can help you boost your personal energy so you can better manage your day?
Want to see how a few small tweaks to your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual performance can boost your personal energy? Access the replay of our Energize & Shine webinar from February 16. The recording can be accessed via this link and can be watched at your convenience.
Want to get serious about increasing your personal energy?
In early March, we’re introducing “Energize and Shine,” a unique, 3-week program of daily, guided sessions. We’ll explore all the ways you can find the energy you need to feel better, get more done, and feel like you’re thriving instead of just surviving.
- New ways to manage stress, from exercise and meditation to positivity and gratitude
- How to improve your mental performance
- To make a habit of taking regular breaks to rest and refocus