Stressed with work, tense muscles, anxiety about the future, difficulty sleeping…
If any of these sound familiar, you’re not alone.
And one thing we always recommend is to do nothing. That’s right – do nothing to cope with everything.
Simply sitting still and mindfully clearing your thoughts through meditation has an astounding number of benefits that are so vital to maintaining good mental health.
In fact, fostering an ongoing meditation practice can change the structure of your brain, providing benefits that continue when you have finished meditating.
In short, meditation and mindfulness may be one of the best things you can do for yourself!
Some of the many positive things that can happen when you meditate include:
Meditation can decrease the “flight or fight” hormones in your body. As a result of this relaxation response, your blood vessels open up, which in turn improves your blood pressure.
Excess cortisol, one of the central stress hormones, can lead to inflammation in many parts of the body – a common example of this is the gut, with digestive issues being common during times of high stress. Because meditation can lower the amount of cortisol you produce, inflammation is reduced.
Despite all of the health benefits, the ultimate goal of meditation isn’t necessarily focused on physical results. It’s more a process of learning to embrace uncertainty.
Who doesn’t want a more positive outlook on life? Meditation has been found to actually alter (in a good way) the parts of your brain responsible for positive thoughts. As well, by becoming more aware of your thoughts, you can fend off negativity.
It’s perfectly normal to experience some anxiety in our daily lives, however, when those thoughts spiral out of control they can negatively affect family members as well as your health. High cortisol levels even lower your immune response!
Mindfulness and meditation teach us how to experience and sit with uncomfortable thoughts – without panicking or feeling like we need to repress them. With a little practice, you should be able to just sit with your thoughts and feelings, without judgement or analysis, and start to process them without spiralling out of control. You can be present in the moment without projecting into the future or ruminating on the past.
Many people find the thought of taking up meditation a bit intimidating. After all, it has had an esoteric reputation through the ages. It’s important to know that you don’t have to “master” meditation. It’s OK to be imperfect. Your mind will probably wander, and you may feel uncomfortable at first. That’s perfectly normal.
The good news is that it’s surprisingly simple to get started. In basic terms, you just need to:
- Find a comfortable place. Ideally, it will be quiet.
- Sit in a natural position.
- Breathe normally.
- Focus on your breath.
- Try not to overthink this: just focus on each exhalation and inhalation. It’s not necessary to force anything.
- If your mind wanders just sit back and practice mindfulness – “observe” your thoughts. Don’t analyze them. And don’t scold yourself for losing focus. It’s all part of the process. They are just passing through your brain.
You may have heard of people going on week-long meditation retreats. That’s great – but it’s not really necessary. Just a few minutes a day is a good start. In fact, studies have found that just five minutes can have significant benefits.
And who doesn’t have five extra minutes?
Consistency is a key component of successful meditation practice. Try to carve out a few minutes a day to dedicate to your mental health. Some people find that it helps to make it the same time every day.
There are quite a few wonderful resources available to help you get started with meditation should you need a little help – here are a few of our favourites:
There are many reasons to start meditation. Why not start now? Let us know how you get on – and remember that we are here to support your health and wellness.