If someone told you they knew of a way to change your brain and put you in control of your mental health, would you be willing to try it?
For years, a practice that has the power to reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and PTSD, has been written off as metaphysical and treated as an “out there” spiritual practice.
In reality, meditation isn’t a new-agey, trendy ritual, but rather one that has been practiced in Taoist China and Buddhist India since 6th century BC, and has since taken on a variety of forms.
Regardless of how it is practiced, the benefits of meditation are undeniable and it can no longer be disregarded when treating mental health.
Recent studies show that meditation has a powerful impact on our brains and how our bodies respond to stress. Because of these marked internal changes, adopting a meditation practice has the ability to treat a variety of mental health conditions, and in some cases, is powerful enough to replace pharmaceuticals.
Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, a treatment combining meditation for mindfulness and cognitive therapy, has shown to be as effective as antidepressants and is a powerful addition to other forms of mental health treatment.
The Benefits of Meditation
While the exact powers behind this ancient practice remain unclear, there are proven physical benefits to establishing a regular meditation ritual including:
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Improved concentration
- Decreased depression
- Improved resilience
- Encouraged healthy lifestyle
- Increased self-awareness
- Increased happiness
- Increased acceptance
- Slowed aging
- Improved cardiovascular health
- Improved immunity
- Eased chronic pain
- Boosted mood
- Balanced eating habits
- Increased focus
- Boosted creativity
- Improved breathing and heart rate
The Very Basics of How to Meditate
- Sit comfortably on a chair, cushion, or bench with your back straight
- Eyes can be open or closed, whichever makes it easiest to focus on breath
- Look slightly downward whether eyes or open or closed
- Hands can be in any position, legs crossed however you like
- Set a timer
- Bring your focus to your breath
- When your mind wanders, guide your attention back to your breath
We know that beginning a meditation practice can feel intimidating… but here’s the good news: when it comes to creating a new ritual, it is often better to start small.
Start your new practice by meditating for just a few minutes each day and gradually increase sessions. It is better to meditate for shorter intervals regularly than it is to do a long session once a week, so the key to establishing this ritual is consistency.
Set yourself up for success by choosing a specific time of day to practice!
First thing in the morning, when you’re experiencing stress, during lunch hour, or after work are all ideal times for meditation. Avoid practicing just before bed so not to confuse meditation with relaxing into sleep.
Traditional meditation encourages the practitioner to focus attention on the breath when the mind wanders. Counting in breaths and remaining present for exhales will slow the mind, moderate the heart rate, and reduce stress.
For those who find it difficult to focus on their breath or are meditating with a specific goal in mind, mantras may be helpful.
Mantras are a specific sound or phrase repeated out loud or in the mind during meditation. They keep the mind focused and create a theme for the meditation.
In the yogic tradition, mantras are commonly sanskrit words calling upon hindu gods and goddesses. These classic mantras are intended to evoke consciousness and divine power, and celebrate the history and spirituality of the practice.
Find 13 powerful sanskrit mantras for your meditation here.
Many practitioners prefer mantras in their native language. Repeating a phrase in words your mind easily understands can make them more memorable and effective.
The options for modern mantras are endless, as most short phrases and quotes can be used. Check out this article for a list of some English mantras to get you started.
Tools for Meditating
For a guided experience, try using one of the many meditation apps now available. One of our favorites is Headspace.
Not only is it free, it has a program called Take 10, which is designed for beginners. Headspace also features progress reports, a rewards system, and a buddy system for an extra boost of motivation. If you are feeling intimidated, this app is the perfect place to start!
YouTube is another excellent resource when establishing a meditation practice. From meditation music to guided meditations designed for specific life challenges, there is a wealth of resources available just a click away.
Some of our favorite YouTube meditation videos include:
- The Five Minute Miracle
- Guided Meditation for Forgiveness and Letting Go
- Addiction Guided Meditation
While the act of meditation may seem passive and simple, the rewards are abundant. If you haven’t established a meditation ritual, it’s never too late!
Use the resources above and you’ll be on your way to a healthier mind, body, and spirit.