What are the benefits of a meditation practice?
Meditation is a powerful tool to have in your arsenal when it comes to a whole host of things. From the ability to reduce stress and anxiety, as well as to control, understand and observe emotions, to less talked about benefits like aiding in weight loss goals, helping those who struggle with addiction, improving relationships and more.
Meditation helps us to escape our thoughts for a while and become more aware of the present moment. Here are some of the most powerful brain and body benefits of a daily meditation practice.
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Why is meditation so effective?
Adding a meditation practice can be a life-changing experience. It can help you do everything from relieve stress and anxiety, to fostering feelings of well-being and self-esteem and it can even help you sleep better.
One perk of daily meditation that we can all probably benefit from is stress-relief! As humans stress can manifest itself in our bodies as pain in the back or neck, as insomnia or other sleeping issues, as headaches and migraines and it most definitely affects our ability to focus and concentrate.
The relaxing essence of meditation works not only to reduce cortisol levels (one of the major hormones associated with stress) but also to help develop the skills needed to cope with and manage stress in our daily lives.
2. Better Sleep
The relaxing nature of meditation can help calm your body, quiet your mind, and ready you for sleep.
3. Mental Clarity
Starting a meditation practice can help bring you mental clarity and focus. Between focusing on your breathwork, which calms the mind, and the stress-relief we talked about above, you’ll find yourself better able to focus and concentrate throughout your day.
With a clear head and refreshed mind, you can better organize your thoughts and think more clearly.
How to Get Started with Meditation
Starting a meditation practice can feel like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be! Here are some tips to get you started and on your way to greater mental clarity, ability to focus and concentrate, and an increased overall calmness of body and mind.
If you are interested in starting your own meditation practice but have been worried about how to begin, our tips can help you get started today!
Before you even decide what to do, it is important to have a healthy expectation for yourself and your new meditation practice. In the beginning, you are most likely not going to be able to sit for an hour and meditate.
So start small. Start with just 5-8 minutes to begin with, and gradually increase the time as you get more comfortable.
Choose a Comfortable Spot
Doing your meditation in the same, comfortable place everyday will help reinforce the habit. Set up a space where you will practice your meditation. Make it comfortable both for your physical body (to sit) as well as calming for your mind. It should be both peaceful and quiet.
You might want to add a candle, some shells or stones that you enjoy looking at, a plant or a picture that brings you joy. Not only will the same spot (and time if you can help it!) make your meditation more of a routine, everytime you pass this meditation spot you’ll remember the calmness that it brings you.
Deep Belly Breathing
A good place to start, without worrying about what your mind is doing during your meditation, is focusing on your breath. Belly Breathing, also called abdominal breathing or diaphragmatic breathing, can help you relax, lower your heart rate and blood pressure, and is also the basis of almost any meditation practice.
Start by sitting comfortably with your back straight. Place one hand on your stomach and breathe in through your nose, noticing how the hand on your stomach rises with your inhale. Exhale through your mouth, pushing out all of the air while engaging your abdominal muscles. The hand on your stomach should move in as you exhale.
Continue this breathing – in through your nose, out through your mouth, focusing on filling your belly with air so that your hand rises with your stomach. That’s all it takes! Try to do this breathing exercise once or twice each day.
Many people enjoy doing them as soon as they wake up, along with some gentle stretching, to energize them and ready themselves for the day ahead, however this exercise can also help you relax and de-stress before you hit the sheets.
Do a Body-Scan Meditation
This is a simple type of meditation that focuses your attention on various parts of your body. All you need to do is focus on the way each part of your body feels, without giving names to the feelings like good or bad.
Start by lying down, legs straight with arms relaxed at your sides. Focus on your belly breathing for a minute or two until you begin to feel relaxed. Then, starting with your toes, focus all of your brain power on any sensations you feel there for about 5-10 seconds or so. Continue this process moving up to your feet, your ankles, calves, knees, thighs and hips.
Move up your torso, focusing on each muscle of each body part, through your back and belly, chest, shoulders and neck, thinking about the sensations you feel in each part.
When you’re finished, continue your breathing, relaxing in the stillness and silence of your practice until you are ready to slowly sit up.
If sitting still doesn’t quite do it for you, think about some purposeful movement to help ease your stress and quiet your body and mind. You can try yoga, tai-chi, some relaxing stretching, or just go for a walk – it’s the movement that counts.