For some of us, the word ‘meditation’ makes us think of monks sitting atop a mountain, legs crossed, hands rested on the knees with a finger and thumb touching, chanting ‘ohhhmmm.’ At least, that’s what I used to picture when people talked about meditating. The thought of meditating was just out of my comfort zone. The first time I tried meditating, I ended up giggling before I started fidgeting so much that I quit after less than a minute. This proved to me just how badly I needed to meditate. Once I got rid of all the stereotypes behind meditating and thought of it more as taking time to ‘quiet my mind,’ it suddenly became less of a strange idea to me. It took the pressure off and made me want to give it a real try. With all the daily stresses we face with work and our personal lives, combined with worrying about the future, it can almost feel impossible to quiet the mind. Without some kind of release, those emotions will build up and the outcome is never positive. So, I encourage you to try meditating. Start small and really work at it, and you?ll be surprised at how you feel afterwards. Here are some awesome beginner tips for meditating, or ‘quieting the mind.’
1. Start small with 3-5 minutes (or less).
Some great new data collected from users of the Lift goal-tracking app* shows that most beginner meditators started with 3-5 minutes. Even three minutes can feel like a darn long time when you first start meditating, so you could even start smaller. For example, paying attention to the sensations of taking 3 breaths.
2) Sit in a comfortable place. ‘Meditate in a place you love,’ NurrieStearns says. While there are different schools of thought on this, her favorite approach comes from Thich Nhat Hanh, who says to move in the direction of comfort.
Picking a comfortable place that’s readily available helps us to ‘feel safer, and we’re more apt to come back to [the] practice.’ Plus, not surprisingly, it’s ‘easier for the mind to be quiet when the body feels at ease,’ she says. For instance, you can sit on a chair, a cushion on the floor or your mat to meditate.
3) Stretch. Stretching loosens the muscles and tendons allowing you to sit (or lie) more comfortably. Additionally, stretching starts the process of ‘going inward’ and brings added attention to the body.
4) Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. Notice the movement of your body as you breathe. Observe your chest, shoulders, rib cage and belly. Make no effort to control your breath; simply focus your attention. If your mind wanders, simply return your focus back to your breath.
5. Ending the session. When you are ready to end the session, open your eyes and stand up slowly. Stretch yourself and extend your increased awareness to your next activities. Well done! You have done it!
According to an article on PsychCentral.com and a Harvard University Study, ‘Meditation offers a variety of benefits which have been well-documented. For instance, meditation can produce healthy physiological changes. One study found that saying ‘Sa Ta Na Ma,’ a meditative practice of Kirtan Kriya tradition, helped to improve memory.
Also, many of us don’t know how to truly relax, but meditation is a great teacher. When we meditate, ‘significant changes occur in the brain that begin to quiet the body and quiet the sympathetic nervous system,’
Specifically, meditation engages ‘the prefrontal cortex and sends inhibitory neurotransmitters down to the emotional brain,’ causing heart rate to slow down and the breath to deepen. In other words, meditation ‘re-calibrates the body into a more relaxed state of breathing.’
There’s plenty of proof to back up how meditation can drastically improve your physical and emotional well-being. I hope this information encourages you to set aside 2-3 minutes a day to work on quieting your mind. Go for it!