Today marks the fourth installment of our Self-Care miniseries! Yesterday we discussed how doing the things you love and treating yourself increases positivity and in turn, productivity. We’re getting closer and closer to the weekend and it’s at around this point that we start getting frustrated with little inconveniences, and we’re just ready for the week to end. It’s around this time that we start feeling anxious and nit-picky, and it puts you and the people around you in a bit of a funk. For this reason, our self-care tip of the day is to meditate.
Meditation is a widely discussed, increasingly popular, yet widely misunderstood way to manage your well-being. Meditation is different from prayer or worship, and it’s not your favorite hobby, like gardening. It’s not just for priests or higher spiritual awakening. You don’t need any special clothes, incense, or a designated spot to meditate, and you don’t necessarily need a teacher or master. You don’t need to chant, either. It is not anti-Christian and it’s not simply relaxation.
What is meditation, then? According to Antoine Lutz’s “Attention Regulation and Monitoring in Meditation,” it is a practice where an individual “trains the mind or induces a mode of consciousness, either to realize some benefit or for the mind to simply acknowledge its content without becoming identified with that content.” Put simply, it is what you do with that intentional awareness, whether it’s the awareness of your breathing, a sound, or your wandering thoughts.
There are over 3,000 scientific studies on the benefits of meditation. If you were to make a commitment to start meditating, you will notice a decrease in depression and anxiety, stress reduction, a reduction in alcohol and substance abuse, improvements in problem-solving and decision-making skills, a reduction in blood pressure, increase in creativity, an increase in compassion and empathy, and the list goes on. If you were to start meditating for just 20 minutes a day, you will see working results within a couple of weeks (let’s not forget the immediate mood booster, though).
So how do you get started with meditating, especially if you’ve never done it before? Thankfully, there are so many different ways to meditate that you’ll be able to find a method that works perfectly for you. You can start with concentration mediation, which is great for beginners: you simply focus on a specific point, whether it’s your breathing or a particular sound. Any time your mind starts to wander, you simply bring yourself back to that point. A slightly more advanced form of meditation is mindfulness meditation, where you are simply aware of the thoughts that drift through your mind. You don’t judge them as good or bad, but take note of them and the patterns they make.
Before you start though, it’s best to be open minded and understand that your mind can be a very unruly place. You may not be able to get more than 5 minutes in the first time. You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself, but instead focus on being aware that you have the control of that activity, and eventually you will reach the level of mindfulness that you want. Want to try? If you want, you can do this brief exercise from gaiam.com:
- Sit or lie comfortably. You may even want to invest in a meditation chair.
- Close your eyes.
- Make no effort to control the breath; simply breathe naturally.
- Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage, and belly. Simply focus your attention on your breath without controlling its pace or intensity. If your mind wanders, return your focus back to your breath.
- Maintain this meditation practice for two to three minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.
Feeling better? Take a moment this week to practice some meditation. One of my favorite apps for guided meditation is the Calm app, which has a variety of exercises to choose from, especially if you get the paid version. However, the free version is great for someone who is just starting. You will see very quickly how meditation can be an invaluable tool to maintain your inner balance. Thanks for reading, feel free to share your experiences with meditation with us, and we’ll see you tomorrow for our next and final installment of the Self-Care miniseries!