“Ommmmmm… Ommmmmmm… Ommmmmmm” I fully admit until I started meditating this was the exact thing that came to my mind when it was mentioned. I am completely guilty of associating meditation with monks sat in a temple somewhere, knees crossed “Ommmm-ing”. Either that or some woman on a tape telling me to focus on some fluffy clouds and a calm sea.If anything I found the prospect of sitting still trying to focus on letting thoughts fly away a little bit stressful. I was definitely a ‘I’m too busy for mediation’ kind of person; between trying to juggle friends, family, a full time job, a masters degree, staying fit and generally trying to live a life I just didn’t see enough hours in the day for meditation. Oh boy was I wrong!
Meditation is literally one of the best things ever! It has so many health benefits and can quite literally change your life! In the last 6 months my life has been pretty hectic and to be perfectly honest I ended up trying to spread myself too thin and helping no one –especially myself. Life became very cloudy and getting through every day seemed hard work. Basically by taking little time for myself, and not focusing on just taking a few moments now and then to switch off the noise it became increasingly more difficult to get anything done. One day it all became a bit too much and I knew something had to change. I slowly started to regain control of my life and started ensuring that my ‘me time’ wasn’t spend slogging away on the bike or staying up until midnight because it was the only time of day I had to catch up on my favourite tv program. I started replacing a few of my high intensity gym sessions with yoga sessions, getting to bed at a decent time and started meditating, and let me tell you it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
Meditation doesn’t have to be time consuming or difficult; it can be as little as 3 minutes spent clearing away the fog and bringing some clarity into your life. So here is not only a guide as to why meditation is so good for you but also some tips and tricks on how to make meditation work for you.
Let’s talk about… meditation.
Meditation helps you relax – Okay I hear the ‘well duh’s’ from here! Obviously it helps you relax; that is essentially the whole point. It’s about giving us time to stop concentrating on what’s going on around us, go inwards and relax. By using the time to relax it ensures you not only have a calm mind but also gives you more clarity. Although occasionally it feels like you don’t have time to meditate, by taking those few minutes it can improve how effectively you do other tasks and help you make decisions.
Meditation lowers blood pressure – For anybody who has been diagnosed with high blood pressure then meditation is a must. This is sort of linked with the above point as your blood pressure naturally lowers when you are more relaxed. As well as this meditation can decrease the levels of blood lactate in your body which in turn reduces anxiety and stress.
Meditation makes you happy – Meditation is a brilliant way to help the body naturally release serotonin. Not only is serotonin important in speeding up healing in the body but it is also the hormone responsible for bringing a smile to your face. Depleted serotonin levels have been linked to depression, migraines and insomnia so by taking the time to meditate and naturally raise serotonin levels it may help reduce side effects of other ailments.
Meditation can boost your relationship – Some research has suggested that meditation can be associated with better communication, better compassion and better relationship communication. Meditation makes you more mindful of not only yourself but of those around your making you better equipped to deal with situations and communicate more effectively.
Meditation helps you focus – According to ‘headspace’, one of the leading websites for meditation tips and information, neurologists have found that after 11 combined hours of meditation it’s possible for structural changes to happen in the brain to the parts involved in monitoring focus and self-control. People who practice meditation are able to stay on task longer than those who don’t, as well as enjoy their tasks more.
So now that we have some fabulous reasons to meditate lets move on to the how! Meditation doesn’t need to be a long drawn out process and should be something, which in the long run makes you, feel better. It may not be easy at first but like anything the more you practice the better you become and the easier it gets.
Step 1– Start Small – Start by sitting for just 2-3 minutes, 3-4 times a week. Yes that’s right, that’s all it takes. I keep stressing that meditation doesn’t need to take an age. Until you are comfortable with the whole practice then there is no need to force your self to sit for 20 minutes. If you can increase by just a minute or 30 seconds each week you’ll be up to 10 minute meditations in no time.
Step 2 – Don’t stress on the how! It’s easy to get caught up on whether you’re sitting right, or breathing right, or focusing on the right things. None of these things are important; in fact by focusing on these things your probably sabotaging your meditation. Just get comfy, close your eyes and breathe.
Step 3 – Breathe – This is one of the most important parts of meditation. Keep your focus on your breaths and you’re halfway there. Try and keep your breaths long and deep. Every time your mind starts to wander bring your focus back to your breathe, simply concentrating on the stale air leaving your body and fresh air coming in.
Step 4 – Be Grateful – Be kind to yourself, thank yourself for making time for you. Your meditation doesn’t have to be perfect so don’t get caught up on if your can’t quite ‘clear your mind’ or ‘stay perfectly focused’. Instead focus on a bit of gratitude and don’t criticise yourself. Also end each meditation with your hands at heart centre and bring a smile to your face. Show the world just how grateful you are!
Step 5 – Read your body – It’s very easy to be so focused on relaxing that in fact we don’t realise just how much tension we are holding in our bodies. Start at the very top of your head and relax each body part one at a time. Relax your forehead, your eyes, your cheeks, your mouth, your jaw and so on. You’ll be amazed how much tension your holding in places your hadn’t thought of. If there are certain places that are struggling to relax, visualise sending your breath there and filling it with fresh clean air.
Step 6 – Find a meditation that works for you. I fully admit that I am not a silent meditator. It just isn’t for me. I also do a lot of focused meditations. Which means instead of trying to clear my mind of all thoughts I instead focus on a particular topic such as gratitude, positive affirmations, or energy. There are literally hundreds of different options available to meditate from books, to apps, to cd’s and youtube videos. Try different things and find one that works for you. Here’s a list of some of the best I’ve found.
- Madeleine Shaw’s ‘Glow Guides’ – Madeleine Shaw is the brains behind getting a bit more ‘glow’ in your life. She’s a role model for living cleanly and being kind to your body. Her ‘Glow Guide’ is absolutely my favourite meditation program by far. It is how I got into meditation and includes 8 different meditations (and 1 bonus origins sponsored meditation), which get progressively longer and all focus on different topics. They include meditations such as ‘compare no more meditation’ and ‘affirmation meditation’ and give you a chance to focus on the positive things in your life as opposed to trying to empty your mind. You can download the meditations as part of a meditation and yoga pack, which costs £19.99.
- Headspace – Headspace is one of the market leaders in meditation and includes a series of mightily impressive features. It includes a series of 10 minute meditations as well as some ‘SOS’ 3 minute meditations for when you need a bit of extra zen. You can also track your progress and set goals so if you need a bit of motivation to keep meditating this is the app for you. I admit I have little experience with the app but which pages upon pages of 5 star reviews on amazon and celebrity fans such as Emma Watson it must be pretty impressive. You can even download it for free on the app store but you will eventually need to subscribe monthly or yearly.
- TaraBrach.com – What this woman doesn’t know about meditation probably isn’t worth knowing. Her website literally has hundreds of meditations all under a variety of different themes. Her goal is to give people the ‘possibility of emotional and spiritual awakening through mindful, loving awareness’. All her videos are a variety of lengths and plenty of different styles and focuses for you to try. The best bit? They are all completely free! If your unsure about meditation then this is definitely a brilliant way to start.
- The Honest Guys – These YouTube sensations are definitely 2 of the best available out there. They again have literally hundreds of videos all of which are free! The upload new videos every Tuesday which means you will never get bored or run out of meditation to try. They also have hundreds of relaxation videos and music which can last hours (8 hours of meditative music for a good nights sleep anyone?). Don’t panic they also have much shorted guided mediations for you start off with!
- Buddhify – This app is available on apple and android and is a brilliant commitment free app. It costs just £3.99 and there are no pricey subscriptions or commitments. The app is set up in a handy wheel which is filled with different categories based on what your doing. From waking up, to traveling, to eating or feeling stressed they have meditations for things you hadn’t even though of. It really is very user-friendly and creative little app that you can use anywhere, anytime.
So I hope you have found this insight into meditation useful and are tempted to give it a go. If you’re an experienced meditator I hope you’ve still found this useful and maybe found a few new mediations to try. As a final word I’d like to end as I always do by reminding you that I have no training in mediation and all the information in this article is from my own interest in research. From my own research and experience however everyone could benefit from a bit a ‘me time’ and bringing a bit more mindfulness to your life.