No, it isn’t just about sitting down and going ‘Ohhhhm’
If you haven’t incorporated mediation into your daily routine yet, why not? Health bloggers and wellness influencers have been banging on about its benefits for ages. But (thankfully) there’s also some legitimate, qualified research behind the benefits of meditation too. Including:
– A study in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found mindfulness mediation can reduce the body’s inflammation response brought about in response to stress
– The National Library of Medicine found meditation can help us deal with the effects of trauma and PTSD
– Another The National Library of Medicine study found it can help reduce instances of depression, anxiety, and pain in those suffering from chronic pain
– And yet another study found that as well as helping with anxiety, those who practice meditation were also able to more thoughtfully respond to difficult or stressful situations
All of which is just scratching the surface (plus, taking ten minutes out of your day to just breath is a nice thing to do for yourself).
The message, then, is that meditation is far from a fad. Here’s how you can incorporate it into your day
“I started meditating when life decided to throw a curve ball my way,” explains wellbeing and pilates expert Nicola Geismar. “I was looking for a way to calm my overactive mind and intrusive thoughts. It began with trying to sit quietly and focus on the breath.”
Instead of reaching for your phone when you wake up, try to take five deep breaths, focusing on the way your body feels as you breath in, hold it, and breath out. That’s it. That’s all you have to do. But this quiet pause before diving into your day can be vital.
“I can’t imagine not dedicating my first waking moments to allowing my mind to just ‘be’,” says Geismar. “Tangible improvements in my life include: less reactivity to triggering conversations, improved alertness in my day, a deeper sense of self-acceptance and a calmer outlook on life, even in these turbulent times.”
Or, yourself if you don’t have a pooch in need of a mooch around the block. "A mindful dog-walk can help your mental health, and your physical health, including lowering your blood pressure,” explains Jessica Warren, wellness coach and meditation teacher at jessicawarren.co.
“Put your phone on silent and walk slowly. Using as many senses as possible, notice how your environment looks (e.g. the light, colours); sounds (e.g. the wind, birds, other people); smells (e.g. flowers, grass); feels (e.g. the ground, leaves),” advises Warren. “If you get lost in thoughts about the past or future, bring your awareness back to experiencing the present moment instead. It's the perfect antidote to doom-scrolling on our phones when we over-consume too much news or social media.
Nerve-wracking meeting coming up? Jordyn McCarthy, a meditation and yoga instructor at Basubu has your back. “A simple but effective way to check in with your physical and mental energy before a big meeting is by doing a body scan meditation,” she advises.
“While at your desk or in the break room, close your eyes and trace your breath into the lungs on your inhale and out of your lungs on your exhale. Next, bring your attention to the soles of your feet, noting any tension or pain. As you exhale, try to imagine the tension releasing. Continue up the body until you reach the top of your head. Gently open your eyes and feel an appreciation for the sharpened awareness you have developed in your body, as well as a much more relaxed physical and mental state.”
Sometimes we just want to come home and veg out. When we feel like this it’s hard to properly pay attention to our partners/ children/ housemates. But maintaining these connections is vital for you, and them. Conscious business coach and yoga teacher Emily Huckstep has some tips on how you can stay present, even when you’re exhausted.
“Studies have shown that feelings of love and connection increase dopamine and serotonin levels (happy hormones) in the body helping you and your partner feel more connected, grounded, and calm,” she explains. “Set down your devices. Put away anything electronic and spend five uninterrupted minutes having some physical touch or time together. This could be a hug or even going for a short walk in nature.”
By fully focusing on each other just for five minutes you’ll feel more connected, happier, and set a president that will hopefully feed into your daily practices as a whole.
That time between our heads hitting the pillows and actually falling asleep can be a tumultuous time for those who suffer from racing thoughts. Mediation can help.
“You can start to include meditation into your sleep routine through simply setting some time aside to sit quietly in the evenings,” says Zoë Aston, a meditation expert at Headspace. “I suggest starting with one minute, then two, then four, then eight and so on as your ability to tolerate the quiet strengthens.”
If that doesn’t work for you, Aston suggests adopting a mantra. “You might prefer to use a mantra, such as ‘Let Go’,” she says. “Breath in on the ‘Let’ and out on the ‘Go’. And please remember meditation is not necessarily about not thinking or having a clear mind, we are all thinking all the time, that’s what’s humans do, it’s how our brains understand and file all the data received through our senses. So above all else do not judge your progress as you go, its a meditate practice after all.”
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