Breathe in. Breathe out. We’ve all been told to take a deep breath or meditate when feeling stressed or anxious, but how can this help us? Meditation can be described as a set of different techniques that are meant to assist us into a heightened state of awareness and focused attention. Many practice meditation on a daily or weekly basis as it has been shown to have multiple benefits on the well-being of a person.
Meditation has been practiced in cultures all over the world for centuries. Often used for religious purposes, many now practice it regularly independent of any religious beliefs. There are also two main types of meditation: concentrative meditation, which involves focusing your attention on a specific object and tuning out everything else, and mindfulness meditation, which involves the state of being aware of the present moment. Mindfulness can also target other issues such as depression and stress. While there are many types of meditation, most have four elements in common: a quiet location, a comfortable position, a focus of attention, and an open attitude. Over time, the popularity of meditation is increasing as people slowly learn about its many health and well-being benefits.
The main reason many participate in the practice of meditation is to reduce stress. Meditation helps controlling blood circulation that spikes up during stress, is a natural nerve-soother, and calls for healthy sleep cycles which helps the body heal and reduce stress. Many also meditate in order to reduce and control anxiety. A study found that after 8 weeks of mindfulness meditation helped reduce anxiety symptoms in people with generalized anxiety disorder and increased positive self-statements. In addition, another study revealed that practicing mindfulness meditation reduces the severity of irritable bowel syndrome symptoms. Overall meditation is extremely helpful and can help tackle various issues from a short attention span to high blood pressure.
There are many different ways to practice, and learning basic meditation is a great way to start your meditation journey. To begin you should choose a quiet spot that is free of distractions and set a time limit, preferably shorter sessions if you are new to the concept. It is also important to be comfortable, whether that is sitting cross-legged, or lying on your floor, as you will need to be in that position for several minutes. You should then focus on your breathing and how each breath feels, as well as noticing your thoughts as opposed to trying to clear your mind. You should try and bring your attention back to your breathing whenever you notice your thoughts drifting or you lose focus. These are just some tips to begin the process of meditation, and as you continue your sessions can become longer and try different methods of meditation.
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“Meditation: In Depth.” National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Apr. 2016, www.nccih.nih.gov/health/meditation-in-depth.
Thorpe, Matthew, and Rachael Link. “12 Science-Based Benefits of Meditation.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 27 Oct. 2020, www.healthline.com/nutrition/12-benefits-of-meditation.