Although many people wouldn’t normally consider it, meditation is a powerful tool that can help you relieve stress, organise your thoughts and train your mind. It is a great way to support a healthy lifestyle - as Uzuma supports you physically, meditation will help support mentally. Here is everything you need to know about it to get you started.
When many people think of meditation, they think of an inaccessible mystical practice not often associated with everyday living. The thing is though, this could not be further from the truth. Whilst meditation may originate from Buddhist practices, it is a very practical tool for centering yourself in today’s busy way of life.
Meditation is a way of training the mind in the same way that physical exercise is used to train the body. In ancient Buddhist culture, the word “meditation” is actually equivalent to our word “sports”. Meditation is not one practice, but an array of mental exercises, each requiring a different set of disciplines of improvable cognitive skills. It would be unrealistic to expect a novice to be able to sit down and completely empty their minds from day one, it requires training – but then again, this is not necessarily the aim either.
One of the major benefits of meditation is simply relaxing the mind and body. It may not sound like much, but taking a little time out to genuinely rest both in today’s busy society is actually quite a rare treat; and if relaxation is not the main goal of your meditation, it is often still one of the results. We cannot stress the importance of just letting go for a little while, and allowing your body and mind to consciously rest.
Studies into the effects of meditation have found the following short-term benefits, (meaning you will need to keep the meditation up if you want to continue to benefit for the long-term):
- Deep relaxation
- Increased feelings of a better wellbeing
- Lower levels of stress
- Better stress response
- Less anxiety
- Lower blood pressure
- Improved blood circulation
- A lower resting heart rate
- Lower cortisol levels
- Less sweating
- A slower respiratory rate
- Better emotional balance
- Stronger mental focus
There are many types of meditation techniques out there. The following two types that are usually starting points for novices, and offer a great way to relax the mind and body.
Concentration based meditation
This is the most common form of meditation for beginners, and is frequently the starting point. It involves focusing on a single point, such as your breathing, a repetitive noise such as a gong, or starting something, like a candle flame. The most commonly used focus point, and one that can be used anywhere, is breathing. To do this, you simply focus your attention on your breathing, and when you notice your mind wander, refocus it again. It can actually be quite demanding, and novices may only do it for a few minutes at a time before their minds wander. This not only relaxes the mind, but also improves your concentration. (See the below basic meditation exercise for more details on doing this).
Mindful based meditation
This form of meditation is the nearly opposite of concentration based meditation. It uses techniques that encourage you to observe your wandering thoughts as they pass through your mind. The idea behind it is to stay detached from them, allowing yourself to be an impartial observer without getting too involved in a train of thought, or allowing them to drag you down. This type of meditation can allow you to become more emotionally balanced, learning how to step back from quick judgement, as well as recognise human tendencies to quickly label things as ‘good’ or ‘bad’.
The following is a basic technique to get you started with the relaxing and centering effects of concentrative meditation techniques. It is very simple, and can be done for a few minutes in pretty much any place that isn’t too noisy or distracting, (though with practice, you will find it you will likely be able to meditate in these situations as well).
1. Sit down somewhere you feel comfortable.
2. Close your eyes.
3. Focus your attention on your breathing, but make no effort to control it.
4. Let your attention take in how your breathing moves your body with each inhale and exhale, observing how the individual parts of your body move with it.
5. If you find your mind wandering, simply refocus it on your breathing again, before also paying attention to how it moves your body.
6. Start by doing this for 3-4 minutes each session, slowly increasing the time as you become more comfortable with the practice. You can do it as much as you want, whenever you feel you have the time to spare.
Simply taking a few minutes out of your day can make all the difference. Your health and wellbeing isn’t all about physical health, keeping your mind in check is also essential to living a long and happy life – and meditation is a great way to do it.