What is Meditation?
Meditation is a method of practicing mindfulness and encouraging our mind to be present and in the moment. We can do this through physical or cognitive activities, such as yoga, meditation, and personal interests and hobbies. Meditation stimulates a strong sense of emotional and physical awareness and cognitive clarity.
A common myth about meditation is that we must perform it in a seated upright position, with our legs crossed and eyes closed. Although this can be useful and comfortable for many people practicing mindfulness, it is not necessary for the practice of meditation. Meditation can be practiced in any comfortable position and in an environment that is calming and peaceful. This can be lying down flat, leaning back in a chair, or even in a stretching or yoga pose. The main goal is to be comfortable and minimally stimulated so that your mind and body can be focused on the present moment. Meditation can have many benefits when practiced regularly and intently.
Five Health Benefits of Meditation
1. Reduce Stress and Anxiety
When practicing meditation, you are practicing mindfulness. When practicing mindfulness and being in the moment, the pattern of dwelling on the past and worrying about the future weakens. Stress and anxiety are often triggered when we focus and ruminate on things that happened in the past or on what might happen in the future. By focusing on the present, we reduce these triggers, and we can achieve a mindset of calmness and content. When we commit to practicing mindfulness, such as meditation, we are also committing to taking care of ourselves (self-care). When self-care becomes a regular habit, self-esteem and confidence begin to improve as well. As a result, anxiety and stress decrease.
2. Decrease Blood Pressure and Reduce Other Health Concerns
Another result of lowering stress and anxiety is that our stress hormone (cortisol) begins to decrease and therefore so will blood pressure. Stress and anxiety trigger our flight, fight, and freeze responses, which is a survival mechanism. This in turn causes our bodies to release high levels of cortisol. Increased cortisol levels can cause increased blood pressure, fatigue, mood swings, and an impaired immune system. This can lead to other health issues. As we practice meditation our cortisol levels can begin to drop as quickly as within a few a few weeks of starting.
3. Improve Concentration
By its nature, meditation is all about being present in the moment. It requires concentration to focus your thoughts on this goal. As you concentrate on being mindful, you are developing your ability to direct your energy and concentrate on your task. Anxiety and stress can also impair concentration. As meditation reduces anxiety and stress, the ability to concentrate will also begin to improve.
4. Improve Memory
As meditation improves concentration, awareness, mental clarity, memory will also improve. Practicing meditation will begin to become a habit in day-to-day activities and tasks, and build memory strength. The ability to be mindful will help develop the competence to fully grasp information and tasks at will.
5. Improve Sleep Quality
As meditation works to reduce stress, anxiety, cortisol level, and improve mindfulness, concentration, and self-care, your sleep will also improve. You will begin to build the skill of regularly calming your thoughts, relaxing your body, and lowering your heart rate. This can help you to fall asleep faster and achieve a deeper sleep. The main causes for difficulty falling and staying asleep are stress, anxiety, and spiked cortisol levels. Meditation can help with all of these.
Tips For Starting Meditation
When practicing meditation, any position or environment can be suitable as long as it aids you in reaching a calming and relaxing state. For beginners, utilizing a video or audio-guided meditation is a great start. As in starting any new habit, it is best to begin by taking small steps. Start with five-minute guided meditations and work your way up to your desired goal. It can be helpful to close your eyes to eliminate distractions, in addition to finding a quiet place.
Paying attention to your breathing, and general awareness of your physical sensations helps keep you “in the moment”. Extraneous thoughts will appear. When they do acknowledge them, accept them, and then allow them to flow away and return to your mindful state. This will take practice and an open mind to help build the habit and skill. When beginning new hobbies or building new skills, it’s important to accept that success is non-linear, and the journey is what teaches us the most.
If you’re interested in exploring more about the health benefits of meditation and mindfulness, please contact us for a 15 minute complimentary consultation.
My therapeutic style is compassionate, non-judgmental, and provides a safe and open space so that you may express yourself freely. I work with adults of all ages who are struggling with anxiety, stress, depression, career issues, life transitions, interpersonal issues, low self-esteem, couples’ issues, grief, and cultural and identity concerns. Together, we can work towards improving your quality of life as we identify and process the areas of your life that are causing you pain or discomfort. Then, we will work on developing and utilizing new skills to create a positive future for you.