Put simply, meditation is a way to train and quieten the mind. It can help with worry, anxiety, dwelling on the past, mindless fretting and daydreaming. Meditation grounds you in the present moment and can help you be less stressed, calmer and kinder to yourself and others.
There are numerous types and ways to meditate, but recently mindfulness meditation has become more popular. This is the practice of grounding yourself to the present moment and accepting it for what it is. It is also great at stress reduction and can enhance mental strength.
Here, we offer you some basic tips to help you get started. Take a deep breath and get ready to relax...
- To really get the benefits of meditation you need to set aside time each day to practice. Even just a few minutes a day can make a huge difference.
- Find a comfortable position - this could be lying down, sitting on the floor cross legged, or relaxing in your favourite chair. There's no right or wrong way to meditate.
- Don't feel you need to sit and meditate on your own. You can use an app or video (their are numerous videos on YouTube) to help you practice. Sometimes being guided by an instructor can help you stay more focussed on the practice.
- There is nothing wrong with the mind wandering, this is totally normal. When this happens, simply notice your thoughts, let them go, and then bring your attention gently back to the breath. Don't beat yourself up for your mind wandering - it will wander many times - just acknowledge your thoughts in a gentle manner instead of getting carried away by them. Think of your thoughts as a line of ants. if you were to stick your finger in that line the ants would scatter everywhere. This is the same for your thoughts. Thoughts come and go, but when we grab hold of them and play with them is when they often get out of control. Don't play with your ants!
Mindfulness Meditation Practices
Focus on the breath
The most popular form of mindfulness meditation is to simply focus on the breath. You sit comfortably for 5-10 minutes (whatever you can handle) and breathe deeply in and out focussing on the movement of air in and out of your body. Acknowledge thoughts as they arise and then simply let them go and refocus.
This time, instead of training your focus on the breath, you train it on your body. Start at the top of your head and slowly and deliberately bring your attention to the surface of your skin one inch at a time. Continue in this manner moving across your face, over your ears, down your neck, then slowly moving all the way down to your toes. As you scan you may begin to feel a whole new world of sensations. Some might be pleasant, some warm - each individual will have their own experience. Whatever you feel, acknowledge it and continue on with your scan.
Taking a walk in nature and switching off your thoughts is a great way to meditate for those who like to be outside and active. As you walk, focus all your attention on what you see around you, the sights, the smells, the sounds and the textures. And feel the movement in your body as you walk - keeping your focus grounded in nature.
You can even practice meditation as you eat. Instead of sitting in front of Netflix wolfing down your next meal, try and take the time and space to give your full attention to your food. You can try this with a main meal or even a small snack. As you eat, acknowledge every aspect of the eating experience and your reactions to it. Look at the food, its textures, smell, colour. When the food hits your tongue what happens? Feel yourself chewing each bite and taking in all the flavours.
If meditation interests you, then it is important to approach your new practice with a healthy outlook. The purpose of meditation isn't to achieve perfect control over your mind or to stop thinking altogether. The aim of meditation is to bring more compassion, calm and acceptance into your life no matter what happens. Most importantly; we shouldn’t stop being mindful when we stop meditating. The purpose of mindfulness meditation is to become mindful throughout all parts of our life, so that we’re awake, present and openhearted in everything we do.