Wellness trends come and go, but there are a few that stand the test of time because their benefits are simply undeniable. According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meditation has increased in popularity “more than threefold” in the US over the past five years, and similar stats can be seen in other parts of the world.
While mindfulness was once thought of as a somewhat “new age” concept, in recent years it has become a go-to stress relieving technique. It’s fascinating to see a wellness trend that helps so many different people from all walks of life; those undergoing cognitive behavioural therapy, hyperactive children, stressed business owners, soldiers with PTSD, students with exam worries, the list goes on and on. As research continues, there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that with regular meditation, we could all see improvements in our mind, body, career, relationships, and more.
If you have been looking to start a regular meditation practice but aren’t sure where to begin, here’s my advice:
Little and often
Instead of diving into an hour-long meditation once a month (and undoubtedly becoming frustrated with your lack of concentration), I recommend ‘little and often’. In other words, meditate every day for just five or ten minutes.
When we try to run a marathon, we don’t start training at 26.2 miles, we start with a 5K or even less. Our minds work in much the same way, so begin with short meditations and work your way up if you want to.
Learn to breathe
Yes, you’ve been breathing since the minute you were born, and yes, you know how to breathe in order to keep your body functioning, but the breath has other useful benefits that we don’t tap into every day. Mindful breathing can help when you first start meditating, as it gives you something physical to focus on, as well as interrupting the fight-or-flight response that we often experience in stressful situations.
Breathing techniques have been found to have instantly beneficial effects for stress, and the great news? This is both free, and available anywhere; on your morning commute, in the supermarket, in a traffic jam, at your desk in the office, while you’re sitting on the sofa watching TV, even when you’re lying in bed at night waiting to fall asleep.
There are lots of tutorials and guided breathing meditations available online, so take a look around and find one that could be incorporated into your daily life. Here’s a simple 5 minute breathing meditation to start you off.
Find the time
One of the biggest reasons we don’t meditate is the struggle to find time in our busy schedules. For most, meditation (despite only needing to take a few minutes out of our day) feels like a task that can be easily pushed to the bottom of the to-do list. With so much to achieve, meditation just doesn’t feel like a priority, but that’s where we get it wrong.
Studies show that regular meditation can help to improve our mental focus and boost productivity, so while you may feel like you have too much going on in the office and don’t have time to stop, it’s worth remembering that a 10 minute lunchtime meditation (at your desk or in a private meeting room) isn’t a waste of time. In fact, it can help you gain more time, achieve more, and take back control of your busy day.
Meditate on your relationships
Our relationships - romantic and otherwise - come under stress just like our careers do, and keeping meditation in mind as a tool to help with this can be so useful. Studies show that meditation boosts compassion towards ourselves and others, and changes our response to kindness and selflessness.
If there’s tension in your household, a short meditation before spending time together (before a family dinner, for example) can help to increase feelings of gratitude and reduce friction, which helps both you and the people around you.
Treat it as a preventative tool
In recent years there has been a long-overdue shift in our attitudes towards mental health. While it once could have been considered a ‘weakness’ to suffer from anxiety, today, many people acknowledge this as a common concern, and rightly so. Traditional approaches to therapy practices are now being combined with meditation techniques to help people manage anxiety and depression, with extremely positive results.
If this is something that you struggle to manage, or you would like to take preventative measures for your mind, meditation is a great, simple, free and readily available tool to have in your back pocket.
Have you tried meditating before? I’d love to know more about your experience, so get in touch with me on Instagram at @ohanacbd and share your meditation tips.