Beginners guide to meditation!
"The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself" - Michel de Montaigne. This French philosopher made this very true statement, and with the fast-paced life we all lead today, this statement still rings true for all of us. Our minds and thoughts are constantly occupied with a cacophony of things happening in our lives and many of us struggle with this. In fact, the modern mind needs to consciously and with effort be trained to calm down and gather our thoughts.
What is meditation?
The word meditation stems from the Latin term meditatum which means to ponder. By frequently meditating, we can reduce stress, improve clarity and calmness of the mind and promote happiness. The goal of meditation is to hit the "pause" button on our lives to prevent stress, racing thoughts, and the feeling of being "out of control". While those are the primary reasons for meditating, it certainly is not the only benefit.
Meditating is not a very common thing for people to practice. Some might feel that it won't work, some might feel that it will only waste time and there are even some who believe that meditating is a spiritual or religious practice and might think of it as too "strange" for them to try. Most conservative thinkers often find it difficult to get themselves to meditate. The stigma behind meditating is what keeps most people from trying it out. So if you are one of those people who believe that in order to meditate, you need to wear a rakusu monk robe, shave your head and burn incense - you are wrong.
Meditation is for everyone and everyone can benefit from it. It can be done anytime during the day and it doesn’t have to take up much of your time.
What are the benefits of meditation?
It reduces stress and better sleep
This is one of the main benefits of meditation. Stress has a major effect on our brain-function so it is always crucial to try and get rid of stress as soon as you can to think clearly and work more efficiently. The stress hormone cortisol produces very harmful chemicals in the brain called cytokines. Cytokines can disrupt sleep, increase blood pressure, promote anxiety and depression, and contributes to cloudy thinking and racing thoughts.
Studies have shown that those who meditated for 8 weeks significantly reduced the inflammation response caused by stress. So if you are feeling particularly stressed out, we strongly advise you to meditate even for as little as 3 minutes.
Meditation also helps us to sleep better. Meditation helps you control or redirect the racing or runaway thoughts that often lead to insomnia or restlessness.
Meditation can promote emotional health greatly. Through the practice of meditation, we create a stronger awareness of how our emotions influence our behavior. A study was done with 2 groups. One group meditated and the other group didn’t. They found that the people who completed the meditation exercise experienced fewer negative thoughts in response to viewing negative images, compared with those in a control group. Meditation can help to aid depression and help us to have less negative thoughts and have a greater sense of happiness overall.
Longer attention span
In the world we live in today, this is a real problem. We see more and more people struggle with focus and keeping their attention on one thing at a time. This is not only a common occurrence in children but in adults too. Practicing in a focused-attention meditation is a lot like weight lifting for your brain. It makes your attention span stronger, better and increases endurance greatly. A study found that a group of people who did a focused-attention meditation experienced massive improvements in attention and accuracy while completing a task than those in a control group. If you are experiencing cloudy and racing thoughts, you are not alone. In fact, most people today find it difficult to get their thoughts under control. Try to meditate at least 3 times a week in order to obtain a much longer time-span.
Helps fight addiction
If your new year's resolution is to quit smoking or drink less, then meditation is just what you need. Studies show us that mediation can help individuals to redirect their focus, manage their impulses, control their emotions and achieve a better understanding of the causes of their addictions. A study done with 60 people receiving alcoholism treatment, found that when they started practicing meditation, they experienced lower levels of stress, psychological distress, alcohol craving, and overall use of alcohol after only three months. Meditating can even help you to control your food cravings since it aids emotional impulses and binge eating.
How to meditate
If you have a Netflix account we could highly recommend watching the short series called 'Headspace' it will give you a quick and easy understanding of how to meditate. But here is a quick guide
How to sit
Contrary to popular belief and stigmas based on movie cliches, you don't need to sit crossed-legged on a zen yoga mat. Sit comfortably in a chair or lie down on your back. The only important thing is that your back needs to be straight and you need to be in a position that will not hinder you at any point.
It depends on the time you have and your level of comfort with the process. Some beginners only meditate for about five minutes while others like to meditate for as long as 20 minutes. It depends on your needs, goals, and time you have available.
There are many different meditation techniques and the one you will want to do depends on what your needs are. It is also important to remind yourself why you are meditating - are you stressed? Are you experiencing racing thoughts? Are you feeling depressed? Do you want to be more kind and grateful? Etc.
One technique to try is the body scan. Try to imagine a photocopier-style scanner slowly moving over you, detecting any physical sensations within the body, without analysis and without trying to change what you feel.
Close your eyes and start mentally scanning your body from the top of your body straight down to your toes. As you scan, notice which parts feel relaxed or tense, comfortable or uncomfortable, light or heavy, and so on. The scan should take around 30 seconds. If thoughts come up in your head that distracts you, don't worry, and don't be too hard on yourself. It is normal for the mind to wander. Simply focus on your breathing and continue where you left off. The body scan allows you to bring awareness to your feelings and thoughts.
The great thing about meditation is that even if you are skeptical about it, you will gain all the benefits. The benefits of meditation can happen to anyone and you will soon discover that the art of meditation is very underrated and should be practiced more often.
Don’t be afraid to try meditating. At Fitness Fables we believe in a balanced lifestyle. If you are struggling to keep up with what life is throwing your way remember to eat a balanced diet, take some time to rest, do physical exercises at the gym and meditate.