Meditation 101: 4 Tips to Help You Get Started
Meditation has been rising in popularity for many years now as an effective way to foster relaxation, reflective thinking, and spirituality. When practiced regularly, it can significantly reduce the anxiety and stress caused by the everyday pressures of life and can improve both your mental and physical health.
Meditation: What Is It?
Meditation can take many forms and have many purposes. Traditionally, meditation has been used as a means to connect with spirituality, or to discover meaning and purpose.
While some still practice meditation with this goal in mind, the practice has grown significantly as a simple and effective tool to alter thinking patterns and achieve inner peace and balance. Those who practice meditation on a regular basis often cite benefits such as reduced stress and anxiety, elevated levels of gratitude, and a sense of calm.
How Does Meditation Suggest The Mind Works?
Meditation acknowledges that the mind has a tendency to judge each emotion, feeling, and moment experienced in one way or another. By practicing meditation, an individual is able to retrain their thought patterns in ways that avoid dwelling on negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and more. Feelings and emotions are recognized, and then released, leaving room to focus on more positive feelings and concentrate on the present.
How Can Meditation Be Used to Cause Change?
There’s a reason why meditation is rising in popularity. Those who practice it have noted wide-sweeping benefits across a range of aspects of their lives.
Emotional Benefits of Meditating
Many who practice meditation and mindfulness do so for the direct and immediate emotional benefits that they experience. The process of altering negative thought patterns and focusing on positivity can help to alleviate the stress and anxiety of everyday life, can create more connection and self-awareness, and can allow for more focused and productive thinking.
Meditation has also been shown to significantly reduce rates of depression among those who practice it regularly. Several studies have found that those who practice mindfulness and meditation over long periods of time have elevated levels of happiness and optimism, and decreased levels cytokines, which are inflammatory chemicals released as a result of stress, often leading to negative moods and depression.
Meditation and Illness
The benefits of meditation are not just emotional; many who practice notice that they physically improve as well.
The body of research surrounding the connection between meditation and physical benefits is continuing to grow, especially with respect to illnesses that are triggered or easily irritated by high levels of stress. The Mayo Clinic notes that meditation has been demonstrated to positively impact illnesses such as:
- Chronic pain
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sleep problems
- Tension headaches
Meditation has also been known to more broadly decrease pain and increase immune function, while also positively impacting brain function by increasing cortical thickness, and reducing grey matter loss.
What Is Mindfulness Meditation?
One of the most popular forms of meditation can be found in the practice of mindfulness.
Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the specific moment at hand through deep breathing and focused thinking. As thoughts enter the mind, they are acknowledged and released, with the goal of continuously refocusing on the present moment without judgment, accepting the moment for what it is.
Does Meditation Work?
Generally speaking, most acknowledge that meditation is not a substitute for traditional medicine, but rather a compliment to it. When practiced regularly, it can greatly improve mood, concentration, kindness, gratitude, understanding, and more.
It can lengthen your attention, reduce physical illness, and even assist you in fighting addiction. Research on the efficacy of meditation is continuing to grow, but little argument exists that at least some benefit can almost always be gained through the practice.
What Kinds of Concerns is Meditation Best For?
Meditation can benefit you both emotionally and physically and because of this, it assists with a wide range of concerns. Those who may especially benefit from meditation include those suffering from anxiety and stress, inflammation, self-control issues, depression, anger, chronic pain, and more.
The attention you dedicate to your practice can have profound effects on your relationship with yourself and with others. It can improve your ability to handle stressful situations, and help you to be resilient in the face of adversity. Meditation is for everyone and can be beneficial in many situations.
Myths About Meditation
Contrary to how it’s often portrayed in popular culture, meditation is not just sitting on pillows and chanting mantras. In fact, meditation is an extremely flexible practice that can be adjusted to accommodate your individual needs.
Some of the most common myths surrounding meditation include:
1) That you need to have an empty mind— meditation does not mean that you aren’t allowed to think; instead, it’s about acknowledging your thoughts and then releasing them. The goal is to learn to let go of what’s holding you back, not to permanently eliminate thinking.
2) You need specific tools and equipment to meditate— while some people find it helpful to sit on a pillow, or use meditation aids such as mala beads, the use of this equipment is not necessary; anyone can practice meditation so long as they can find a quiet minute in their day to focus.
3) Meditation is a religious practice— while some use it for religion, meditation is a personal experience; it does not need to include religion if it doesn’t interest you.
4) You need to meditate for a long time— there is no requirement to meditate for hours on end. Again, meditation is a personal practice, and even a couple of minutes a day is better than nothing.
5) You need to chant or hum in order for meditation to be effective— again, chanting is a matter of personal preference. If your style is to meditate in silence, that is perfectly okay.
How To Start Meditating
One of the best parts of meditation is that it is incredibly accessible. Meditation can be practiced by anyone, at any time, in almost any place. While equipment and meditation tools are available, they aren’t necessary, and you can begin whenever you like.
For those new to meditation, here are some quick-start tips to begin meditating today:
Whether you’re seated upright, lying down, or cross-legged on a mat, make sure that you are comfortable when you begin your meditation practice. The goal is to feel relaxed enough that you are able to keep fidgeting to a minimum.
Close Your Eyes and Breathe
Close your eyes and steady your breathing. Focus on breathing deeply and intentionally.
Noticing Bodily Sensations
Take note of your body and the feelings and sensations it produces. Notice tingling, notice tensing, and when possible, release the tension and continue to relax.
On Clearing Your Mind
Thoughts will come and go as you breathe in and out. Acknowledge your thoughts, note how they make you feel, and release them. Refocus on your breathing, and continue this process for as long as you need to.
What’s Holding You Back? Start Meditating Today
Meditation can have profound impacts on both your emotional and physical well-being. By crafting a practice of meditation that is unique to your needs, you can benefit from the reduced stress and anxiety, improved mood, and overall enhanced health benefits that mindfulness and meditation can provide.
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